Fr. George McLean, OMI, Evangelizer and Dialoguer

We are grateful to Fr. Charles Hurkes, OMI, for forwarding the 64 Letters of Condolences from Dr. Hu Yeping. Click here for a slightly edited version, where the many cc e-mails have been deleted. A personal remembrance of Fr. McLean: after his year of study in Cairo, Egypt, concerning Islamic Religious Thought (1991), he wrangled an invitation to address the Mullahs (scholars of Islamic Religion) in the holy city of Qom, Iran. He was the first non-Islamic scholar, and the first Christian, to do so. He entered the lecture hall with some fear, and immediately sensed the hostility of the Mullahs.

Fr. George McLean, OMI
Oblate of Mary, with a passport to heaven

He related to a group of us when the Oblate Center for Mission Studies, Washington, DC (1994-1999) and his Center for Research in Values and Philosophy (see 8th item below) were working closely together, that all of a sudden, an expression from our Oblate spirituality came to mind: to be an Oblate of Mary Immaculate is to have “a passport to heaven.” He remembered that this is also a revered Islamic expression.

So he introduced himself as an “Oblate of Mary, with a passport to heaven,” and the Mullahs expressions all changed from one of hostility to welcome. This was one of Fr. McLean’s many gifts, to take an expression from one religion and adapt it to another, showing the unity of values.


For more on Fr. George McLean and the Center for Research in Values and Philosophy, click these links:

Understanding the Signs of Our Times

Fr. George McLean, OMI Bio

Five Ways – May 24

May 20, 2024

Please note my e-mail has changed. It seems the old one still works.

On Sunday, May 19, Sixty Minutes interviewed Pope Francis in a very intriguing 20-minute section. If you google “60 Minutes Overtime, Interviewing Pope Francis,” you will find some very important insights about his papacy. I welcome hearing from you about it.

The Gospel for May 19, Pentecost Sunday, explains Jesus breathing on the apostles to give them the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins. Please notice that God breathed on the first human beings and the entire Garden of Eden at the beginning of creation (Gn. 2:7). So, as we repair the harm we have done to our planet, we need the breath of the Holy Spirit to help us ensure a healthy creation all around us.

May 21 is the feast day of St. Eugene de Mazenod, founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. May the entire de Mazenodian Family rejoice.

Two humorous items from the late Father Gil Boucher, O.M.I., to continue Easter joy. 1) I had been teaching my three-year-old daughter the Lord’s Prayer. For several evenings at bedtime, she would repeat after me the lines from the prayer. Finally, she decided to go solo. I listened with pride as she carefully enunciated each word right up to the end of the prayer: “Lead us not into temptation,” she prayed, “but deliver us some E-mail. Amen.” 2) Some people are kind, polite, and sweet-spirited until you try to get into their pews or their favorite church parking spot.

Many thanks to all who commented on the April 16 e-letter.

Fr. Winter


The Heroes of the Heroes

Check out the recent article from Jim Brobst on laity making a difference.

In the annals of missionary life, the spotlight often shines on the courageous deeds of missionaries braving adversity to spread the Gospel. Yet, behind every missionary’s tale of heroism lies a lesser-known narrative – the support and inspiration provided by the local laity.

Laity: The Heroes of the Heroes | OMI World

Five Ways – Apr 24

April 16, 2024

Although the column below “Five Hundred Years of Misunderstanding” was originally written by Fr. Ron Rolheiser on April 17, 2017, it was republished on our OMI USA website on April 10 (below). It is still very, very relevant, especially during the Easter season when the joy of the Risen Christ unites all Christians and urges us to work for unity among Christians–unity for the sake of evangelization. Fr. Rolheiser’s website on spirituality has many other very interesting columns.

And speaking of Easter joy, here is an item from the May-June Joyful Noiseletter that may bring a smile to your face:  “Three Animals Go to Heaven. A horse, a dog, and a cat die and go to heaven.  St. Peter greets them at the pearly gates and takes them to see God, seated on His throne.

  God asks the horse ‘Why do you think we should let you into heaven?’ ‘I worked hard all my life,’ the horse replied. ‘I broke my back tilling the earth and bringing in the harvest, year after year.’

‘Fine,’ God said.  ‘Come on in.’

‘And you?’ God addressed the dog.

‘I was loyal to my master,’ the dog replied. ‘I hunted with him, protected his family, and lay by his side every day when he was sick.’

‘Good,’ God said. ‘You are welcome to enter.’

God then looked at the cat and asked, ‘And what about you/’

‘You’re sitting in my chair,’ the cat replied.” 

Search for the website of The Joyful Noiseletter for the Fellowship of Merry Christians and more joyful spirituality.

Many thanks to those who responded to the March 20 Five Ways e-letter. May the Forty Days of Easter bring us all closer together.

Fr. Winter


Five Hundred Years of Misunderstanding by Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI

Five Ways – Mar 24

Mar 20, 2024

The Muslim article below is a bit long. At least take a look at the beginning and end, to see that moderate Muslims are very interested in working with other religions to protect our planet.  Fr. Jack Lau, O.M.I., who sent this to me, calls it a sibling to Pope Francis’ Lodato Si, which also begs us to better protect our environment.

On Feb. 29, I was able to take part in a Faith Leaders Conference at the Christian evangelical Gordon College, in nearby Wenham, MA.  This college is to the east coast what Fuller Theological, Pasadena, CA is to the west coast, and reminds us to pay more attention to the missionary efforts of Protestant evangelicals and Catholic charismatics right here.

On Easter Sunday, please notice those who attend, after being absent since at least Christmas.  Gently invite them back for Divine Mercy Sunday April 7.

If Muslims invite you to join them in breaking their fast during Ramadan (until April 9) consider accepting.  If a Jewish friend invites you to their Seder Meal for Passover (about April 23-30), consider accepting.  And if an evangelical Protestant invites you to join them for the Easter Sunrise service, March 31,  consider accepting.

Many thanks to those who commented on the February 21 Five Ways.  And may each of us have a very joyful Triduum and Easter Sunday!

Fr. Harry Winter O.M.I.

Al-Mizan, A Covenant for the Earth

A Muslim “sibling” to Laudato Si.

Would you believe that Muslims have composed a sibling statement on care for the earth, similar to Pope Francis’s Lodato Si?  Click here for the long and beautiful document.

Five Ways – Feb 24

February 21, 2024

Many thanks to those who commented on the January 12 Five Ways e-letter.

Although the attached article from the national Jesuit edited journal America is long, I think you will find it very readable.  The Episcopal Church in the USA (Anglican in other countries) and the Roman Catholic Church were very close following the Second Vatican Council, in 1965.  Then the decision by the Episcopal Church to ordain women priests and bishops, and their approval of certain moral questions seemed to put a roadblock towards further union.

As the America article explains, the symbolic actions by Pope St. Paul VI and Pope Francis, along with the twinning of Episcopalian and Roman Catholic Bishops, indicates that progress is not dead, but still continuing.

I hope to hear from the Oblate bishop in Sri Lanka who is twinned to an Anglican bishop there.

My thanks to former regional counsellor for the USA and Canada, Father Warren Brown, O.M.I., for sending me this article.

As we continue in the first week of Lent, is there an urgent dimension of evangelical ecumenism in Lent? On Ash Wednesday, our churches saw many people come for ashes who do not attend Sunday Mass. And it is more and more evident that many Catholics are no longer marrying Catholics, but members of other Christian Churches. Can we invite these spouses, sometimes non-practicing Eastern Orthodox or Protestants, to join us for Sunday Mass and/or Stations of the Cross during Lent?

The hymns during Lent, the emphasis on our baptism and what it means for spiritual growth, and above all the Cross of Jesus joined to our daily cross, do attract people.  Let us share our experience with those around us, of Jesus carrying our cross.

May our observance of Lent bring us closer to Jesus and each other.

In His love,

Father Harry Winter, O.M.I.


America Magazine – A short history of Catholic-Anglican relations—and the last roadblocks to unity

Council for Research in Values and Philosophy

2024 RVP Seminars and Conferences

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Five Ways – Jan 24

January 12, 2024

Many thanks to those who replied to the December 22 Five Ways e-letter.  I hope Christmas and the New Year brought joy to you and your loved ones.

As we approach the 2024 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Jan. 18-25, there are several special features for this year.

First to consider is that the Vatican and the World Council of Churches each year choose different local Churches to prepare the materials.  This year they chose the Christian Churches of Burkina Faso, and the rapidly growing ecumenical community Chemin Neuf, headquartered in France, and spreading all over the world.  The Wikipedia article on Chemin Neuf is very extensive.

The material this year centers on St. Luke’s response in the Parable of the Good Samaritan:  “You shall love the Lord your God . . . and your neighbor as yourself” (Lk. 10:27). These materials are still available from the Graymoor Ecumenical Institute:  http://www.geii.org.

Secondly, we are challenged by the fact that over 50% of Catholic marriages today involve a non-Catholic Christian. We do not seem prepared to help these families face the special difficulties this poses, especially when the children want to learn about the religions of both parents. More and more parishes want to help these families, but specialists and materials are lacking.

Thirdly, when the October 2023 Synod closed, its final document urged more participation from Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants in the October 2024 Synod.  Which means more participation on the parish level too.

Finally, we need our evangelical Protestants as allies confronting abortion. We need our liberal Protestants as allies in confronting discrimination, especially as we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, Jan. 15.

The Holy Spirit is very eager to help all Christians grow closer, so Jesus will become clearer to all. I welcome your insights about doing this.

In His love,

Fr. Harry Winter, O.M.I.


Five Ways – Dec 23

Evangelization and Christmas

December 18, 2023

Yesterday, Sunday, Dec. 17, our 11 am Mass was full for the first time since before covid. The attraction was the annual children’s Christmas Pageant, presented by the Faith Formation Director and the Music Director. It struck me how many of those attending were not practicing Catholics and perhaps not even Christian, the aunts and uncles and grandparents and close friends of the children. (We used Louise Egan’s “The First Christmas,” available on the internet).

Christmas is an ideal time for evangelization. May we go out of our way to welcome those who are sniffing around for hope. With the wars between Israel and Hamas, and between Russia and the Ukraine, people do look for strength. Let us pray for these people especially as they attend Christmas Mass.
As the Christmas dinner winds down, when coffee and dessert are being served, it is a special time to ask the oldest person there “What was the best Christmas you ever had?” I am sure Jesus will enter into the conversation.

I welcome hearing about your attempts to witness to Jesus at Christmas. And many, many thanks to those who commented on the Nov. 20 Five Ways.

May you have the best of Christmases and New Years.

In Christ’s love,

Fr. Harry Winter, O.M.I.


Synod Synthesis and Vibrant Ecumenical Dimension

By Harry Winter, O.M.I.

The October 2023 Synod began on Sept. 30, with the most amazing Ecumenical Prayer Service since the Second Vatican Council ended in 1965 (click here for the hour-long service as described by www.omiusa.org, Synodality and the Oblates, Part 7, Oct. 4, 2023). The Synthesis devotes #6 of Part One, with 12 paragraphs [a-l] to “The Eastern Churches and the Latin Church Traditions.”  This part of the Synthesis will be examined later. I will concentrate here on #7 of Part One, “On the Road Towards Christian Unity.”

Twelve “fraternal delegates” were invited from four major Christian traditions:  three from the Orthodox Church, three from the Oriental Orthodox Churches, three from the Mainline Protestant Churches (Anglican Communion, World Methodist Council, and World Communion of Reformed Churches), and three from Free Churches/Evangelical-Pentecostal(World Baptist Alliance, World Pentecostal Fellowship and Disciples of Christ).  Of the six attending from the Protestant Churches, one is a woman, Dr. Elizabeth Newman, of the World Baptist Alliance.

The Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity made it quite clear that these twelve fraternal delegates were “not only observers, but are invited to participate in the discussions, particularly in the Minor Circles” (News, Sept. 25, 2023). And the Synthesis itself spoke of “the active participation of fraternal delegates” as being one of the “new experiences” which gave the delegates “the evangelical joy of being the People of God” (#20a).

The Synthesis of Oct. 28th called the Ecumenical Prayer Service of Sept. 30 “a profound ecumenical gesture. . . . This highly significant event also allowed us to recognize that we are in an ecumenical kairos [critical time] and to affirm that what unites us is greater than what divides us” (6a).

The Synod members then linked the baptism of every Christian with both ecumenism and the sensus fidei, the Latin term indicating that the laity must be consulted in any matter of importance (7b). The attitude of the faithful is at the very root of the effort to include the laity in synods, councils and discussions.  Without the laity, not only Roman Catholic laity, but every baptized Christian, something essential is missing. This paragraph concludes, “There can be no synodality without an ecumenical dimension.”

Paragraph 7c joins “a commitment to the service of those experiencing poverty,” with “processes for repentance and healing of memory.” “Therefore, it is important that ecumenism is practiced first and foremost in daily life.”

The members then observed “In not a few regions of the world there is an ‘ecumenism of blood’, stemming from Christians of different affiliations who give their lives for faith in Jesus Christ” (7d).

After noting that “Collaboration among all Christians is crucial in addressing the pastoral challenges of our time,” especially in “secularized societies” (7e), the document addresses a situation affecting more and more Christians:  “interchurch marriages,” explaining they “may constitute realities in which the wisdom of communion can mature, and it is possible to evangelize each other”  (7f).

After these six “Convergences,” the authors propose four “Matters for Consideration (g-j).  Synodality in the Orthodox Churches and “other ecclesial communities” enriched the debates and “requires further investigation” (7g).

“Ongoing ecumenical dialogues have provided a better understanding, in light of the practices of the first millennium, of the fact that synodality and primacy are related, complementary and inseparable realities,” referring to St. John Paul II’s ecumenical encyclical Ut unum sint, (in which he offered the service of the papacy to other Christian Churches, modifying it for their need: 7h).

Since it affects the growing number of interchurch marriages, 7i needs to be quoted in its entirety:

“We need to examine the issue of Eucharistic hospitality (Communicatio in sacris) from theological, canonical and pastoral perspectives in the light of the link between sacramental and ecclesial communion.  This issue is of particular importance to inter-church couples. It raised the need for a broader reflection on inter-church marriages.”

Let us give a shout out here to Rev. Martin Reardon and his wife Dr. Ruth Reardon, both now deceased.  Along with Father John Coventry, they spear headed this effort through the Association of Inter-Church Families (click here for their Oblate friendship, www.omiusa.org, Oct. 8, 2015). In Oblate parishes and at our retreat centers, this matter of Eucharistic Hospitality is of prime importance.

The fourth and final matter for consideration presents ” ‘non-denominational’ communities and Christian-inspired ‘revival’ movements, which are also joined in large numbers by faithful who were originally Catholic” (7j).  This vast subject includes Taize, Iona and Focolare, whose Catholics are still faithful, with Focolare having a special place for Muslims. Then groups such as Richard Foster’s Renovare, in which Catholics retain membership while adapting practices from other Christian Churches. And finally, there are groups such as the late Francis Schaeffer’s L’Abri Fellowship, in which Catholics drop their allegiance.

About every fifteen years, the Vatican invites all these renewal groups to come and meet in Rome; many respond.

Section 7 concludes with 5 proposals (k-o).  All easily attained the 75 percent approval of the voting members of the synod. K and l both concern the year 2025, with k recommending that since it is the anniversary of the First Ecumenical Council (Nicea, 325 AD), “a common commemoration of this event will help us to better understand how in the past controversial questions were discussed and resolved together in Council.” L notices that the date for Easter will coincide in 2025 for all Churches and Christian communities. “The Assembly expressed a keen desire to come to a common date for the feast of Easter so that we can celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord, our life and our salvation, on the same day.”

M reinforced the role of the fraternal delegates:  “There is also a desire to continue to involve Christians of other Churches and ecclesial traditions in Catholic synodal processes at all levels and to invite more fraternal delegates to the next session of the Assembly in 2024.”  L contines this attention:  “A proposal has been put forward by some to convene an ecumenical Synod on common mission in the contemporary world.”  The final proposal, o, refers back to “ecumenism of blood” (7d) above:  “It was also proposed that we might devise an ecumenical martyrology.”

It is disappointing that Eucharistic Hospitality did not receive a proposal.  This probably means that the Assembly did not think it would receive a 75% majority vote.  But at least this crucial, pastoral matter did make the “Considerations” above.

When the document examines “The Bishop of Rome in the College of Bishops,” (#13), it states “Promoting the unity of all Christians is an essential aspect of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome. The ecumenical journey has deepened understanding of the ministry of the successor of Peter and must continue to do so in the future.  Responses to the invitation made by St. John Paul II in the encyclical Ut unum sint, as well as the conclusions of ecumenical dialogues, can help the Catholic understanding of primacy, collegiality, synodality, and their mutual relationships” (b).

Unfortunately, when the document presents Bishops, Clergy, and Consecrated Life, no mention is made of ecumenism as “an essential aspect.”  But when it examines “A synodal approach to formation” (#14), the Assembly requested “conducting ecumenical and interreligious dialogue” as one of the nine areas required (#e).

For Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the emphasis that “Rather than saying the Church has a mission, we affirm that the Church ‘is’ mission” (#8) means that ecumenism is a vital and essential part of mission and the Church. May every Oblate work so that Christian Unity becomes a deeper part of our mission.

On Oct. 25, the Synod participants sent a short, 2 1/2-page “Letter of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to the People of God.” This statement, full of the Holy Spirit, contains many of the elements presented above.