Synodality and the Oblates in the USA, Part Five: Missing, Other Churches

by Harry Winter, O.M.I.

As the Synodality process continues, there are two authorities who have commented differently about the role of Christian Unity as we proceed with synodality. Jon Nilson, professor emeritus of theology at Loyola University of Chicago, wrote on March 7, 2023 in the national Jesuit review America that the “National Synthesis of the People of God in the United States of America for the Diocesan Phase of the 2021-2023 Synod” document “says nothing–not a word–about our relationship with other Christians.” He observes “The synthesis from the United States gives no hint that ecumenism is a non-negotiable priority for Catholics.”

A second authority is Sr. Nathalie Becquart, a French Xavieres sister, undersecretary for the General Secretariate of the Synod of Bishops.  In a talk she gave at the Boston College of Theology and Ministry, Oct. 27, 2022, she said that across the board in the synod reports submitted to the Vatican “There was also a strong call to foster ecumenism.  For the Church to face the most important problems of our world–ecological climate change, violence, polarization–we can’t do it alone, we have to do it with our brothers and sisters from the Christian faiths and other religions.”

However, when her talk was printed in America, April 20, 2023, this portion was omitted.

Nilson proposed a simple but perhaps not easy step. “Let each Catholic priest, deacon and pastoral minister call or e-mail a nearby counterpart–perhaps a Lutheran, an Episcopalian, a Methodist–to say ‘We both belong to Christ.  We must not be strangers.  Can we get together for some coffee and conversation soon?’

“What good might come from encounters like these?  Only the Holy Spirit knows.  Meanwhile, doing nothing is not an option. The status quo is intolerable.  We need ecumenical relationships that produce mutual knowledge and trust.  Then, by the end of the 2024 session of the Synod on Synodality, our church might really be more synodal with strong visible bonds to our brother and sister Christians.  Then, too, we might be more and truly visibly on the way to that unity which discloses Jesus as the One sent from God to us and for us.”

May every member of the Oblate Family remember what our Constitutions and Rules state about Christian Unity:  “We collaborate in a spirit of brotherhood with others who work for the Gospel.  Our efforts will be characterized by a genuine desire for unity with all who consider themselves followers of Jesus, so that, according to his prayer, all may believe that the Father has sent him (cf. Jo 17:21). Finally, in our hope for the coming of God’s reign, we are united with all those who, without acknowledging Christ as Lord, nevertheless love what he loves” (C 6).

Synodality emphasizes that every baptized Christian is an evangelizer and a missionary. With the expansion of the Oblate Family, the Holy Spirit is blessing us with more resources for evangelism.  The Oct. 2023 Vatican Synodality session requires more involvement on our part, difficult as this may be.

May we exercise creative fidelity as we continue with the synodality journey.