August 20, 2021

That All May Be One / Fr. Rick Ginther

Festival of Faiths, Week of Prayer are opportunities for unity

Fr. Rick GintherRemember when you were 9 years old? I do. It was a marker in my family. You not only learned how to ride a bicycle, but in my case I received a boy’s bike, a 24-inch Schwinn! It was rapture for that boy back then.

Nine years is a long time for a child. For the interfaith community of greater Indianapolis, nine years is a milestone.

In 2013, the Center for Interfaith Cooperation offered the inaugural Festival of Faiths. It was a first-of-a-kind gathering of the many religions in greater Indianapolis.

The first gathering worked! From it sprung an annual gathering of booths, vendors and those clad in their ethnic or religious garb. It is a colorful pageantry laid out in Veterans Plaza in Indianapolis. (One year we were in the Indiana War Memorial due to torrential rains, and last year we were virtual.)

Thematic focus helps to demonstrate the oneness of human and religious experience in our diversity. Those themes have included: Milestones; History of Religions in Indiana; Sacred Migrations, Sacred Journeys; Embracing Religious Diversity; and To Know Your Neighbor.

This year’s theme is Sharing Gifts of Faith: Compassion, Resilience and Hope. It’s a timely theme for this age of uncertainty and division.

Another article about the Festival of Faiths will be featured in The Criterion in early September. Until then, please save this time and date: 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 26, at Veterans Memorial Plaza between North Meridian and North Pennsylvania streets, and Michigan and North streets.

In five months, January will be upon us. Each year, Jan. 18-25 is designated by the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Church’s Faith and Order Commission as “The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.”

This past January, because of the pandemic, a virtual prayer service was celebrated at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. In 2022, the hope is to have once again the in-person celebration at a location yet to be determined with livestreaming.

Why is this annual prayer service so important? A quote from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs helps answer that question:

A divided Christianity is a scandal to the world and the movement of the Holy Spirit calls for the restoration of unity.

Underlying the Catholic Church’s pursuit of ecumenism is the recognition that despite the separation, elements of the Church can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church. Thus, it can even be said that the Church’s pursuit of ecumenism is another way of expressing her radical catholicity or universality.

These elements are the imperfect realization of unity that already exists in Jesus Christ as part of the one Church of Christ. The unity of Christians is understood as the manifestation of their communion with God the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit.

Gathering to pray is a means by which Christians acknowledge the imperfections of this moment in time. And together, we acknowledge our longing for full unity.

While “[e]cumenical dialogue, the search for full, visible unity is … essential to the Christian life,” theological dialogue is beyond all but a few. And so, witness of our longing for unity through our presence to one another in prayer is what we all can do.

Our presence at the Festival of Faiths and at the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity are both gifts of faith for ourselves and our world.

(Father Rick Ginther is director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs. He is also the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Indianapolis.)

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