St Patrick's rejoices with Inter-Church Prayer

21/05/2010

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity celebrations at St Patrick's Cathedral Parramatta
St Patrick's Cathedral Dean & Administrator Fr Wim Hoekstra (right) with Noella Sheerin, Director of Music Bernard Kirkpatrick and Cantor Elizabeth Sheppard.
By Elizabeth Sheppard OblSB
St Patrick's Cathedral Cantor

St Patrick’s Cathedral has hosted a Prayer Service to mark the 2010 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (16-23 May), as part of the centenary celebrations of the week in which representatives of different Churches meet and pray together as a first step towards greater understanding and cooperation between Christian denominations.

The Cathedral’s Dean & Administrator Fr Wim Hoekstra and Director of Music Bernard Kirkpatrick were assisted at the Monday 17 May prayer service by Chair of the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta’s Commission for Ecumenism & Interfaith Dialogue Lorraine Murphy, Noella Sheerin OblSB, Cantor Elizabeth Sheppard OblSB and Claire Lanigan. Noella planned and coordinated the liturgy.

The Rev Dr Jonathan Inkpin from the Anglican Church and Major Daphne Cox from the Salvation Army also attended the service, and joined Lorraine Murphy in assisting as readers and prayer leaders.

As we sang the Entrance Hymn “Christ the Lord is risen…Alleluia”, Claire carried the Gospel Book in and placed it on the Altar, near the blessed Eucharistic symbols of bread and wine. This reminded us that Christ’s Presence is with us in his Word, his ordained ministers, his gathered people, and in the Eucharistic species. Noella gave the Acknowledgement of Country, and Fr Wim welcomed everyone to the Cathedral.

It was a particular joy to hear the Gospel, Luke Ch 24, the journey to Emmaus, read jointly by Fr Wim and Rev Dr Jonathan Inkpin. Fr Wim gave the Sermon, reading a reflection of theologian Daniel Ang on Church unity.

(To read Daniel’s reflection, please click here).

All joined in the singing of “Peace with the Father” enthusiastically, with Bernard Kirkpatrick on the organ. After intercessions with a sung Kyrie response, the liturgy concluded with the beautiful hymn “Holy Father, God of might”.

This liturgy marked the centenary of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which started in Edinburgh in 1910. In a week when we have been blessed by the news that 200,000 Anglicans are seeking acceptance into the Catholic Church, it was particularly meaningful to gather with other Churches to pray in Christ’s name.

As Catholics we are faithful to our own Church and we respect the differences between the Churches, and the Holy See has also established a Congregation to work towards Church Unity. Jesus’ great prayer “sanctify them in the truth; your Word is truth…that they may all be one” in John Ch 17 is the basis for this ecumenical movement. Communication and discussion between Christians of different traditions, in a prayerful atmosphere, is encouraged as a Christian obligation. We are all (as the Scriptures read at the liturgy made plain) valued and precious disciples travelling on the road to Emmaus, where we will recognise Jesus as the Lord of the undivided Church, face to face over the Table of the Word.

As we listened to the Scripture readings, and sang and prayed for Christian unity and increased cooperation with the St Pat’s Cathedral congregation, I remembered my own journey to the Catholic Church through the RCIA at St James Forest Lodge, and gave thanks for the generous souls who helped me along the way. After the service we shared a bountiful supper, with lively discussion of our current and future Church programs and projects.

Thanks to all who cooperated to give us this positive and inspiring witness to Christian unity in Parramatta.


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