Mrs. Jan Skrehot, Vice Chair of Galveston-Houston's Ecumenical Commission, Shares Experience of Kairos 2019
Ranked the overall most diverse city in the United States1, Houston provides abundant opportunities for ecumenical and interreligious encounters. With a city population of over 2.3 million (6.2 million in the greater Houston metro area), individuals of many faiths and cultures co-exist on a daily basis in the various forms of dialogue: life, action, theological exchange, and religious experience.2
Under the direction of Fr. Orrin Halepeska, the newly appointed ecumenical officer of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, the archdiocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Commission continues the work of building relationships with the many Christian traditions and world religions who call Houston home, while also strengthening the network of Catholic Parish Ecumenical and Interreligious Representatives (PEIRs)3 and offering opportunities for formation.
The Commission partners with many judicatories, institutions and organizations throughout the year, including the Ignatian Spirituality Project’s interreligious service held in memory of Houston’s homeless who died in the streets, the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Ecumenical Prayer Service and numerous conferences. Houstonians rally together especially well in times of crises such as the recent storms and floods which occurred in the area.
The commission’s work includes building and strengthening the PEIR network, a network of parish representatives linking the Catholic churches of the archdiocese together with the commission, providing formation, resources, and communication links to further the work of Christian unity and interreligious relations.
Educating and forming leaders of the next generation continues to be a major priority for the commission. Kairos 2019, a recent conference sponsored by United in Christ International4 and held at Christ for the Nations Institute (CFNI)5 in Dallas, Texas, offered an occasion for Christian leaders to come together to share the vision of Christian unity and pray together with one another. Especially rewarding for the leaders was the presence of hundreds of young adult CFNI students eager to understand and learn about the importance of Christian unity. David Tennies, a CFNI student, shared:
I didn't know that I needed this Conference. My father grew up Catholic then turned to Protestant right before I was born. There was never a directly negative view of the Catholic church and my extended family that remained Catholic, but there were (and are) some deep-seated hurts and perspectives that I have held onto because of that in my childhood. The simple act of bringing all the different leaders of different denominations up and having them speak on unifying the Church and allowing me to see the benefits of that has started some healing and convicted me to start a dialogue with my relatives in a desire for reconciliation and understanding. Together, as one people, God's People, we can bring more of an impact on this world than we could have in sticking within our own spheres and Christian circles. Let's UNIFY to GLORIFY our King Jesus, "that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other." (1 Kings 8:60)
Listening to David’s words, I was reminded of why we continue to journey along the missionary paths of Christian unity and interreligious dialogue, especially as we accompany, dialogue, and discern with the younger generations to whom we entrust the future of our faith and world. May we never cease to remember we are all God’s people called to unity with our Triune God and one another; for this we pray.
1 Greater Houston Partnership. https://www.houston.org/news/houston-still-most-diverse-city-nation-report-finds
2 Dialogue and Proclamation, par. 43. While the four forms of dialogue identified in Dialogue and Proclamation specifically address interreligious relations, they very much can be applied to ecumenical relations as well.
3 Fr. Don Rooney, CADEIO President, developer of the PEIR Network.