Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Jan. 18-25, and Synodality


by Harry Winter, OMI

This year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, described in our Oblate Prayer book, pp. 73-76, assumes a special importance during this year when every parish is discussing synodality.  Father General began his letter for Dec. 8, 2021 by noting that many Oblates have already begun to make our contribution to synodality “from the perspective of the Oblate charism as lived by vowed and lay people.” Pope Francis has made it quite clear that synodality is better practiced in Eastern Christianity and some Protestant Churches.  He has involved these Churches by inviting them to take part in meetings, including the Synod on Synodality, Oct. 2023.

I would like to post an ongoing item “Synodality, Evangelism and Christian Unity,” on the Mission-Unity-Dialogue website.  Please send to me at hewomi@aol.com the experiences you have already had, or will have during this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which involve Eastern or Protestant Churches. I welcome especially experiences of synodality involving members of other Christian Churches.

Here in Georgetown, MA, we had hoped to continue our relationship with a local Congregational Church, which began with our joint 9/11 service described here, Sept. 15, 2021. But this church voted recently to have no indoor services until covid has lessened.  So it is very significant that one of the items published by the Vatican and World Council of Churches for this year’s Week of Prayer, the folder “Ecumenical Celebration of the Word of God,” can be done in homes. This, and a folder “Daily Scripture & Prayer Guide,” can still be obtained by contacting Graymoor at www.geii.org/Order.

Let us encourage our parishioners to invite Eastern and Protestant relatives and friends into their homes, during the Week of Prayer, to pray especially for the success of the synodality process. Our shrines and retreat centers too will be involved in synodality in the coming months.

We can define synodality as the effort to listen better to share our faith, especially from the bottom up. Because of many reasons, Roman Catholics have developed authority from the top down, pope, then bishops, then laity.  Beginning with Vatican II, the Holy Spirit helped us to involve the laity much more.  A diagram of the two processes, top down and bottom up, can be found on the MUD website, bottom of the home page:  www.harrywinter.org.

Reading again about the Church’s first synod, in Jerusalem, Acts. 15:1-35, will show us how synodality works.

The theme for this year’s Week of Prayer, “We saw the star in the east and we came to worship him” was developed by the Middle Eastern Council of Churches, headquartered in Lebanon, and approved by the Vatican and World Council of Churches. Graymoor is organizing a lived stream event for the Week of Prayer, on Jan. 19, noon, EST:  www.geii.org.
At Vatican II, Roman Catholics developed the collegiality of bishops to work with the pope, and not subservient to him.  During the synodality process, we can offer to the other Christian Churches this feature of Roman Catholicism, as we learn from them about synodality, especially lay leadership.

Vatican expert John Allen Jr. appears to see huge difficulties in the synod process, as he describes it in Crux of the News. Colleen Dulle and Doug Girardot presented the way American dioceses are proceeding “We contacted every diocese in America about their synod plans. Here’s what we found,” in America, Dec. 2021, pp. 12-14 and concluded it to be a very mixed bag.

May the Holy Spirit help each Christian to be part of the process, as synodality seeks to improve our ability to evangelize. The Archdiocese of Boston has sent seven questions to every parish as lay leaders become involved in synodality.  The seventh question frankly asks “How connected do you feel to the core mission of the Church–making disciples for Jesus?”

I suspect St. Eugene de Mazenod would be very involved in synodality, both as diocesan bishop and founder of the Oblates.