The Graymoor Peace, Reconciliation, and Ecumenicity Program (GPREP) is a retreat-based course of study and discernment offered by the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement at Graymoor in Garrison, NY. Its goal is to help prepare Christian leaders and those being trained for leadership as “ambassadors of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:16-20) and “artisans of peace” (Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti). It will do this by equipping participants with tools (ethical, spiritual, practical, and intellectual) out of the history of ecumenical engagement: a toolkit for making peace where relationships have been damaged or corroded, keeping peace where relationships have been normalized, and building peace where relationships are healthy. The experience of learning in community while on retreat is of deep significance in the spiritual heritage of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement; the program is intended to equip participants for other-oriented, unity-aligned relationship-building (“ecumenicity”) within their own ecclesial communities and with other communities, locally and regionally.
Why come to Graymoor for formation as ambassadors of reconciliation? The Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement are a religious society celebrating their 125th year in 2023-24. Founded as an Episcopalian Franciscan order before coming into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church in 1909, the Society’s history and ongoing charism are deeply rooted in ecumenical hospitality, fueling their many decades of work to repair relationships, build peace, serve the neighbor, and make the world more habitable. The name “Atonement” derives from its original English sense of “at-one-ment,” signifying God’s vision of unity in love for the whole of creation. The Society’s ministries include two internationally recognized institutes, Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute (in New York City) and the Centro Pro Unione (in Rome). Participants in this program will have the opportunity not only to learn from the ecumenical expertise of program faculty, but also to be immersed during the five retreats in the time and space of Franciscan spirituality and ethical formation.
The Program takes place over five separate overnight retreats (Monday afternoon to Tuesday afternoon), spread throughout the academic year, at the Holy Mountain Franciscan Retreat Center at Graymoor. There will be time for academic instruction and dialogical training by ecumenical and interfaith experts, shared prayer, meals together, and open-ended conversation. Aligned with five “pillars” of Franciscan spiritual direction and formation (and the five liturgical seasons in which the retreats take place), the retreats will focus on the following themes:
October 2-3, 2023: Creation/Conversion
The Program begins in the Season of Creation, between the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (Sep 1) and the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (Oct 4). During this first retreat, participants will be immersed in the Franciscan pillar of Conversion: breaking down corrupted habits of conducting oneself and perceiving others in order to be realigned as an instrument of God’s love for all creation. We will devote academic attention to “spiritual ecumenism,” a paradigm of inter-church and intra-church reconciliation that is grounded less in negotiations of doctrinal difference and more in interpersonal experience, relationship building, and realignment of the heart.
December 4-5, 2023: Minority/Advent
Our second retreat takes place during Advent, a liturgical season of preparation, purification, and hope. The spirituality of Advent, making room in the heart and the world for the God who empties Godself into the human experience of poverty and vulnerability, aligns with the Franciscan pillar of Minority: participants will engage in dialogue and spiritual exercise meant to cultivate humility, hospitality, and “spiritual poverty.” Academic instruction during this retreat will focus on the scriptural and patristic foundations of reflection on and intervention in Christian (and human) division.
February 5-6, 2024: Contemplation/Lent
Our third retreat, leading into the penitential and cleansing season of Lent, will focus on the Franciscan pillar of Contemplation. Although Lent is typically associated with conversion/metanoia (and Creation with contemplation!), this sequence reflects the spiritual trajectory of needing to be converted, and preparing ourselves with eyes to see and ears to hear, before attempting to understand others in their fullness. This retreat will include contemplative practices drawn from the Franciscan tradition, as well as academic instruction on the early generations – the successes and challenges – of formal ecumenical collaboration between 1900 and 1960, including: the World Missionary Conferences of 1900 and 1910, the Life & Work and Faith & Order Movements, and the formation of the World Council of Churches in 1948.
April 8-9, 2024: Abundance/Easter
Our fourth retreat, celebrating the light of Easter and the glories of springtime on the “holy mountain” of Graymoor, expands the traditional Franciscan pillar of “Justice and Peace” into a more holistic unity of Life Abundant, of which justice and peace are two indispensable components. The crucial recognition of this unit is that justice, peace, and the integrity of creation are not mere “social” or “political” addenda to the Gospel, but preconditions of the life abundant that is the deepest hope and orienting horizon of the Gospel. Participants will explore (outdoors, when possible!) the relationships between the collaborative practice of justice, the interpersonal and intercultural labors of peacemaking, and the fundamental integrity of life on Earth that renders the others sustainable. Academic instruction will focus on the busiest decades of the “classical” ecumenical movement, between 1961 and 1999: we will cover Vatican II; the pivotal World Council of Churches Assemblies of this period; and two particularly influential agreed documents, Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry (1982) and the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (1999).
June 3-4, 2024: Engagement/Pentecost
Our final retreat, in the outward-focused and multicultural spirit of Pentecost, will turn to a fifth (informal) Franciscan pillar: Engagement across lines of religious, cultural, and ideological difference. Participants will study and practice at the fertile intersections of ecumenical and interfaith encounter, reflecting on the interdependence of the two and the ethical, intellectual, and spiritual dispositions that undergird the productive practice of each. Academic instruction will turn to the most recent generations of ecumenical engagement, between 2000 and the present, interpreting the declining interest in classical ecumenism’s methods and goals following the end of the Cold War and the intense investment in interreligious exchange following 9/11. We will consider the rhetorics and realities of “ecumenical winter” and “ecumenical springtime,” looking to recent theoretical approaches but also to new forms of grassroots engagement providing openings for renewed peacebuilding and reconciliation in the mid-twenty-first century.
Additional Practical Information
Program faculty will include Friars of the Atonement with decades of experience in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue; Graymoor Institute staff with doctoral training and extensive scholarly activity in the field; and guest instructors who bring a wealth of personal insight and professional expertise relating to the themes of each retreat.
The retreats will also have elements of communal ecumenical prayer, four meals together, and other times for conversation and conviviality. Between the retreats, participants will complete written reflections on what has been learned, to which course instructors will respond, as well dig into a modest reading list.
There will be five retreats from Monday lunch through Tuesday lunch with overnight accommodations at the Holy Mountain Franciscan Retreat Center at Graymoor, 40 Franciscan Way, Garrison, NY 10524. For applicants who apply by July 15th, the early-bird tuition rate, including overnight accommodation and meals, is $875 for the year. For applicants who apply between July 15 and August 15, the full tuition rate is $1025. Partial financial aid may be available to applicants with demonstrated financial hardship.
Applications for GPREP 2023-24 are open until August 15, 2023.
Application consists of a registration form, a letter of application describing your interest and experience (if any) in peace & reconciliation work and/or ecumenical engagement, and a brief letter of reference from a supervisor, colleague, bishop, or the like, confirming your good standing in your institution or community. The letter of reference should be emailed directly to firstname.lastname@example.org, with your name in the subject header, no later than August 15, 2023.