There are many signs around us that Ecumenism in our day and age is flourishing.

Reverend Dr. Thomas F. Best pointed to several of those signs on Thursday, December 15, during a presentation titled, “The Ecumenical Winter is Over.”

“Ecumenism is embedded in the lives of many Churches today. Many faithful think of themselves as baptized into Christ, rather than into their particular denomination,” Reverend Best said. “Churches act together in common prophetic witness … and most Churches welcome each other to services of the word.”

The lecture took place at the Centro Pro Unione in Rome and was conducted in honor of the Society of the Atonement’s Foundation Day. It was the 25th annual such conference, according to the Centro Pro Unione.

Reverend Best not only offered the assurance of current ecumenical prosperity, but mentioned how Ecumenism is “a vocation we practice, not a job we do.”

He added: “Unity is our nature, but also the basis of our credibility before the world. Unity is given by God and must be made visible in the active lives of Churches.”

Reverend Best credited Servant of God Father Paul Wattson, SA, and Mother Lurana White, SA, the founders of the Society of the Atonement, for the strides each made in Ecumenism. He identified the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, started by Father Paul and Mother Lurana, as the basis of modern Ecumenism.

Reverend Best is no stranger to Week of Prayer, or to the movement for Christian unity.

In 2017, he spoke at the Centro Pro Unione about the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. He is a Pastor of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and has produced many faith and order texts. He was an editor and book review editor of The Ecumenical Review and Growth in Agreement III. He is a currently a member of the International Dialogue between the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Catholic Church.

Foundation Day

On December 15, 1898, Mother Lurana, together with Father Paul, made the first foundation at Graymoor – at the Dimond House, located in Garrison, NY. Subsequently, each year on December 15, the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement observe Foundation Day.

Mother Lurana and Father Paul had a vision of Christian unity and reconciliation, drawing from the spirit and influence of St. Francis of Assisi. Christian unity had always been a goal of Father Paul and Mother Lurana, as both were originally Episcopalians who later converted to Catholicism.

They began the Church Unity Octave in 1908, suggesting a week be reserved to pray for Christian unity.

It was observed between January 18, the Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter, and January 25, the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. The celebration was recognized by Pope Pius X, and in 1916, Pope Benedict XV broadened its observance to the universal church.

The name officially changed to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 1963. It is now celebrated globally each year.

The 2023 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins Wednesday, January 18. This year’s theme is “Do good; seek justice,” taken from Isaiah, Chapter 1, verse 17.

Materials for next year’s Week of Prayer are available for purchase on the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute website.