Sister Leticia Candelario Lopez,FMVD shares her experience
Every year from Jan 18-25, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (WPCU), observed in various parts of the world through prayer services, is organised by the Archdiocesan Catholic Council for Ecumenical Dialogue (ACCED) and various host churches locally. ACCED member Sr Leticia of the Verbum Dei Missionaries in Singapore joined the international group responsible for writing the texts of this year’s prayer services. She answered some questions for Catholic News.
How did you find WPCU preparations?
I was invited by Cardinal Kurt Koch, the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in 2018 to be part of the international group responsible for writing the text for the WPCU services. This group is jointly sponsored by the Council and the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches.
This year, I was the only representative from Singapore in the 11-member international team. We met in Neuchatel, Switzerland at the monastery of the Sisters of Grandchamp from Sept 15-18, 2019. They are an ecumenical Christian community that brings together sisters from different churches and various countries.
We, together with four Grandchamp Sisters, worked in small groups on different segments of the materials for the theme they had chosen “Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit ”(John 15:5-9). It was intellectually challenging as our work needed to take into account the different contexts, cultures, and Christian traditions, but an atmosphere of friendship, trust and serious reflection pervaded. Joining the Sisters, whose lives are centred on the Word of God, for their prayers was especially spiritually nourishing.
What struck you most about this year’s theme?
Although the WPCU preparations took place before the Covid-19 crisis, the words of Jesus bring much-needed peace, assurance, and the certainty that we are not alone facing the hardships brought by the pandemic – He loves us, and He remains with us and in us. We must remain in His love.
The readings and reflections for each day of the WPCU were designed to progressively introduce the mystery of the love of God for us, for our brothers and sisters and for the whole of Creation. An activity proposed by the Sisters of Grandchamp to demonstrate this was inspired by a text of Dorotheus of Gaza, a 6th century monk, as follows:
“As we come closer to God we draw closer to one another. Imagine a circle drawn on the ground. Imagine that this circle is the world. The centre represents God, and the paths to the centre are the different ways people live. Desiring to draw closer to God, people walk towards the centre of the circle. To the extent that they move closer to the centre, to God, they move closer to one another. And the closer they come to one another, the closer they come to God.”
Although we were unable to do this activity in our actual WPCU services because of Covid-19 safe-distancing measures, we tried to communicate this to the congregation as best we could.
Why is ecumenical dialogue important?
Christ prayed for the unity of all his followers as a necessary testimony for the world to believe in Him. Therefore, ecumenical dialogue has been a priority for the Catholic Church, particularly after the Second Vatican Council which reminded us that “Today, in many parts of the world, under the inspiring grace of the Holy Spirit, many efforts are being made in prayer, word and action to attain that fullness of unity which Jesus Christ desires.” We are all called to “recognise the signs of the times and to take an active and intelligent part in the work of ecumenism.” (Unitatis redintegratio, 4)
What can ordinary people do for ecumenism?
They can attend WPCU services every year, and continue praying for Christian unity thereafter. But most important is everyday friendship. All we need is a genuine desire to know more about the faith of our Christian colleagues or school mates, neighbours and other people in our lives so as to respect each other as God’s Children.