October 22, 2017

This month we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. While this was a painful time in the life of the Christian Church, there has been much healing in recent years. Since the Second Vatican Council there has been an intentional shift in our relationship with Christians with whom we are not in full communion.

Before the Council, for example, Catholics were not allowed to go to worship services in Protestant churches. While we still do not share in communion, Catholics, Lutherans and other Protestant denominations regularly participate in ecumenical worship services. 

At one such service in Sweden last year, Pope Francis and Bishop Mounib Younan, President of the Lutheran World Federation, signed a Joint Statement in which Catholics and Lutherans pledged to pursue their dialogue in order to remove the remaining obstacles that hinder us from reaching full unity. The Declaration was signed during the first day of the Pope’s visit to Sweden in October of 2016. In the Joint Declaration Pope Francis and Bishop Younan also stressed their commitment to common witness on behalf of the poor, the needy and the victims of injustice.

Locally our parishioners have participated as volunteers in the Winter Hospitality Overflow Shelter, hosted by St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Vancouver every winter. Prompted by our common Baptism, we have lived out that call to work together on behalf of the poor and needy among us.

Last year, St. Joseph hosted the annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Eve Service. People of faith from many different traditions gathered to give thanks for the many blessings we enjoy in our country, and to pray for peace and justice for those who still live with that promise unfulfilled.

In addition to these efforts, Pastor Jim Stender of St. Andrew Lutheran and I have developed a friendship that has nourished both of us. In a conversation last spring we decided to explore the possibility of a joint commemoration of the beginning of the Reformation. Our vision was to celebrate the healing that has happened over these recent years between the Lutheran and Catholic Church, to celebrate our relationship, and to pray for further progress on our road to full communion.

We have organized various activities for the afternoon and evening of October 29, Reformation Sunday. We invite parishioners at St. Thomas, Our Lady Star of the Sea and St. Joseph to join us Sunday afternoon, October 29, at 2:00pm at St. Andrew Lutheran Church (5607 NE Gher Rd, Vancouver, WA 98662). We will begin by celebrating with music. Music Ministers from St. Andrew, St. Thomas, and St. Joseph have collaborated on a program that explores the Lutheran and Catholic musical repertoire.  Following this program, we will do some service work together, helping to prepare St. Andrew for the Winter Hospitality Overflow Shelter, which begins on November 1.

We will then gather for the 5:00 pm Sunday evening Mass at St. Joseph. At Mass we will experience the reality of the division that still exists as our friends from St. Andrew will be invited to join us for Mass, but will not be able to share in communion.  This is an important experience for us as well, reminding us that there is still work to do in achieving full unity.

Following Mass we will have our Sunday supper with a German theme, followed by a conversation with Pastor Jim and me, sharing about the gift that our respective traditions have been in our lives. Please plan to join us for this wonderful afternoon and evening of prayer, music, worship, conversation and friendship!

God Bless,
Fr. Gary Lazzeroni