“They Showed Us Unusual Kindness”:
International Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
By Martin Gynn
On Monday, January 20, St. Mary’s Home participated in the International Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
With a history of 100 years, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was first celebrated in 1908, in the chapel of a small Atonement Franciscan Convent of the Protestant Episcopal Church, 50 miles north of New York City. Progressing beyond the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement, this new prayer movement gradually developed into a worldwide observance involving many nations and millions of people. The traditional period in the northern hemisphere for this special week is January 18-25, between the pre-Vatican II dates of the feast of the Chair of St. Peter and the feast of the conversion of St. Paul.
The theme for this year was “They Showed Us Unusual Kindness” (Acts 28:2). The theme is based on the biblical passage, the final two chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, describing the perilous sea voyage by and the subsequent shipwreck of the Apostle Paul in Malta, whose inhabitants welcomed, fed, and sheltered him and his companions. Signaling the beginning of Christianity in Malta, the text promotes reflection on St. Paul’s journey of faith and also on the ecumenical virtue of hospitality, the call to a greater generosity to those in need.
That hospitality is central to the mission of the Little Sisters of the Poor, one of the four professed vows, the theme was especially felicitous this year for us.
Fr. Paul Schneider served as worship leader, and Jugan Terrace Resident, Deacon Leonard Hester, delivered a thoughtful, heartfelt sermon. Mark Burnell, son-in-law of St. Mary’s Resident Evelyn Bloomberg, played the organ and led the singing.
Symbolic of the sometimes tempestuous journey Christians make together towards unity is the boat. “A boat moves forward when all row together,” a line from our service reminded us. As part of our worship, Residents, Sisters, family members, and friends presented “oars,” each displaying a single word for a prayer petition: Reconciliation, Enlightenment, Hope, Trust, Strength, Hospitality, Conversion, and Generosity.
Ending our service was the call to commit ourselves anew to work together for Christian harmony and to serve others in need of help, healing, and hospitality.