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Celeste Woloschuk coordinating office of Ecumenism in diocese, including work on upcoming Reformation 500 events

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski

 

Celeste Woloschuk is the new part-time Ecumenical and Interfaith Coordinator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.

 

Nicholas Jesson, who served for many years as the diocesan Ecumenical Officer, recently left Saskatoon to become the Ecumenical Officer for the Archdiocese of Regina.

 

As an interim coordinator of ecumenism, Celeste will continue with administrative support for ecumenical and interfaith work in the diocese until the appointment of a new Ecumenical Officer for the diocese.

 

A long-time parishioner and volunteer at St. Augustine parish in Saskatoon, she also serves as part-time Administrative Assistant at the Cathedral of the Holy Family. 

 

Woloschuk’s recent studies at St. Paul’s University in Ottawa provided both ecumenical formation and experience. “It is a very ecumenical setting. Many of my fellow students were considering ordination or were on the route to ordination in a variety of denominations,” she notes, with her professors also coming from diverse Christian backgrounds.

 

She describes her new role as being a resource person for parishes and groups across the diocese, and a contact for Christian and inter-faith partners in the community.

 

“For the diocese I serve as a point person that people can talk to if they are thinking of starting up a project, but don’t know where to start, sharing ideas and resources,” says Woloschuk.

 

For instance, she might offer suggestions for prayer or provide parishes with connections to other Christian churches, as well as assisting with the coordination of events or projects involving ecumenical partners as well as people of different faiths.

 

“Saskatoon has a rich ecumenical and interfaith history,” says Woloschuk, pointing to the ground-breaking ecumenical work of Rev. Bernard de Margerie in the diocese and the broader community.

 

She begins her new role just as several initiatives are getting underway – such as the launch of a new Saskatoon Evangelical-Roman Catholic Commission for Common Witness, established this spring after a five-year Catholic-Evangelical dialogue drew to a close.

 

Another major undertaking is the ecumenical commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation.

 

Five hundred years ago, on Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther sent his Ninety-Five Theses calling for reform of church practices to the Archbishop of Mainz – an action immortalized in the image of the reformer posting his statement on the church doors. The date is considered to be the start of the Reformation, with the movement spreading across Europe throughout the 16th century.

 

Saskatoon joins communities across the province, the country and the world that are marking the anniversary, says Woloschuk.

 

A study and dialogue about the Reformation will be offered in Saskatoon, using Together in Christ, a 5-session series prepared by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).

 

Facilitated by Rev. Marie-Louise Ternier (the pastoral minister for the Anglican and Lutheran parishes in Watrous, SK, and a former member of a Saskatoon Lutheran-Catholic dialogue), the Together in Christ series begins 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 20 at Zion Lutheran Church in Saskatoon, and continues with four Saturday morning sessions at Queen’s House on Sept. 23, Sept. 30, Oct. 14 and Oct. 21.

 

Each of the four Saturday sessions will also be held/repeated at St. Philip Neri parish (1902 Munroe Ave S) on Tuesday evenings from 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m., Sept. 26, Oct. 3, Oct. 17, and Oct. 24, she adds. 

 

A highlight of the Reformation 500 celebration will be an ecumenical worship service to be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 29 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon, with Archbishop Donald Bolen of the Catholic Archdiocese of Regina and Bishop Sid Haugen of the ELCIC Saskatchewan Synod co-preaching. The service will be followed by a reception.

 

“Everyone is welcome, come and enjoy a little bit of fellowship, and don’t be afraid to talk to your neighbour. You might learn a lot about them, you might also learn a lot about yourself. It’s amazing what an encounter like that will do,” says Woloschuk.

 

She notes that Bolen and Haugen will also preach at a similar commemoration the day before at Trinity Lutheran Church in Regina.

 

“It is really important for Christians to mark the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation,” says Woloschuk. “Together we can take this moment to look back at this significant event, and all that occurred over this significant chunk of time.”

 

She acknowledges that at the beginning of the Reformation, there was acrimony and even violence, with “a lot of closed mindedness and unwillingness to listen.” However in the last 50 years, Christian unity has come a long way.

 

“Certainly with Vatican II and the new emphasis on ecumenism that it brought, we have come to new understandings of ecumenism and what we share as Christians. The strides we have made in terms of repairing some of the relationships, I think is quite phenomenal.”

 

Marking the 500th anniversary is a moment for reflection, for confession and conversion, and of celebrating how far Christians have come in their relationships, she adds. “And we have a lot to be thankful for and to celebrate.”

 

Woloschuk stresses that the Saskatoon event is not solely a Catholic-Lutheran undertaking. “We are making it more Christian-wide. On the committee we have Catholics and Lutherans, certainly, but we also have Anglicans, members of the United Church, members of the Evangelical church ­ we are recognizing that the Reformation has affected all Christians.”

 

Woloschuk hopes the Reformation 500 events will bring awareness and a renewed commitment to Christian unity.

 

“This is a chance to remember the past and what has been, both positive and negative. We will also look to the present and rejoice in where we are now. But ultimately, we look to the future: we want this to be something that spurs people on to further the cause of Christian unity,” says Woloschuk.

 

“That might be something as simple as praying for Christian unity in your own home or prayer time, or parishes beginning to pray regularly for a neighbouring Christian church, regardless of their denomination, or Christians finding ways of working together – there is a lot being done already, but in this case, more is better,” she says with a smile.

 

“We trust that Christ in the Spirit will bring us to where God wants us to be,” she says. “We will continue to pray for that and to work for that.”

 

For more information about ecumenism or the Reformation 500 celebrations, see the website at www.saskatoonrcdiocese.com/ecumenism or contact Woloschuk at the Catholic Pastoral Centre, (306) 659-5814.

 

 

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