Catholics, Disciples of Christ dialogue group meet in Green Bay

GREEN BAY — The sixth and final session of the fifth phase of the Disciples of Christ-Roman Catholic International Commission for Dialogue took place in Green Bay June 23-27. This session was devoted to completing the final report on the topic, “Christians Formed and Transformed by the Eucharist.”

Representatives of the Disciples of Christ-Roman Catholic International Commission for Dialogue stand outside of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral June 24. (Submitted Photo | For The Compass)

The Disciples co-chair of the dialogue is Rev. Dr. Newell Williams, president of Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University (TCU), in Fort Worth, Texas. The Catholic co-chair of the dialogue is Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay.

The dialogue developed according to the following process: after an introductory meeting in Nashville, Tenn., in January 2014 the commission approached the topics related to what it means to be “Formed by the Eucharist.” Discussion focused on “The Structure of Liturgies among Catholics and Disciples” (Rome, Italy, June 2014) and “The Significance of Eucharistic Catechesis – ‘Knowing by Doing’” (Bethany, W.V., 2015).

Two follow-up meetings were devoted to topics related to “Christians Being Transformed by the Eucharist,” focusing on the general theme “The Eucharist and Relationships within the Church.” (Calgary, Canada, 2016), and “Living the Sacraments” (Bayamón, Puerto Rico, 2017). The goal of the dialogue, which started in 1977, is full, visible unity between the two communions.

Developing work done by a drafting group, the session in Green Bay was devoted to finalizing the Report of this Fifth phase of Dialogue. Each day began and concluded with common prayer led alternately by Disciples and Catholics.

The commission also attended Sunday Mass at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral on June 24, followed by an exchange with diocesan officers and staff.

At the end of the meeting, the Disciples’ co-chair, Dr. Williams, said, “We have discovered that despite differences in practice, Disciples and Catholics both experience in their celebrations of the Eucharist an encounter with the crucified and risen Christ that both forms and transforms them for their mission of witness and service.”

In reflecting on this meeting, Bishop Ricken said, “It has been a real privilege to host here in Green Bay the International Dialogue between the Disciples of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church. We have come to a much deeper understanding of the similarities and the differences between our celebrations and understandings of the legacy that our Lord Jesus gave us at the Last Supper.”

“We have experienced real and mutual understanding as we have listened deeply to the other and agreed (or agreed to disagree) on any given ítem,” he added. “We have finished our proposal for the report to those who have given us this charge.”

Commission members from the Disciples of Christ are:  Dr. Williams; Rev. Dr. Robert Welsh, Council on Christian Unity, Indianapolis; Rev. Dr. Thomas Best, Belmont, Mass.; Rev. Dr. Merryl Blair, Stirling Theological College, University of Divinity, Melbourne, Australia; Rev. Dr. James O. Duke, Brite Divinity School, TCU, Fort Worth, Texas (unable to attend); Rev. Angel Luis Rivera, LAC Office, Global Ministries, Indiana/Puerto Rico; and Rev. Dr. David M. Thompson, Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge, UK.

Commission members from the Catholic Church are: BIshop Ricken; Rev. Msgr. Juan Usma Gómez, bureau chief of Western Section, Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Vatican City/Colombia, co-secretary; Msgr. Dr. Michael Clay, associate dean for Seminary and Ministerial Studies, School of Theology and Religious Studies, The Catholic University of America, Washington D.C.; Sr. Mary Coloe, Ph.D., a Sister of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Yarra Theological Union, University of Divinity, Melbourne, Australia; Julien Hammond, ecumenical officer, Archdiocese of Edmonton, Canada; Rev. Dr. Joseph T.  Shenosky, vice rector, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia; and Rev. Dr. Michael G. Witzcak, associate professor, School of Theology and Religious Studies, The Catholic University of America, Washington D.C.