'Love can bring people together'

Sunday, July 09, 2017 - Updated: 9:00 am

By JOHN FRANKO Staff Writer

The heart of Christ is on fire with love and can change our lives, said Father Charles Bober. Seeing others as Christ does can make all the difference in the world.

“We don’t see what the world sees,” he said. “We see Christ in one another. It’s the love of Christ that compels us.”

Father Bober, pastor of St. Kilian in Adams/Cranberry Township, said that love can bring people together. He spoke during an Evening of Thanksgiving in observance of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation June 29 at St. Kilian. 

The gathering, which featured Catholics and Lutherans in Southwestern Pennsylvania, was the second in a series of three observances to mark the anniversary. The first, an evening of repentance, was held April 4 at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cathedral in Munhall.

Greensburg Bishop Edward Malesic presided over the evening. Scripture was read by Bishop Kurt Kusserow of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Witness talks that highlighted the ways in which Catholics and Lutherans have worked together to build unity were given by Bishop Donald McCoid, former director for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations; Rev. Donald Green, former executive director of Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania; and Helene Paharik, a member of the Catholic-Lutheran Planning Committee.

Bishop McCoid spoke of the progress of Lutheran-Catholic relations in the past 50 years, noting, “We have come a long way since Vatican II.” He pointed out that the faiths are “branches of one vine” and he described their efforts together to do relief work for those in need.

Rev. Green recalled the efforts of Bishop John Wright to forge a unity among local Christian faiths in the late 1960s. He commissioned Bishop Anthony Bosco to lead an initiative that resulted in the formation of Christian Associates of Southwestern Pennsylvania in 1970. In the 1990s, he noted, the relationships between Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans reached new heights under the direction of Bishop Donald Wuerl.

“Once again ecumenism was alive and filling the breach was alive in our region,” Rev. Green said. He recalled how Catholic and Protestants have worked side by side to help those ravished by floods in Millvale and at the Allegheny County Jail. 

He also spoke of traveling with the Pittsburgh Symphony to Rome in 2004 for its historic concert before Pope John Paul II. He related how he prayed at a side chapel and closed by making a sign of the Cross. It was a sign that we share a confident understanding of our trust in Jesus.

“May your ecumenical journey become a personal journey with your neighbor,” he said.

In pointing out that our deepest vocation is to share our glimpses of God, Paharik gave a number of examples of when the faiths have come together to fight injustice. In 1990, they stood together in solidarity to fight hate crimes in Westmoreland County. Later in the decade, they came together to address the problem of persistent homelessness. Their efforts led to the Welcome Home Shelter in Westmoreland County.

Paharik also spoke of the efforts of Catholics and Lutherans to work together in Jerusalem, as well as friendships formed, such as that between Pastor Green and Father Ronald Lengwin, diocesan vicar of church relations.

“In this I have seen a glimpse of God,” she said. “And tonight, a glimpse of God is here for all to see.”

Bishop David Zubik was unable to attend the gathering due to his recent back surgery, but he addressed the audience through a video. He declared it to be a night of “Thanksgiving” because the faiths are not where they were 500 years ago. He spoke of the hope for unity and noted that words must not be “lip service.” Hearts must beat with the desire to be one as the faiths come together to help those most in need.

“May we grow closer each day as sisters and brothers in Christ,” he said.

Bishop Malesic said that it is a privilege to be called to the Christian faith. And while it is not perfect and there are divisions, there is more that unites it, than what divides it. At the heart of the unity is Jesus.

“Perhaps we will build a stronger bridge to one another,” he said. 

The bishop spoke of the efforts of Christian Associates in organizing the anniversary observances and he pointed out that Jesus is honored when his children work together in harmony and peace.

The St. Kilian Choir, Dreher Chorale and Trinity Lutheran Choir of Ellwood City, under the direction of David Dreher of St. Kilian provided a moving selection of music.

“Thank you for giving us goosebumps,” Bishop Malesic said.

The third and final observance of the series — “A Day of Commemoration and  Hope” — will be held Oct. 28 at St. Vincent Basilica in Latrobe. The daylong event will close with evening prayer.

Events related to the 500th anniversary can be found on Facebook — “Luther —ans and Roman Catholics on the Way in Southwestern Pennsylvania!” (http://bit.ly/500yrsELCACath).

The Reformation, which divided Western Christianity, began Oct. 31, 1517, when Martin Luther publicly challenged Catholic doctrines and practices.


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