SASKATOON — Students representing a variety of Christian traditions and churches gathered for a week of intensive study June 23 - 26 in Saskatoon, undertaking the Program in Ecumenical Studies and Formation (PESF), a certificate program offered through the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism (PCE).
Held for one week each summer, PESF introduces theological concepts and principles of ecumenism. As students advance into their second and third years, practical, real-world applications of ecumenical dialogue are examined and worked through.
While first-year students were introduced to topics such as the historical development and biblical perspectives of ecumenical thought and practice with instructors Rev. Michael Poellet, Nicholas Jesson, Rev. Bernard de Margerie, Rev. Amanda Currie, Dr. Darren Dahl and Bishop Donald Bolen, those enrolled in the advanced year entered more deeply into their own ecumenical formation through an immersion into dialogue.
Visiting scholars Dr. Timothy George and Sister Donna Geernaert modelled the ecumenical conversation with the second-year students, as each shared theological insights from both a Baptist and a Roman Catholic perspective (see related article). Students were then given an opportunity to bring their own traditions to the table as first-hand ecumenical encounters were integrated into the program
“This program isn’t just about giving people information, it’s about forming leaders,” said Nicholas Jesson, ecumenical officer for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, as he addressed the second-year participants. “The hope is that participants will bring an ecumenical perspective into their ministries and work.”
One of the unique aspects of the PESF is its calibre of instructors. “Once students have completed their three years of study and formation they will have studied with a notable group of local ecumenical scholars and practitioners as well as a number of internationally recognized ecumenists,” explained Darren Dahl, director of the PCE. “Nowhere else in North America can someone experience this.”
While the program offers on-site curricula each summer, the study and formation continues throughout the year. Students are encouraged to read relevant texts as they pertain to ecumenical theory and dialogue and offer their reflections, while also incorporating their learning into everyday endeavours and projects.
Identifying ways in which ecumenical principles can be integrated into one’s work and ministry and engaging in deliberate ecumenical conversations within one’s community is the goal.
Students who complete all three years of the program receive a certificate in Ecumenical Studies and Formation from St. Andrew’s College and the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism.