SASKATOON — Celeste Woloschuk is the new part-time Ecumenical and Interfaith Co-ordinator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.
Nicholas Jesson, who served in the position for many years, recently left Saskatoon to become the Ecumenical Officer for the Archdiocese of Regina.
Until a bishop is named for the Diocese of Saskatoon, a new ecumenical officer cannot canonically be appointed, but the work of ecumenism in the diocese will continue, with administrative support for ecumenical and interfaith work in the diocese provided by Woloschuk.
A longtime 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 interfaith 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 co-ordination 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 work of Rev. Bernard de Margerie.
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 dialogue drew to a close.
Another major undertaking is the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. It was on Oct. 31, 1517, that 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 the start of the Reformation.
Saskatoon joins communities across the world marking the anniversary.
A study and dialogue about the Reformation will be offered in Saskatoon, using Together in Christ, a five-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 Together in Christ series begins at 7 p.m. Sept. 20 at Zion Lutheran Church in Saskatoon, and continues with four Saturday morning sessions at Queen’s House on Sept. 23 and 30, and Oct. 14 and 21.
Each of the four Saturday sessions will also be repeated as an evening session at a different Christian church each week, though organizers are still finalizing plans for the weeknight sessions.
A highlight of the Reformation 500 celebration will be an ecumenical worship service to be held at 3 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon, with Archbishop Donald Bolen of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina and Bishop Sid Haugen of the ELCIC Saskatchewan Synod co-preaching. 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. She acknowledges that at the beginning there was acrimony and violence, with “a lot of closed mindedness and unwillingness to listen.” However in the past 50 years, Christian unity has come a long way.
“With Vatican II 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 is quite phenomenal.”
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.
Woloschuk stresses that the Saskatoon event is not solely a Catholic-Lutheran undertaking. “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.
“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, see www.saskatoonrcdiocese.com/ecumenism or contact Woloschuk at the Catholic Pastoral Centre, (306) 659-5814.