The Parish Ecumenical Representative (PER)
Source: Archdiocese of Richmond, VA, Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. (Reprinted with permission)
The ecumenical movement is a grace of God given by the Father in answer to the prayer of Jesus and the supplication of the Church inspired by the Holy Spirit…. Those who are baptized in the name of Christ are, by that very fact, called to commit themselves to the search for unity…. To live our Baptism is to be caught up in Christ’s mission of making all things one. Vatican Directory, 22
What is a Parish Ecumenical Representative?
A Parish Ecumenical Representative (PER) is a parishioner designated by the pastor who has a special role in communicating and coordinating local ecumenical and interfaith activity.
Why a PER?
- The desire and the effort to have a Parish Ecumenical Representative appointed in each parish receives support from the recently issued Vatican Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism (March 25, 1993):
- The parish, as an ecclesial unity gathered around the Eucharist, should be and proclaim itself to be the place of authentic ecumenical witness. Thus a great task for the parish is to educate its members in the ecumenical spirit. This calls for … a pastoral program which involves someone charged with promoting and planning ecumenical activity, working in close harmony with the parish priest; this will help in the various forms of collaboration with the corresponding parishes of other Christians. (67)
The Spirituality and Personal Development of the PER
- “Mutual support and spiritual nurture are vital ingredients enabling people to pursue the vision of Christian unity with faithfulness, persistence, and resiliency.” (Envoys for Ecumenism)
- For “the concern for unity is fundamental to the understanding of the Church. The objective of ecumenical formation is that all Christians be animated by the ecumenical spirit, whatever their particular mission and task in the world and in society.” (Vatican Directory, 58)
To develop an ecumenical spirituality, the PER might consider:
- The practice of daily prayer and meditation “that they may all be one… so that the world may believe” (John 17:21), since private and public prayer for the unity of Christians is regarded by Vatican II as the soul of the ecumenical movement;
- Regular reading that will deepen one’s own understanding and appreciation of the ecumenical movement in the Church, and of other faith traditions as well – both Christian and non-Christian;
- Facilitating and/or participating in at least one ecumenical service annually (e.g. during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity);
- Attending the Diocesan workshops planned to form participants in the spirit and practice of ecumenism and interfaith relations;
- Taking advantage of opportunities to participate in ecumenically sponsored forums, conferences and other activities.
What Are the Functions of the PER?
- To assist and support the pastor in making the parish “the place of authentic ecumenical witness”;
- To foster a deeper ecumenical and inter-religious awareness among parishioners;
- To encourage and facilitate parish participation in local ecumenical and inter-religious activities;
- To represent the parish, when appropriate according to local custom, on neighborhood ecumenical and interfaith organizations or ministerial;
- To serve as a liaison between the parish and the Diocesan Ecumenical Officers.
What Is the Pastor’s Role?
Each pastor is asked to name a parishioner to this position and to transmit the name to the Associate Diocesan Ecumenical Officer in charge of PERs.
The PER will then serve as the contact for the parish. While others may assist the PER in the parish’s ecumenical and interfaith activity, the PER works directly with the pastor and is ultimately responsible to him concerning such involvement.
Since the role of the PER is to facilitate the promotion of the ecumenical and interfaith apostolate, the pastor should consider appointing someone with organizational skills and an interest in this important work (cf. Vatican Directory, 67).
How Can the Diocesan Ecumenical Officers Help?
We consider the development of a PER network very important to the growth of ecumenical and interfaith relations throughout the Diocese, and offer to be of assistance to pastors and to PER’s in any way possible….
Upon request, Diocesan Ecumenical Officers can supply PERs with a timely bibliography listing articles, books, and other materials pertinent to ecumenical and inter-religious dialogues, events, and ministries.