BRIDGEPORT—“Amens” and applause greeted Bishop Caggiano’s reflection at last Sunday’s “Unity in Diversity” service at St. John Episcopal Church in downtown Bridgeport. The “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity,” celebrated this year from January 18-25, concluded in the Bridgeport area on Sunday afternoon, January 25, with a joyous two-hour worship service in which the Bishop and other religious leaders participated.
Nearly 100 members of choirs and praise teams from Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox congregations participated in the ecumenical prayer service, and another 100 people attended the service as congregants. Clergy from the Diocese of Bridgeport and ten Protestant and Orthodox churches and organizations officiated at the ceremony. Bishop Frank J. Caggiano was the main homilist.
The prayer service itself centered around the theme of the Samaritan woman at the well who met Jesus, and to whom Jesus said, “Give me to drink.” Another major theme of the service, related to the woman at the well, revolved around baptismal waters, and how baptism into Jesus Christ unites us all as Christian brothers and sisters.
Building on the theme of one common baptism, Bishop Caggiano proclaimed at the outset of his homily that “we gather here as the larger Church of Christ as the baptized.” He then captivated his listeners by stating that “we come here today divided as brothers and sisters,” and that “the division that exists among us is a scandal to the larger world.”
Despite the challenging tone of his homily, Bishop Caggiano expressed hope that one day, all Christians will worship in one Church, professing one faith. “Jesus Christ is the Lord of us all,” he said. “We must fix our eyes on Jesus Christ.” He concluded by emphasizing that in order to find true unity in our diversity, we need to pray for the grace of humility in order to be healed. His homily received many heartfelt “Amens!” from the congregation, consisting largely of non-Catholics, and a round of enthusiastic applause. Three separate red-robed choirs from different churches brought joyous, soulful singing to the event, and two other musical groups and some liturgical dancers made the entire service entertaining and spiritually uplifting.
One of the intercessory prayers summed up the purpose and spirit of the worship service and the weeklong celebration: “God of eternal compassion… grant us wisdom to listen to your voice that calls us to unity in our diversity.” At the conclusion of the event, participants had an opportunity to share fellowship with one another at a reception. The afternoon’s worship service and festivities were sponsored by the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport. After the prayers of sending forth, at the conclusion of the ceremony, participants were dancing in the church to the rhythms of the Latin Band from Bridgeport’s St. Charles Borromeo Church. Many were hugging each other joyfully and praising God.
For most Roman Catholics in the Diocese of Bridgeport, the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, held each January, can come and go with barely a notice. In the years immediately following the Second Vatican Council, Roman Catholic laypeople and clergy approached ecumenical dialogue and prayer with enthusiasm, but since then, ecumenical activities for many Catholics have fallen to a low level of priority.
Despite serious differences with other Christian churches, Catholics do have a responsibility to try to find “common ground” with their fellow Christians.