Bridging Divides: The Catholic Church’s call for unity and embracing faith diversity
November 28, 2023
Father Orrin Halepeska leads a tour of Holy Family Parish in Rosenberg, where he is pastor, for a group from the Ismaili Council for the Southwestern USA on Nov. 15 as part of the The Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the Archdiocese, which is led by Father Halepeska. (Photo courtesy of the Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs)
HOUSTON — In today’s increasingly diverse world, the Catholic Church’s inclusive invitation, transcending age, race, religion and differences, has taken on a critical role. It underscores profound love, uniting all in prayer, fostering fellowship and celebrating diverse global connections, aligning with the pressing need for unity and understanding in our contemporary society.
The Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (OEIA) of the Archdiocese aligns with the Catholic Church’s commitment to seek visible unity among Christians and to build relationships with Jews, Muslims and followers of various world religions. Its mission is dedicated to promoting ecumenical goals and deeper interreligious relations.
Father Orrin Halepeska, pastor of Holy Rosary Catholic Church and School in Rosenberg and Officer of the OEIA, emphasized the ministry’s crucial role in helping Catholics in the Archdiocese understand the significance of dialogue, prayer and service with people of other faiths. This is especially important amidst the major conflicts in the Middle East, which have a profound global impact.
“It is essential that we are in the forefront of the movement for people of different faiths and backgrounds to work together for common goals that are the golden thread that connects all major world religions,” Father Halepeska said. “This golden thread has the possibility of changing the world one prayer and one act of love at a time. Together, we as different faith traditions have the power to promote peace in our communities and homes.”
Father Halepeska said he believes this peace and hope should also be shared with those outside of their own communities so people can act from the beauty of all humanity and make the world reflect the values of the Church’s sacred text and traditions.
“It is essential to realize that several religious groups share common goals, themes and morals that we can stand together in unity,” Father Halepeska said. “Some of these common goals include religious freedom, life issues and so many other aspects of the human condition.”
When evaluating the needs of the Archdiocese for the OEIA, Father Halepeska highlights the ministry’s need for volunteers who are open to dialogue and willing to establish relationships with people of different faiths in the Galveston-Houston area.
Some activities throughout the year include the Catholic faithful in the Archdiocese celebrating prayer, traditions, and dialogue with brothers and sisters of other faiths.
“Our work also includes serving those in our community together and working towards solutions that help all humankind,” said Father Halepeska.
The OEIA is one of 64 ministries supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF). Father Halepeska encourages the faithful to contribute to this annual appeal as it enables a range of ministries extending beyond individual parishes to support those in need.
“It is essential that we participate, for example, in the ecumenical and interreligious aspect of Houston’s diversity so that we participate and are on the front lines with many others who are doing something for those in need, preventing others from being persecuted, and finding justice for all in a sometimes-unjust world,” said Father Halepeska.
If additional DSF funds were available, Father Halepeska expressed his desire to employ full-time staff to support the ministry’s efforts. He stressed the significance of managing rising demands for phone calls, meetings and program development to promote unity. He also stressed the need to bolster the office’s educational resources for a more informed and self-assured approach in engaging stakeholders through meaningful dialogues.
Cara Bryan, the co-chair for the Ecumenical and Interreligious Commission of the Archdiocese, agrees with the significance of contributing to the DSF for the OEIA and many other initiatives.
“Giving to the DSF supports the EIO office and allows us to continue going out and sharing with Houston and surrounding areas how much the Catholic Church loves all and wants to pray, fellowship with, and learn about all those different from us,” Bryan said.
Bryan said the funds are instrumental in supporting the ministry’s educational endeavors, enabling them to learn and share knowledge, and emphasizing the value of listening and learning. She firmly believes that these actions resonate with the words of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13: “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.”
“I have learned a lot about the diversity of other faith traditions and that, although we are all different, we are all trying to reach the same faith goals,” Bryan said. “This has made me more open, and I feel connected to other non-Catholic brothers and sisters not only on a social level but a spiritual level as well.”
To learn more about the OEIA, including how to volunteer and get involved in the ministry, visit www.archgh.org/ecumenism.
To donate to the DSF, go to www.archgh.org/DSF. The DSF supports each of these ministries, whether direct service or education, which require this critical funding to remain in operation. Out of each gift given to DSF, 100% of every dollar goes directly to supporting these ministries.