Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022 celebrates the light of Christ

January 11, 2022

Photo by Fred de Noyelle / Godong

HOUSTON — Each year, Jan. 18 to 25 is a celebration. The Week of Christian Unity “gives Christians an annual opportunity to continue their quest for the unity they already share in Christ,” as noted by the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute on their website.

In the spirit of Christian unity, also known as ecumenism, the theme for this year is “We have seen his star in the East and have come to pay homage to him” (Mt 2:2). This verse takes us to the Epiphany. The visit of the Magi to Bethlehem highlights God’s invitation to all of humanity to a new covenant in the Incarnation of Christ. The theme was selected by the Middle East Council of Churches based in Beirut, Lebanon.

“Present times in Lebanon are extremely difficult and economically disastrous,” the Graymoor Institute shares on its website. “All of this combined with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have made the situation quite stressful. The power of prayer in solidarity with those who suffer is a demonstration of Christian unity and a sign of communion.”

The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Office of Ecumenical & Interreligious Affairs (OEIA) takes up the charge to collaborate and lead the efforts on the Catholic front in Houston each year. From 2014 to 2020, a small ad hoc committee organized an ecumenical prayer service during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and each year’s prayer service was hosted by a different faith community, usually attended by several hundred people.

“It is important for Catholics to know about the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity because of the Church’s call for us to work toward unity under the leadership and guidance of our Lord Jesus Christ,” said OEIA Officer Father Orrin Halepeska. “It is also essential because, in the study and experience of other faiths, we learn and become deeply rooted in the core beliefs of our own faith.”

Through this lens, in 2021, OEIA decided to go virtual instead of an in-person gathering. Daily reflections were prepared and sent out via social media on the OEIA Facebook page with the help of the University of St. Thomas’ MAX Studios. These efforts well-exceeded expectations garnering thousands of views and engaging people all over Houston, the nation and the world in shared prayer for Christian unity.

“Our Archdiocese is huge, and it is hard to meet in a central location, especially during a pandemic,” Father Halepeska said. “In this way, with the videos, we keep the hope, prayer and dialogue going on a platform that reaches many more people.”

The reach was so incredible, OEIA will again rally Houston-area Christian leaders to prepare short reflections on the theme for 2022.

OEIA was proud to help lead in sharing prayers through video, and Father Halepeska said the Catholic Church needs to lead and be a great supporter in this work.

“Our Archdiocese is one of the largest and most prolific dioceses in the country, which means that we have more opportunities to work together for the greater good for our own community and the world at large,” he said. “Unity brings about change in the way that we solve issues that can serve and free all people to be loved by God.”

The public can join faith leaders and OEIA in prayer during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by following the OEIA Facebook page to pray with a different faith leader each day.

For more information and resources for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity to do a prayer service in your parish, visit www.geii.org