"It is incumbent on us to seek to restore the unity of the church given to us by Christ. That’s our principle, that’s our task,” says Nicholas Jesson, Regina Archdiocesan Ecumenical Officer.
Jesson began employment with the Regina Archdiocese in August 2017, and since then has been engaged in building relationships - primarily, but not exclusively - with other Christian denominations. Previous to Jesson, ecumenical activities were handled by staff who combined the task with other responsibilities. Jesson devotes his efforts to ecumenism full-time.
Much of the push for ecumenical activity comes from the covenant between the Regina Roman Catholic Archdiocese and the Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle.Signed January 23, 2011, by Anglican Bishop Gregory Kerr-Wilson and late Roman Catholic Archbishop Daniel Bohan, “it commits both to hold joint prayer services in each other’s Cathedral with the bishops alternating as homilists. It encourages churches to work together, visit each other, and look at what we hold in common, rather than what divides us,” said Jesson.
“We have a real though, imperfect communion with other Christians,” he said and pointed out that according to Vatican II some of the gifts of the Spirit given to the Church have been preserved in other traditions. “We need to be in a relationship with other Christians and learn of their Christian experience, their history, and understanding.”
To that end, he has conducted workshops with Catholic communities to provide an understanding of the Church’s teaching on ecumenism and, together with Anglican partners, delivers joint workshops to other Christian denominations. “We are looking for opportunities to dialogue.”
The annual week-long Archdiocesan Clergy Study Days this year also included an ecumenical component during one full day devoted to preaching. In partnership with the Regina Council of Churches, preachers from all denominations took part in discussing Preaching Reconciliation for Healing among Indigenous and non-Indigenous People, as another step in ecumenical activity.
Since the signing of the covenant, the diocesan staff of both churches participated in a joint retreat last year, and discussions are underway to hold another retreat. There have also been dialogue evenings on the role of Mary in each Church and another on the Eucharist.
Saskatchewan’s bishops, Anglican, Evangelical Lutheran, Ukrainian, and Roman Catholic, meet four times a year. Lately, they have discussed the possibility of including the Evangelical Lutheran Synod and Ukrainian Eparchy in the 2011 covenant. The original Covenant signatories had expressed the hope that the covenant would be expanded.
At present, Anglicans and Evangelical Lutherans are in full communion with each other in Canada, and Ukrainian Rite Catholics are in full communion with Rome. “So, a natural next step would be to include Evangelical Lutherans and the Ukrainian eparchy in the present covenant,” said Archbishop Donald Bolen. The bishops have already discussed a draft covenant prepared by Jesson. “The bishops are in agreement to explore it, but there is nothing definitive,” said Bolen. “Each now has to do some consulting of their own jurisdictions to see if they want to be a part of this.”
The four bishops are scheduled to discuss Jesson’s draft again when they meet in Saskatoon this November. Both the Ukrainian Eparchy of Saskatoon and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod include congregations across Saskatchewan, so the new covenant, if agreed to, would cover the entire province.