Archdiocese of Santa Fe
Office Of Ecumenical And Interreligious Affairs
May 25, 1999
It is a pleasure for me to share with you the text of the Agreed Statement signed by Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, NM and the Reverend Jim Collie, Regional Presbyter of the Presbytery of Santa Fe. The document is entitled An Affirmation of Hope, Reconciliation and Unity and was signed in Dixon, NM, the site of the famous "Dixon Case" which reached the decision that religious sisters would no longer be allowed to teach in schools that were financed by the State of New Mexico. The Zellers vs Huff case was brought to the Supreme Court of New Mexico in 1947 and the decision was handed down in 1951.
The Service of Reconciliation took place in the two churches, Presbyterian and Catholic (the Embudo Presbyterian Church and St. Anthony's Roman Catholic Church) during a memorable thunder shower - an answer to many prayers by the farmers in this area - on Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 1999 beginning at 4:00 p.m. It included a Liturgy of the Word in the Presbyterian Church led by Fr. Adam Ortega y Ortiz and a Reaffirmation of Baptism led by the Reverend Andrew McComb in the Catholic Church. Both churches were packed to capacity. A combined choir sang beautiful and inspiring music, young servers carried the red banners, artists crafted identical pieces of the popular tin sheet metal art depicting the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
Four Dominican Sisters from Michigan were present, two of them had taught at Penasco and had been part of the "Dixon Case". The ceremony was a celebration of a reconciliation which had been taking place among individuals and families over the years. It was an event of deep emotion and inspiration.
Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan and the Rev. Jim Collie spoke eloquently of their hope for the future and their desire that what was celebrated should continue in both congregations and among the people. "It is alright to do things together," Reverend Collie remarked in a stage-whisper. And Archbishop Sheehan stressed the need for reconciliation, continued dialogue and collaboration in projects that promote the common good of the people.
The day ended with a bright sun filling the sky and an exquisite double rainbow arching the sky as a sign of God's pleasure and blessing on a special day of ecumenical progress.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Rev. Ernest R. Falardeau, S.S.S.
An Affirmation of Hope, Reconciliation and Unity
By the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and The Presbytery of Santa Fe
The time of the Reformation in Europe was a time of anguish, strife and difficulty. Men like Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, Ulric Zwingli and others were considered revolutionaries by the State and the Catholic Church. Wars of independence, liberation, and restoration were fought, blood was shed on all sides.
Many of those who immigrated to the United States came to avoid these wars and conflicts, and were attracted by the promise of a land in which freedom of conscience and freedom of religion were guaranteed.
The divisions of Europe could not be entirely avoided in America. New Mexico was no exception The conquistadores brought the kingdom of Spain and the Catholic faith to the New World. The Archdiocese of Santa Fe celebrated 400 years of Christianity in New Mexico in 1998. Yet for Native Americans, the "discovery" of America was a mixed blessing. They had to struggle for survival and to preserve their culture and native religious traditions. But the Gospel message of the good news of Jesus Christ brought by the Franciscans remains a great gift to the Native Americans.
In this land of mixed cultures, histories, and goals it is difficult to preserve peace and harmony. Yet we celebrate our life together and the freedom we enjoy as a people of faith.
The Catholic Tradition
The ecumenical spirit of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (1962-1965) rests on the recognition of gifts, which God has bestowed on different Christian traditions. Mutual respect for persons, recognition that God's grace is not limited to our churches or our Christian faith, should help us to make room in our hearts for the faith and conscience of others. We recognize in our common faith and baptism in Jesus Christ that we are brothers and sisters in the Lord.
The Catholic Tradition is a long and venerable one. It is rooted in the Scriptures, worship of God and the Sacraments. The Catholic Tradition which originated in the Middle East, spread East and West from the time of the Apostles to our day.
Allegiance to the faith transmitted through an apostolic succession of bishops is at the heart of the Catholic Tradition. In that tradition the Pope is venerated as the successor of St. Peter and the spokesperson for the Church. The spirit of Vatican II calls us to look not only at what we have that distinguishes the Churches from one another but also at the many blessings that we hold in common.
The Presbyterian Tradition
The Presbyterian Tradition owes much to the work and preaching of John Calvin who taught and preached in the Cathedral of St. Peter in Geneva. It is indebted as well to the English and Scottish Reformation of John Knox. According to that tradition the Church was in great need of reform in the sixteenth century. Calvin states clearly that he did not want to create a new church, but to reform the Ancient Church and its worship of God.
The Second Vatican Council accepted the principle that the Church is always in need of reform ("ecclesia semper reformanda"). The Council agreed that because it is a human institution the Church needs the grace d God to preserve it from sin and error. We need to study together the religious controversy of the sixteenth century. We need to re-read the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. We need to make our own the irrevocable commitment of the Church to the pursuit of visible Christian unity.
In this spirit the Presbyterian Church is eager to share its gifts and tradition with Catholics and to receive from them the gifts and tradition which has been nurtured in the Catholic communion. Some of the gifts of the Presbyterian Tradition are a great love of Scripture, study, preaching, and freedom of conscience. Appreciation of the role of the laity in the Church is at the heart of a polity which characterizes Presbyterians.
In New Mexico
We wish to affirm together that a reconciliation of past tensions and disagreements is important to the people of God in New Mexico. While some of these differences have been already reconciled by individuals and families, we pray that this reconciliation will be deepened and celebrated throughout the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and the Presbytery of Santa Fe.
Though there will continue to be many religious, social and political issues that divide us, we hope that these differences will be appreciated as gifts rather than matters for dispute, division or hatred. We wish to invite all Christians in New Mexico to the reconciliation which Christ came to bring to the whole world. The visible unity of all Christians is a sign that God has sent his Son for the salvation of the world. It is a sign of God's love for us and of our love for God and neighbor.
We pray that the reaffirmation of our baptism, our common belief in the centrality of Jesus Christ and our shared prayer will call all of us to continue to emphasize what we share together as Christians. May we appreciate our diversity as the work of the Holy Spirit who calls us to use our gifts to enrich one another. May we work together for the coming of God's kingdom among us, until we rejoice one day to be united with Jesus Christ and with all our brothers and sisters who have gone before us. Amen.
Signed at Dixon, NM, Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 1999.
Most Rev. Michael J. Sheehan, JDC,STL . . . . .
The Rev. Jim Collie, Superintendent
Archbishop of Santa Fe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. Presbytery of Santa Fe
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