Ecumenism is a way of life

Read more: feature article by Sara Speicher.

For one year, six sisters from Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant orders have come to live at the Ecumenical Institute Bossey outside of Geneva, Switzerland.

Unity, states Deaconess Agnes Simbo Lema from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, "means to sit together, to share, to love each other and to accept each other."

The sisters coordinate the worship and prayer life at the Ecumenical Institute, participate in classes – and embody a sense of "ecumenical spirituality" in daily life.

Maria Elena Romero Molina, a Missionary Dominican sister from Guatemala, states it most simply, "Ecumenism is not a concept. It is a way of life."

"For us," says Ivy Athipozhiyil, a Dominican sister from India, "ecumenical spirituality is living together. We are sharing everything, laughing. This we offer, without knowing, to others, like the students. For them it is a sign."

Sister Pina reflects, "The motto of the life and work commission, back then, was doctrine divides, service unites." Now, she states, "I could say doctrine divides, spirituality unites."

The sisters' presence is noticeable to all who use the Institute for meetings and events.

During a meeting of the Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches "one bishop looked at us walking together, and he said [to another participant], 'we are talking, talking, talking – and there – you see!'"

But the sisters' main role over their year at Bossey is to provide pastoral support for the students.

Sister Sperancia says the "happiest of times is sharing about our life, what we are doing and our spiritual life."

From left to right: Sr Pina Sandu (Romania), Sr Ivy Athipozhiyil (India), Deaconess Agnes Simbo Lema (Tanzania), Sr Sperancia Mulashani Thadeo (Tanzania), Sr Maria Elena Romero Molina (Guatemala), Sr Elena Irina Calin (Romania)

All pictures © Peter Williams/WCC
High resolution versions of these pictures are available upon request.

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