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A call for unity (04/08/2007)
By Janet Lewis Burns
To encourage unity and brotherly love and to rally against racism is a Christian mission. Living out the religion one professes and takes part in is also expected. I needed a wake up call! After all, Lent is a poignant season for those of the Christian faith.

Recently, at my computer, engrossed in my endeavor to compile a series of articles about Native Americans, I felt the beckoning tap of Lent on my shoulder. I couldn't concentrate. The article I had recently read in the March Courier (the Catholic Diocese paper) continued to cloud my thoughts. I plucked it out of the newspaper basket and turned to the page about a youth gathering in Rochester.

It reads, "The Steubenville Youth Conferences have been taking root nationally and setting youth on fire for God and encouraging a deeper commitment to Jesus Christ in the sacramental life of the Catholic Church in a unique and powerful way."

Increasing involvement of young people in religious activities, retreats, choirs, and spiritual enlightenment always touches me. Lewiston is proud of the local singing group Christian Crossings, established to enliven the spirit through music. These talented young men focus on bringing youth of all Christian denominations closer to Jesus Christ through song.

In these stressful times the Catholic Church has been enduring, it's surprising, yet encouraging, reading that a St. Paul seminary "is just busting at the seams as 142 young men are enrolled there this year. More than a third of these young men have attended a Steubenville Youth Conference."

Maybe it's because I was raised Protestant, as a Moravian, and then became Catholic as a young adult, that I feel no grip of guilt saying, "In the end, face to face with your maker, will it matter which Christian denomination you did or did not belong to, in which church you prayed and worshiped?" As for those of other faiths and cultures, couldn't their salvation lie in their beliefs just as well? Only God knows.

I never use the word "convert" because it indicates that one has evolved from something inferior to something superior.

The Courier article opened my heart toward my own obligations, not only to my parish community, but to myself. I read, "This event (youth conference) is so large and could not possibly be accomplished without many volunteers. There are many opportunities for adults, parents, and parish priests to give of your time and talent for this conference that will draw thousands of teens from across the nation."

Perhaps those of us, including myself, who have become downhearted and discouraged with the ongoing improprieties taking place within the Catholic Church, must strive for deeper understanding, forgiveness and a renewed willingness to support our parish. I've said that the Catholic Church has let me (us) down. I know that to believe that is to jeopardize my own personal faith.

As I revisit our Native American brothers and sisters, it will be with a renewed Christian spirit. Though we have differences we share one earth, and by learning about one another, free of prejudice, we can achieve harmony and mutual respect.

I suppose some races among us might be seen as living in "spiritual confinement," that the hereafter is reserved for certain Christians, those who believe and worship in a particular manner. Lent can reveal the immensity of God, that his mercy and love is ecumenical and all encompassing.

The Bible verse on the back page of that Courier is a wonderful Easter message:

"Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap."

Janet Burns is a lifelong resident of Lewiston. You can reach her at patandjanburns@earthlink.net



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