The Luminosa Award for Unity

183-award-plaque2I announced, several weeks ago, that I would be in Hyde Park, New York, on June 21-22, to take part in the annual Luminosa Award weekend. The Luminosa Award recognizes persons, or associations, whose life and work have given a significant contribution to universal brotherhood – the Focolare Movement’s goal – by building bridges of mutual understanding and concern among various Christian churches, major faith traditions and people of good will, in all aspects of social life. Award recipients, for over twenty-five years,  have been representatives of various Christian churches and faith traditions, of the film industry, educators, national leaders and highly esteemed peacemakers.

This award is sponsored by the Mariapolis Luminosa, the Focolare’s little city for North America, located in Hyde Park, NY. Both the Award and the Mariapolis take their name from Margarita Bavosi, called “Luminosa” because everything about her was luminous. She died in 1985, offering her life for the cause of unity. A native of Argentina, she directed the Focolare in Spain for many years.

You are cordially invited to share in this lovely weekend. Write to the luminosa@focolare.us. On Saturday, June 21, beginning at 2:30 p.m., there will be a panel dialogue on the question: “How Can We Bear Witness to the New Commandment?” (Yes, I suggested this topic to the hosts.) Panelists, besides yours truly, will include three wonderful contributors. First, my good friend Fr. John Crossin will join the panel. John is the Executive Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. John has become a collaborator with me and ACT3 in recent years. Joining John and me on this panel will also be Rev. Bud Heckman, Director of Outreach and Mosaic Initiative of Religions for Peace–USA (RFP-USA) and the Rev. Dr. Elizabeth C. Nordbeck, professor at Andover Newton Theological Seminary. The moderator will be Julie James, the former Assistant to the President of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF). The only person in this group that I currently know is Fr. Crossin thus I look forward with profound anticipation to this dialogue with new friends. This afternoon meeting will be followed by a dinner and the introduction of this year’s award recipient.

On Sunday, June 22, the Award Ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m.. It will be preceded by Catholic Mass at 8:00 a.m. and an Ecumenical Prayer Service at 9:00 a.m. Presentations of the work of the Focolare will precede the giving of the award. I will be introduced by Dr. Thomas Masters, Editorial Director of New City Press, and a resident of Oak Park, Illinois. Tom and I often share fellowship and he has become a deeply trusted friend who provides me with loving and faithful counsel. (Thankfully, Tom has recently joined the board of ACT3 Network.) The award will be presented to me and then I will give an acceptance speech.

The Focolare Center offers a spirituality of unity with more than sixty-five years of experience in ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue. The Focolare organizes conferences, seminars and interactive workshops which are open and accessible to all. Established by the founder of the movement, Chiara Lubich, the Center in Hyde Park was opened in 1998, with a two-day conference “Dialogue as a Lifestyle.”

Previous winners of the Luminosa Award for Unity have included Cardinal Pio Laghi, Pro-Nuncio to the United States (1988), Cardinal William Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore (1989), Mother Mary Rose Schulte, founder of Sister-Servants of Christ the King (1990), Rev. Diane Kessler, Massachusetts Council of Churches, Boston (1994), Rabbi Jack Bemporad, Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding (1995), Cardinal John O’Connor, New York (1996), Rev. Paul Crow, President of the Council on Christian Unity, Disciples of Christ (1998), Jack Shea, President of the Directors Guild of America and Patt Shea, scriptwriters, Los Angeles (1999), Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop emeritus of Washington (2006), and The Catholic Charities Spanish Center of Washington, D.C. (2012). Among others not mentioned in the list above are leaders from the Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu communities who are noteworthy as spokespersons and peacemakers in inter-religious affairs. In addition to these there is the King of the Bangwa people in Cameroon (2001) and the Bishop Emeritus (Lutheran) of Stockholm, Sweden. Another noteworthy recipient of the award is a friend of mine, Dr. Donald W. Mitchell, professor at Purdue University (1991). I met Don through his moderating the last two panels that I have participated with at the Midwest Mariapolis (July) in Indiana. Don is a thoughtful, kind and Christlike academic. Personally knowing a recipient of the award made it even more of a honor to me privately. (I also know Rev. Paul Crow and recently met Rev. Diane Kessler in Albuquerque, so there are two other recipients I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. I know Paul Crow the best, having spent many hours in his Indianapolis home over two days last summer!)

It would be an understatement to say that I consider myself totally unworthy of such an honor. I feel as if my work in ecumenism really only began, in a serious and public way, around 2010. I spent thirteen years in a spiritual and missionary dessert and never imagined I would be welcomed by anyone in this manner. When I was first asked to receive this award, in late 2013, I read it as an invitation by email in my hotel in Seattle. To say that I was completely surprised would be a major understatement. I have never received such an honor thus I didn’t expected anything like this to ever happen. I am not quite sure how an honoree is to act except I will try my best to be myself. I was reminded that one must reach a certain age in life for this kind of thing to happen, especially if you spent your life from age 49 to 61 doing ministry in an almost entirely private way. I wrote the Focolare leaders and said, “I do not think I am worthy of this incredible honor but if you believe my receiving it will advance what you stand for, unity in Christ’s love, and if you think that this award and weekend will allow me greater freedom and joy in expanding my own call to unity then I will receive it if you are fully persuaded that I should receive the Luminosa Award after further dialogue and prayer.”

We all felt this remarkable weekend could be used to honor and glorify the Lord that I love and serve so I will receive the Luminosa Award for Unity 2014. I believe this award opens new avenues for service by simply allowing me to meet many new friends who share the same love for unity that God gave to me back in the 1980s.  I humbly invite you to attend if you can come to New York. I also humbly ask for your prayers for me and this event. I do not know if any of these two days will be video taped but I currently think that it will not be recorded.

The entire program and the times are available on our ACT3 website.

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