Ecumenical Religious Community

Interview with Rosemary Castañeda Montoya, OP

What led you to participate to the ecumenical religious community of Bossey?

The Congregation received a call from the Vatican, through a Dominican Priest, Father Vladimiro Caroli, OP (he works in the Christian Unity Office at the Vatican), to participate to the ecumenical experience in Bossey. The General Superior Monique Colrad offered me the opportunity of posticipating and I feel fortunate to be in this excellent space where you can grow in ecumenical spirituality, you learn to value and love the many cultures that come to Bossey, you meet great young leaders from the different parts of the world where they are living their lives in the name of the Gospel, you understand with great openness the universality of churches, as we increasingly love our Catholic Church and value all that it represents.

Can you briefly explain what this community is and how it functions?

The WCC, the Ecumenical Council of the Churches, is “a fraternal community of Churches who believe in Jesus Christ Our Lord as God and Saviour according to the Scriptures and make efforts to collectively respond to their vocation for the Glory of the only God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Constitution). It is made up of 349 churches that search for unity, a common testimony and service.

To follow Jesus Christ is a central point in our condition of ecumenical family. All the programs serve this vocation. The consultations about world mission and evangelization have evidenced that following Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour in a plural world requires unity in the mission. The objective of all processes is to give testimony of the love of God for the entire humanity manifested in Jesus Christ.

If the divided Churches must reach the visible unity they wish for, one of the essential prerequisites shall be to basically agree with what relates to baptism, Eucharist and ministry. It is therefore logical that the Commission of faith and Constitution has dedicated a maximum attention to overcoming the doctrinal divisions in these three topics.

A theological study was carried out in 1982, in Lima, on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry; that is the well-known Document of Lima that is ordinarily called BEM, as Professor Dagmar Heller used to say. And when we were given this teaching post I could notice how the Spirit was weaving unity, stitch by stitch. Sometimes we feel that everything is going very slow, but now, after several months, I have seen that “God’s doing” leads men in a very conscious manner and makes us lift our eyes to meet His own and thus feel His “Love.”

I wish to specify that the Catholic Church does not belong to the WCC, it however participates to the Theological Reflection and eleven members of the Catholic Church have a right to vote. I admire the fact that the WCC is always in communion with our Church and it follows its everyday path with respect to the dialogues that the Catholic Church is carrying out with the different churches.

The Ecumenical Institute of Bossey belongs to the WCC (World Council of Churches). It is a Study Centre, of ecumenical community experience, of reflection and research to reach concrete paths of unity and achieve Jesus’ Project: “May all be one”.  Young people from different parts of the world and churches belonging to the WCC come here. Here, they are formed as future leaders of their churches and at the same time I see HOPE in them since you hear and see in them a desire for UNITY rather than continued divisions that represent a scandal for those who search for the Gospel.

There is something very beautiful that is worth noting: the experience of several religious women from different churches, Orthodox, Anglicans, Protestants and Catholics who experience life in an ecumenical community and at the same time, we give a testimony to the young that it is the Spirit who makes UNITY and brings us together as live Stones in order to live the Gospel as our single passion.

The theme of the 2011 Dominican Jubilee is: Preaching and Culture / Community Preaching. From the standpoint of a Dominican Sister, what does this theme suggest to you based on your experience in Switzerland?

The highest “moment of Grace” I had was to understand that the best preaching is the one done in the inside, through a fraternal sharing, in the ecumenical liturgy, through the exchange of FAITH we constantly carry out in the Ecumenical Theology. I feel I have celebrated this jubilee year enjoying the FAITH DEBATES when several churches meet to talk and attempt to understand where the truth of said Doctrine lies.  I have understood what Saint Thomas repeatedly says about Studies and how to carry out a theological discussion not only to favour learning, but also to reinforce the Faith in Christ. 

What do you mostly like about this experience?

To extend it, make it eternal, to experience that all I have lived does not end with me. BOSSEY offers us many spaces and opportunities. Every day I am surprised with yet another experience of Universality. I have experienced how the Spirit works, making the Project of Unity. The experience in Taizé, an ecumenical place of prayer, responded to many queries that emerged from me. I was sent to Bern (Switzerland), to a Reform parish, I enjoyed the learning I acquired there; the simplicity of the Reform Pastors and the parish Council taught me that they were not closed to other churches. There I realized that they work together for the Gospel, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Anglicans, etc, and Catholics. They asked me to preach the Magnificat to them from Latin America and my joy was overwhelming when I shared my Dominican spirit of announcing the Gospel with them.

What are the most difficult challenges for you?

To achieve in me a truly ecumenical spirit. To understand Jesus’ desire: May they all be ONE and make it a reality wherever I am. To experience that each church different from ours is in search, just like the Samaritan, of the “water of Life”. However, the strongest challenge for me is to perceive the breath of the Spirit that indicates to us how we may achieve unity based on the ecumenical spirituality, which not only consists of praying together, but also loving the other through his mistakes, not leaving him in them, but offering him the Divine experience I have already found.

ln religious life, a lot is said about creating intercongregational communities, including in the Dominican World. What do you think about this?

I had dreamed about it many years back. Now that I have had this ecumenical experience I believe it is possible. Here, we are taught to live in community, respecting each charism, each way of being a church different from my own.

Especially for us, who have one same charism, even if read and lived from another perspective. It does not mean that some must lose their own to take in another new way. It means to share the experiences of the Spirit in such an ample charism, as contemplation, the search for truth and the Announcement of the Gospel, in an Interdominican community.

Would you suggest to other congregations to live an experience like the one found at Bossey?

It is my desire, an imploration I do to the church, a petition I make to the God of Jesus Christ… I wish we could all go through that experience. We all need it, especially in this 21st Century where the young are growing up in a pluralist environment, with no formation in FAITH which is what makes unity.

I have read as many books by Yves Congar, OP as I have been able to find. I learned to love him here in BOSSEY, because as a Dominican, he is a great forerunner of ecumenism in the Catholic Church. And likehim and other Dominicans, I feel that our charism can contribute a lot to the unity among churches.