Event recalls late priest's work to develop interfaith bonds - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Event recalls late priest’s work to develop interfaith bonds

On April 20 I gave a talk for the Brennan Goldman Institute for Jewish-Catholic Understanding and Dialogue at St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry.

 

Before the official start of the program I walked around to greet the people as they assembled. When I greeted one woman her first words to me were, "Are you going to be as good as Joe?" I confess that her question threw me off balance just a bit. Who was Joe? Better at what? Did I really want to get into this?

I discovered quickly that she was referring to Father Joseph Brennan, a longtime and beloved friend of Rochester’s Jewish community. Joe was a priest of our diocese, an excellent biblical scholar, and a person devoted to promoting honest and substantial relationships between and among people of diverse religious traditions. And he had a particular passion to develop good relationships with the Jewish community whose religious traditions are so deep and who first heard the Word of God.

Once I caught the meaning of her question the answer was easy. "No one is as good as Joe was." That delightful encounter, and the evening itself, renewed my awareness of how much we owe to our brother Joseph for his lifelong dedication to developing such healthy interreligious bonds. Along with such Jewish colleagues as Rabbi Judah Miller and Isobel Goldman, and others in the Catholic community like Joe Kelly and Pat Connolly, Joe laid foundations for the work we are able to do today.

Our program seemed to go by very quickly. The planning committee developed some questions that they thought would be of general interest and sent them to me in advance of the meeting so that I would have a chance to think about them. They covered quite a range of issues. How does the use of bread in the Catholic Eucharist relate to the use of bread in Jewish ritual? What does the ministry of bishop involve? Explain something of the structure of the Catholic Church. What trends in religion and spirituality do you foresee in the year ahead? And how will the church employ modern technology in responding to those trends?

I tried, not always successfully, to give responses as brief as possible with the hope that we could have some time for conversation among those who gathered for the occasion. As things went, I think we ran out of time before we ran out of conversation. I quite well understood and accepted the format we adopted. I think that it served a good purpose and did foster some interesting exchange. But, given that experience, I hope that another time we could identify one theme or issue on which we could focus.

I am grateful for the Brennan Goldman Institute at St. Bernard’s and to all who worked very hard that the Jewish and Catholic communities could enjoy another very constructive event together. And thanks to Sister Patricia Schoelles, SSJ, and all at St. Bernard’s for their cordial hospitality and their beautiful home.

Peace to all.

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