Ecumenical Pilgrimage of Trust has appeal for young adults

James Comninellis

James Comninellis and Brian Miller were impressed by the sights and sounds of Taizé, France, and are helping to replicate it in St. Louis.

Comninellis, outreach and resources coordinator for the Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the archdiocese, and Miller, executive director of the archdiocese's Catholic Youth Apostolate, are part of the planning effort for the ecumenical Taizé Pilgrimage of Trust, which Archbishop Robert J. Carson invited to St. Louis after the unrest in Ferguson following a police-involved shooting death two years ago. This summer Comninellis and Miller visited the brothers of the Taizé Community's base in Taizé, France, home to about 100 monks — about half Catholic and half Anglican or Protestant. Founded in 1940 as a place of reconciliation and peace helping Jews fleeing Nazi Germany and Nazi POWs, the community attracts thousands of young people from all over the world each year.

From Sept. 29 to May, the brothers of the Taizé Community, in collaboration with churches of various denominations, will lead the Pilgrimage of Trust in the St. Louis area. At a time when fear and violence have seemingly become commonplace, the purpose of the pilgrimage is to create a space where people of different backgrounds can come together for prayer and conversation on ways of building trust in their daily lives. The event will culminate in a gathering to be held over Memorial Day weekend, May 26-29.

Miller said being with the monks and young adults from various countries and faiths, as well as various paths in their faith, showed them how they walk together to pursue community and their relationship with God. It translates to the St. Louis community, he said, "because we've had a very real breakdown of dialogue, relationships and particularly trust."

A key to its success, he said, is in helping people see the face of God in one another. "That's really what our St. Louis event is all about — to come together to pray together, to focus on what unites us rather than what divides us and to help us experience one another in an authentic way."

A similar place doesn't exist in the United States where primarily young adults can come together and wrestle and ask questions about their faith, he said. He's looking forward to what's to come, "continuing to bring people together, to build that community and build those bridges that maybe we've torn down or let get into disrepair."

Comninellis said the questions that will be asked at Taizé prayer nights will get people thinking about the idea of reconciliation in St. Louis along the lines of race, geography, economic structure and more. "What they're doing in France is incredible. I was in a Bible study with French, Germans, Ukrainians, South Koreans and people from the United States."

The Christian worship involving 3,000 or more young adults was sung in many languages in a manner that allows people freedom to meet God. Comninellis met people of no faith who loved it — the silence as well as the simple, repeated words of songs. One man who doesn't go to church was part of the choir at Taizé and was rejoicing. "It was the face of evangelization and ecumenism coming together," Comninellis said.

Beginning in September, churches of different denominations in the St. Louis area will host evenings involving a time of worship with meditative singing in the style of the Taizé Community, information about participating in the pilgrimage and conversation in small groups. These evenings are meant to bring together Christians and people of good will from many different churches and backgrounds. Everyone is welcome to attend, with a special invitation for young adults between the ages of 18 and 35.

Other church leaders and communities contacted by the Taizé brothers have given their full support and will be hosting the program in their churches.

For the Memorial Day weekend in 2017, hundreds of young adults will come from throughout the Midwest and beyond. Participants will be offered hospitality by local families. The weekend will involve times of prayer, Bible reflections, workshops on various themes related to trust, justice and reconciliation, and a citywide prayer walk to express the desire to work together for a more human society. While the workshops will be targeted to young adults, the prayer portions will be open to all. Many of the events will be held at St. Louis University, but workshops will involve visits to places of suffering and hope in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

For information, visit www.pilgrimageoftruststl.com.

>>Launching Trust

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson described the Pilgrimage of Trust as bringing together young adults and other people who are concerned about the community for dialogue and prayer. People of different backgrounds will "get to know each other as brother and sister," he said in a video about the event. "Together we can be all that St. Louis promises to be."

Programs to launch the Pilgrimage of Trust, each scheduled to last two hours, will be held:

Thursday, Sept. 29, Wellspring United Methodist Church, 33 S. Florissant Road, Ferguson, at 7 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 1, St. Joseph Imperial, 6020 Old Antonia Road, Imperial, 7 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 2, St. John's Church (The Beloved Community), 4136 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis, 2:30 p.m.

Monday, Oct. 3, Catholic Student Center at Washington University, 6352 Forsyth Blvd., St. Louis, 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 4, St. Francis Xavier (College) Church, 3628 Lindell Blvd., St. Louis, 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 5, South Spring City Church (PCA), 2109 S. Spring Ave., St. Louis, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 6, All Saints Church, 7 McMenamy Road St. Peters, 7:30 p.m.

Monday, Oct. 10, Christ Church (Episcopal) Cathedral, 1210 Locust St., St. Louis, 7 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 16, St. Alphonsus Liguori (Rock) Church, 1118 N Grand Blvd., St. Louis, 1:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 26, Incarnate Word Parish, 13416 Olive Blvd., Chesterfield, 7 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 27, St. Simon the Apostle Church, 11011 Mueller Road, Green Park, 7:30 p.m.

For information, visit the brothers of the Taizé Community, www.taize.fr/en, or the pilgrimage website, www.taize.fr/stlouis. 

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