September 24, 2017

UPDATED: Local Catholics and Lutherans to commemorate anniversary of the Reformation

Staff report


Martin Luther, a German monk, is depicted in this painting at a church in Helsingor, Denmark. The issue of papal authority was the one point that led Luther to break from the Catholic Church, according to a Catholic University of America professor who will speak at a May 30-June 1 symposium on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation co-sponsored by the university in Washington. (CNS photo/Crosiers)

SPRINGFIELD – Five hundred years after Martin Luther defiantly nailed a copy of his “95 Theses” to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church, setting in motion the Reformation, local Catholics and Lutherans, joined by members of the extended interfaith community, will gather together to mark this pivotal moment in history.

A joint Lutheran-Catholic prayer service led by Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski and Pastor Lauren Holm of the Bethesda Lutheran Church in Springfield will be held to commemorate the Reformation on Sunday, Oct. 29 at 2 p.m. at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Springfield. Following the prayer service, all participants will be invited to the adjoining Bishop Marshall Center to help prepare food packages for the homeless.

Bishop Rozanski, in his upcoming column in The Catholic Mirror, explained the significance of “commemorating” rather than “celebrating” the Reformation.

“At first, this may seem like only a slight difference in language, but it speaks volumes.  The reason for this is the fact that Lutherans and Catholics remember this anniversary as a rending of the Body of Christ, disrupting that unity Jesus prayed for when he was gathered with his disciples near the time of his impending death.  Martin Luther himself did not wish to bring about a schism in the Church, but only to reform it, recommitting to the Gospel values that he felt were being forgotten in his own time,” Bishop Rozanski wrote.

Pastor Holm, in comments provided to, made clear this was not about relitigating past history.

“When Bishop Rozanski and I came together to discuss how we might mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation we agreed that rather than look back at what divided us long ago, we would celebrate our dialogue over the past 50 years and the various papers we jointly wrote describing our many areas of agreement,” Pastor Holm said.

Bishop Rozanski invites members of the Catholic community to join him and Pastor Holm in this commemoration.

Concurrent with his time since being named bishop three years ago, Bishop Rozanski has also served on a national level as chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. During his tenure, he has spent much time in preparing for this anniversary. Key to this planning was to gather both spiritually but also to join efforts in a practical way.

“We thought it would be important to show us working together and hunger is an issue we both care deeply about,” Pastor Holm said.  “Hunger is such a large problem here at home and around the world we thought why not expand the Lutheran/Catholic circle to include our interfaith partners?”

Members of the Interfaith Council of Western Massachusetts also will participate.

Martin Pion, professor of religious studies at Our Lady of the Elms College and president of the Interfaith Council of Western Massachusetts, noted that the food packaging event scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 29 “is supported by many of the communities that make up the Interfaith Council of Western Mass/Greater Springfield. 

“This event, initiated by the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of New England and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, is an opportunity to express the concern and care that many faiths have for those who are not able to meet their own nutritional needs,” said Pion. “We invite all who care about feeding the hungry to join in interfaith prayer and hands-on good works.”

In Amherst, a joint prayer service also will be held on Oct. 29 at 2 p.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 867 North Pleasant St. The service will be led by Rev. Steven Wilco, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, and Father Gary M. Dailey, director of the Newman Catholic Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.