Bridging Differences

Sept. 9-15, 2004
Bridging Differences
By Kristen Fox / SUN  Staff Writer
Blessed Sacrament Parish Hosts Community Forums

Two parishes in the Southern Tier are hoping that a community forum will help to bridge religious and cultural differences through peaceful dialogue. The forum, sponsored by Blessed Sacrament Church in Johnson City and Ss. Cyril and Methodius Church in Binghamton, will be held on Sunday, Sept. 12 from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at Blessed Sacrament Church. It will include a panel discussion with several prominent community figures of various backgrounds and faith traditions.

“We can all benefit by being better informed of our common goals toward greater unity as a community,” said Mary Ann Forrest, a parishioner of Blessed Sacrament Church who helped organize the event. The moderator of the evening will be Dennis McCabe, assistant attorney general of New York State and a parishioner of Blessed Sacrament Church. Father Timothy Taugher, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Hillcrest; Major Barnett, president of the Broome/Tioga Chapter of NAACP; Imam Kazim Kopuz, of the Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier; Rabbi Michele Medwin, of Temple Concord; and Harry Lewis, mayor of Johnson City, are five of the 11 panelists. “We wanted to get as diverse a group of panelists as we could in order to reach people of all faith communities,” said Forrest.

Father Taugher is pleased to be on the panel. He believes the community forum will bring an important message to those in attendance. “We are all a human family,” he said. “With our differences there is still one human foundation. We need to appreciate this and try to bridge the gap of separation.” There will be an opportunity for those in attendance to ask panelists questions. The forum will serve as the opening event for the fifth –– and final –– season of RENEW at both Blessed Sacrament and Ss. Cyril and Methodius Parishes. Founded by Monsignors Tom Kleissler and Tom Ivory in 1976 in the Archdiocese of Newark, RENEW employs small parish communities, comprised of eight to 12 parishioners, who meet to share and grow in their faith. RENEW, in varying forms, is used in 250 dioceses and 13,000 parishes around the globe.

“The Blessed Sacrament RENEW CORE Community was discussing possible opening events to give impetus to the fifth season of RENEW, which is titled ‘RENEWing for the 21st Century,’” explained Forrest, who serves as a co-chair along with Marie Chesnick of the RENEW CORE Community at Blessed Sacrament Church. In trying to find a suitable kick-off to the new season, Forrest was reminded by a fellow CORE Community member of the Justice Forum that took place last January in Binghamton in commemoration of Martin Luther King Day. The suggestion of putting together a similar forum was greeted with enthusiasm by the group. “We felt that such a forum would be of benefit to the members of our parish as well as the larger community,” said Forrest. “People have difficulties getting along with one another due to a lack of understanding. We need to bridge our differences and try to understand each other. We can’t do this by remaining separate. We have to talk.”

The CORE Community thought that Blessed Sacrament would be an appropriate place to host the event because of its cultural diversity. “Blessed Sacrament Parish has been and continues to be a very diverse community,” said Forrest. “We have a growing population of persons of many cultures and nationalities.” Forrest said that she and the CORE Community have been spreading the word through local media outlets to try and reach as many people as possible about the event. “I think it’s a really good idea,” she said. “We are hoping that it will be a success.”

The forum is open to adults and teens of all faiths. Resource materials will be available, as well as refreshments. For more information, call Blessed Sacrament Church at (607) 797-5151.

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