An introduction to St. Gertrude and Ecumenical and Interreligious Activities

There is a distinction between “ecumenical” and “interreligious” activities.  Ecumenical activities occur between members of Christian denominations – Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and others we call “Protestants”.  Interreligious activities are between Christians and non-Christians, such as Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc.   For local Catholics, our most common interreligious partners are Jews and Muslims since these faith groups also have houses of worship here in Edgewater.

The Edgewater Clergy and Rabbinical Association (ECRA) was formed around 1960, which predates Vatican II – the global Catholic council that opened the doors to both ecumenical and interreligious activities.   The original ECRA group consisted of Protestant ministers, Catholic priests, and Jewish rabbis.  Through their cooperative action, other community organizations were formed, such as the Edgewater Community Council and Care for Real.   The group does not have formal rules but is guided by a spirit of mutual respect and a desire for harmonious co-existence and community progress, with special attention paid to the most vulnerable neighbors.   The annual ECRA Thanksgiving service has been going on for many years and is a time for the individual members of the congregations to get together while also serving as a fundraiser for Care for Real, our Edgewater Community food pantry.   In the early 1990s, members from St. Gertrude, Immanuel Lutheran, and Emanuel Congregation even took a trip together to the Holy Land!

In the mid-1990s, the organization title changed to The Edgewater Community Religious Association (keeping the ECRA acronym) to accommodate the entry of Muslim houses of worship into our community.    In 2008, ECRA started the “Sacred Seeds” dialogue series – in which there were eight presentations through 2010 on various scripture-topics presented from Jewish, Muslim, Protestant and Catholic viewpoints.   After a four-year absence, “Sacred Seeds” resumed in the Spring of 2015 – and since then we’ve been sharing these gatherings twice a year – spring and fall – on various topics of common concern.   

October 31, 2017, will mark 500 years since Martin Luther posted the famous “95 Theses,” igniting the Protestant Reformation that dramatically changed the course of Christianity.   The gap between Catholics and Lutherans has been closing since the 1960’s, aided by the Second Vatican Council and a “Joint Declaration on Justification by Faith,” which helped resolve a major theological hindrance to unity.   Since October 31, 2016, we’ve promoted Catholic-Lutheran events, leading up to a joint commemoration of the 500th anniversary of these “95 theses”.

Many St. Gertrude parishioners are involved in various ecumenical and interreligious activities (EIA).   We do not have a formal EIA group, but parishioner Allen Stryczek, , 773-973-3637, tries to encourage many of these activities, and keep abreast of other activities as they spring up.   Allen also shares St. Gertrude EIA activities with the Archdiocesan EIA office – to help other Catholic parishes learn from one another, and celebrate larger Archdiocesan gatherings.   Please share your EIA thoughts and ideas with him.  


Mid-2016 through end of 2017  EIA Activities at St. Gertrude

October 9, 2016,    St. Gertrude’s hosted the ECRA “Sacred Seeds”  on Death and Dying.   About 125 attended this presentation from Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, and other Christian perspectives.

October (mid-month), 2016        Loyola University Community Relations hosted a “Northside Prayer Breakfast” with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.   Several ECRA members attended as well various religious leaders from Rogers Park.

October 30 / 31, 2016  St. Paul’s Lutheran in Evanston, in conjunction with Evanston, hosted a Martin Marty presentation on Sunday, and then a Monday morning telecast of the gathering in Lund, Sweden with the Lutheran World Federation and Pope Francis participating.   Edgewater’s Immanuel Lutheran (Pastor Monte Johnson, etc.) and a few from St. Gertrude participated in the sessions on both days as well.

November 2016    Immanuel Lutheran hosted the ECRA Thanksgiving Service, with about 175 attendees. 

January 2017  For the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity - St. Gertrude sent out letters with Graymoor Institute prayer cards  to about 25 Christian Churches in Edgewater – and included the prayer for those churches in a spotlight page in the bulletin

February 2017 There was a Taize Prayer Service at Immanuel Lutheran with Mary Horan, Dana Sullivan and St. Gertrude musicians participating.  Of the approximately 30 people at the service, perhaps 10 were from St. Gertrude.

February-March, 2017 There was a Book of Romans Study for 5 Thursday mornings at Immanuel Lutheran, shepherded by Pastor Monte Johnson, based on the studies of N.T.Wright.   2 to 4 participated each week from St. Gertrude, with about 4 to 6 from Immanuel Lutheran.

Sunday, March 5, 2017 – At the back table at St. Gertrude, there was a free distribution of 56 copies of the Catholic/Ecumenical version of “The Message” Bible by Eugene Peterson, donated by a parishioner.  

March 8, 2017 – St. Gertrude Refugee Ministry hosted a “Simple Soup Supper” followed by Taize prayer in Church.   ECRA members were invited, and a half dozen from the Ismaili Center attended both the soup supper and the Taize prayer.   They were moved by our hospitality and the kind follow-up note with a photo by Dana Sullivan.

March 15, 2017, The regular monthly ECRA meeting was held this month at Immanuel Lutheran Church.  Jermaine Pearson, Loyola Interfaith Campus Minister;  and Liz Gentry, Hospitality Pastor of New Story Church that meets in the Swift School Auditorium;  and Steve Lepse of Salvation Army who attends First Evangelical Free Church attended were new ECRA participants this month.   Allen Styczek continues to strive to build bridges with those faith communities that currently are not members of ECRA.

March 17, 2017, With the three Lutheran churches taking the lead, several Christian churches attended the Emanuel Congregation Friday evening Shabbat service as a show of solidarity with our Jewish neighbors after a bomb threat against the Jewish Day School there 10 days prior evacuated the youth from the school for a few hours.

March 19, 2017, AKnow Your Rights” seminar was offered by North Shore Baptist Church to all ECRA members concerning what to do about current concerns with ICE encounters for those people who currently may not have appropriate documentation.   This was a follow-up to a similar event that was held at North Shore Baptist around the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday which was attended by several from St. Gertrude.   This ECRA event was publicized in the St. Gertrude bulletin.  

March 21, 2017, There was a daytime showing of Rick’s Steves’ (a Lutheran) 1 hour DVD on Luther to about 8 from the Immanuel Lutheran senior group, and 2 from St. Gertrude’s attending.   Mary Ann Collins, Judy Diaz, and Ginger Williams were among the St. Gertrude invitees who had a prior commitment.    All three will hopefully meet Marcia Smith the new Immanuel Lutheran Parish Nurse in the near future.

March 21, 2017, There was vespers at St. Ita with Bishop Kane presiding and ELCA Bishop Wayne Miller preaching.   While this was publicized in the bulletin, the St. Gertrude pastoral and musical leadership each had last minute illnesses and were unable to participate in this Lutheran-Catholic Reformation Year event.

April 2017 – The St. Gertrude Refugee Ministry accepted another family from Catholic Charities.   The newest addition is a Hindu Nepali family from Bhutan.   Since Bhutan is a Buddhist country, the Hindu Nepali are a persecuted minority.

April 9, 2017 -  St. Gertrude had it’s normal 11 AM Palm Sunday procession, starting at the Granville/Glenwood intersection and traveling up and down the 1400 block of Granville.  About 10:50, the Granville Methodist Church Palm Sunday reached the same Granville/Glenwood intersection in their procession around the 1300 blocks of Granville and Hood – and Fr. Dom and the neighboring congregation waved palm branches to each other as they passed by.

April 15, 2017, This was the third joint Lighting of Easter Vigil Candle at 7-7:15 PM in the last four years.   This year the lighting took place at 1401 Glenlake, just about half way between Immanuel Lutheran and St. Gertrude.    The previous two joint lightings of the Easter Vigil candle had taken place at Immanuel Lutheran.   The St. Gertrude Easter Vigil candle arrived on time for the start of the very long 7:30 PM Holy Saturday Easter Vigil Mass.

April 30, 2017, Emanuel Congregation hosted Sacred Seeds” on “The Prophetic Tradition Today:  Defining Justice in Society”   together with a Social Justice fair with eight organization participating as well.   Of the 85 that attended this event, about 34 were Catholic.  22 of the Catholic attendees were from St. Gertrude, and the other twelve were from six other parishes.

June 4, 2017, Pentecost Sunday – 11 AM at St. Gertrude will to recognize Fr. Dom’s leadership since 2005 prior to a new pastor coming on July 1.   It’s anticipated that the Ismaili Center will participate in some aspect of the service and that several Christian pastors will participate in the social aspect afterward – since it will be after their Pentecost celebration as well.


Fall / Early Winter 2017 EIA Activities at St. Gertrude

January 2, 2018


September 26, 2017, Loyola University hosted the second annual “Northside Religious Leadership Prayer Breakfast” for religious leaders in Edgewater and Rogers Park – featuring presentations by Loyola University and by Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle and members of her staff.   Several ECRA member congregations, including St. Gertrude attended.

October 13, 2017, The Edgewater Village, located at the Broadway Armory, had a presentation on Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights.    One of the most popular festivals of Hinduism, it spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.  We see many “Happy Diwali” signs on Devon, and this was a good way to learn more about our neighbors.    Several from St. Gertrude attended this presentation.

October 29, 2017, Immanuel Lutheran’s Sunday afternoon “The Forum” program titled “Healing Wounds to Christian Unity” featured a presentation by Greg Krohm, a Catholic member of the Archdiocesan EIA Group.   While the event was mainly attended by members of Immanuel Lutheran, there were also several from St. Gertrude who attended.

October 31, 2017 – The 500th Anniversary Commemoration of Martin Luther’s 95 thesis was held at Holy Name Cathedral.  The Service of Common Prayer and Renewal of the Covenant was attended by St. Gertrude parishioners together with those from Edgewater Lutheran churches.   The Cathedral event was full beyond expectations!   

November 3, 2017, The Ismaili Centers of Greater Chicagoland hosted a “Rays of Light” program and exhibit in Rolling Meadows honoring the 60 Anniversary of the Aga Khan’s Imamat.   Many ECRA congregations, including several participants from St. Gertrude, attended this interesting and informative gathering.

November 19, 2017 – The annual ECRA Thanksgiving Service is typically held on the afternoon of the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and serves as a fund-raiser for Care for Real, the Edgewater Community Food Pantry.   This year the inter-religious gathering was hosted by North Shore Baptist church, and the program included a youth violin group from St. Gertrude.  The service was followed by a social gathering with a wide variety of food for sharing and mingling.

December 3, 2017, Immanuel Lutheran’s Sunday afternoon “The Forum” program titled “Where do we go from here?” on the future of Catholic-Lutheran cooperation and unity.     Jon Nilson from the Archdiocesan EIA Group gave the broad overview on Catholic-Lutheran opportunities, while Allen Stryczek spoke about efforts that St. Gertrude and Immanuel Lutheran can work on together in the next year.

January 4, 2018, The Archdiocesan EIA Group hosted it's annual post-Christmas gathering.   St. Gertrude is one of 10-15 parishes with an active Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs group.

Upcoming  / Anticipated 2018 Events

Saturday / Sunday, January 13 / 14   North Shore Baptist, 5244 N. Lakewood, hosts a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Conference entitled “Drum Majors for Justice:  Empowering Agents of Change.”   This free series of workshops and presentations is open to all congregants in the various Edgewater Community Religious Association (ECRA), of which St. Gertrude is an active participant.

Thursday, January 18 through Thursday, January 25, 2018   St. Gertrude is collaborating with eight other Christian churches to send a letter to the 22 Christian churches in Edgewater – which included the 2018 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (WPCU) prayer card from the Graymoor Ecumenical Institute , information about participating in ECRA, and an invitation to the Taize prayer service being held on January 24.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018, St. Gertrude hosts a Taize prayer service at 7 PM in church, and the 22 Christian churches in Edgewater and the Chicagoland Focolare movement are invited to participate.   Focolare is an official “movement” of the Catholic Church that focuses on the charism of “unity”.

Saturday, March 31, 2018.    TENTATIVE - St. Gertrude and Immanuel Lutheran will their fourth joint lighting of their Holy Saturday Easter Vigil candles – provided that the weather cooperates.    The service may be planned for a location half-way between the two churches at 7 PM so that each congregation has enough time to return to their church for a 7:30 PM service.

Sunday, April 15, 2018, Sacred Heart Schools, 6250 North Sheridan, will host “Keeping Faith:  Sisters of Story.”  This is an inter-religious drama presentation to demonstrate peace and commonalities between women from Jewish, Muslim, and Christian perspectives, and will take the place of the ECRA “Sacred Seeds” spring event.

Friday, May 11, 2018, Catholic-Buddhist Plenary, hosted by the Archdiocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (EIA) office at the Meyer Center, 3525 South Park Avenue (just off Lake Shore Drive).   The time most likely will be 10 AM to 12 Noon.   This gathering features Catholics and Buddhists who participated in a small group gathering with Pope Francis in mid-2016. 

Sunday Afternoon, Fall, 2018   ECRA often has a twice a year “Sacred Seeds” event in which a topic of interest is presented from Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Catholic perspectives.   The topic, location, and date are still to be determined.

Thursday, November 1 through Wednesday, November 7, 2018 – The Chicago-based Council for a Parliament of World Religions will hold the 7th Parliament international gathering Toronto, Canada.   Register early in 2018 to save on the registration fees.  The theme is “The Promise of Inclusion, the Power of Love:    Pursuing Global Understanding, Reconciliation, and Change. 

Sunday, November 18, 2018, ECRA typically hosts their annual inter-religious Thanksgiving service at 3 to 5 PM on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.    This is also a fund-raiser for Care for Real, the Edgewater Community food pantry.   The location and timing are still to be confirmed.



St. Gertrude Parish
1420 West Granville Avenue
Chicago, IL 60660
Phone: (773) 764-3621