Background of Harry E. Winter, O.M.I.
“The pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature.” I have been privileged to experience this lapidary statement of Vatican II’s Decree on Missionary Activity in an extraordinary way. When Vatican II opened on Oct. 11, 1962, I had been a seminarian at our International Scholasticate in Rome for four years, and since our seminary program in those days in Rome was seven years, I would experience the first three sessions of Vatican II. (My classmates and I were not slow learners; that was the normal program in those days, leading to a Licentiate in Philosophy, and a Licentiate in Theology, before we were let loose on the Church).
After ordination, I was asked to teach the courses on the Church, Sacraments, and Ecumenism at our seminary in Washington, DC. During that time, to strengthen the seminary’s accreditation, I was sent to obtain a doctorate in philosophy at the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania, living at the diocesan rectory of Our Lady of Mercy, in the North Philadelphia ghetto. Then in 1976, after completing the doctoral thesis “Catholic, Evangelical, and Reformed: The Lord’s Supper in the Presbyterian Church, 1945-70,” I served as associate director and acting director (1977-79), of the Texas Conference of Churches, at that time the largest ecumenical conference in the world. Then came pastorates in Appalachia, among the very poor, and in North Carolina, at our premier black Catholic parish, another term at the seminary in Washington, DC, and pastor of a large suburban parish in Buffalo, NY. I served on the diocesan ecumenical commission in three of the four dioceses.
Along the way, the Oblates encouraged my writing and lecturing on Mission, Ecumenism and Dialogue (see the website www.harrywinter.org). Now at 74 years of age, I thank God for meeting and working with some marvelous Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, believers in other religions, and non-believers. My experience in pastoral theology, and the way Vatican II drastically influenced that experience, leads me to value Father John Wotherspoon’s invitation. May these blogs show that grace prevails over sin.