BY ELIZABETH LYNCHReconciliation is the key to right relationships and healing emotional wounds. Thus, the Albany Diocese's evangelization initiative, "Amazing God," is launching the "Reconciliation Project," asking people to share personal stories that demonstrate the power of God's healing grace.
"For us to understand what reconciliation with God is all about, we have to pay attention to how people go about reconciling with one another," said Rev. George Brennan, a member of the Diocese's task force on evangelization.
During Lent 2011, storytellers from the Reconciliation Project will speak at parishes and schools about their efforts to forgive, reconcile and advocate. The team is looking for people willing to share personal efforts at working to restore right relationships.
"This storytelling initiative is similar to the New Testament narrative about the disciples walking the road to Emmaus," explained Father Brennan. "They shared their stories and discovered the presence of God in their midst."
A flyer about the project states: "There is no limit to the ways that the Gospel is meant to improve relationships between people and reveal the amazing power of God's love."
Father Brennan told the Evangelist, "We are inviting people to tell their stories about enemies becoming allies, strangers becoming friends, people of different religious traditions coming together to learn from each other, crime victims and offenders talking together, neighborhood communities working together to respond to violence. The stories are all about people working to restore right relationships."
He cited as examples "stories about people gathering for town meetings when tragedy has affected their neighborhood, and stories about people in parishes that are merging coming together to talk about common hopes for the future."
Personal stories are meant simply to inspire people to "move beyond the hurt," he said - to demonstrate that the goal is attainable.
"Forgiveness and reconciliation inspire people to work at improving relationships," Father Brennan said, "and to invest themselves to respond in positive rather than negative ways."
As a member of the Restorative Justice Commission of the Diocese, Father Brennan saw an example of such healing among family and friends of murder victims who are "trying to restore right relationships among those harmed by crime or other ways."
He said that Catholic Charities also exemplifies reconciliation efforts, such as in its ministry to the homeless and "anyone on the margins of society."
Advocacy is a part of the reconciliation process be-cause many "can't advocate for themselves," he said. Gov-ernment assistance, changing laws, increasing volunteerism and fundraising are all forms of advocacy.
Father Brennan said the reconciliation initiative "is similar to what Pope John Paul II did often during his lifetime. He made public statements acknowledging the ways that groups of people have harmed one another and he prayed for forgiveness."
To share a story, contact Father Brennan at email@example.com or 453-6650. He will also give a presentation on the Reconciliation Project during Spring Enrichment at The College of Saint Rose in Albany on May 11.