This excerpt is from Collegeville Institute’s Annual Report 1986, authored by then-Director Patrick Henry.
The Institute’s designated concern for “cultural” as well as “ecumenical” research is not the outward and visible sign of an inward split institutional personality, but is rather a clear signal that the Institute recognizes the interweaving of church and culture at all times. In both past and present the “today” to which the church relates becomes, rapidly and relentlessly, a “yesterday.”
“Ecumenical and cultural research” is certainly not a full translation of aggiornamento [the term meaning “updating” that Pope St. John XXIII used for his intention for the Second Vatican Council], but any translation that does not include that dimension is lacking an essential.
The Institute is not at the center of the ecumenical movement. Our calling is to be at the leading edge, a position especially favorable for responding to the challenge put directly by Methodist theologian (and recipient of the Saint John’s Pax Christi Award) Albert Outler as he looks back: “The uprush of ecumenical hopes and expectations (it was a golden half century) has been receding (and who knows when the tide will rise again?). An ecumenical apathy has settled in, as dangerous as partisan bigotry and triumphalism used to be. What is still at stake, however, is not a certain tidiness in the Christian scene (as if unity were a matter of cosmetics) but the effective survival of the Christian mission in the world.”
The Institute does not govern the tides or direct the wind of the Spirit. With all the imagination and venturesomeness we can muster, we try to discern the signs of the times for the sake of those who know/suspect/hope that the Christian mission in the world is a task for all the churches together.