The Parliament of the World’s Religions faced difficulty in the early nineties pumping up the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago to participate in plans for the centennial Parliament of 1993. Then came Sister Joan McGuire, whose will to advance ecumenics changed it all. At a June 14 prayer service honoring her retirement, leaders of CPWR past and present, including Chair Mujahid and Executive Director Nelson, gathered to celebrate a trailblazing career in ecumenical, interfaith accomplishment. Board Trustee Emeritus of CPWR and current Ecumenical leader of the Archdiocese Thomas Baina led the service as celebrant, citing a dissertation in the ceremony which detailed McGuire’s service leading up to her joining the Parliament Board of Trustees. In his remarks,
And, history has already recorded her place in the founding of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions. Those of you who know this story know that I was against the idea from the start. I thought it was a pretentious name and an unworkable idea. I advised her to keep her distance. Well, fortunately for history, Sister Joan ignored my advice. Listen to what Dr. Carlos Parra, in his recent dissertation on the Parliament says:
. . . Sister Joan McGuire, a member of the Dominican Order with a doctorate in sacred theology and the Director of the Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the Archdiocese of Chicago was a committed observer throughout this process. Her ecumenical presence, leadership as a Catholic religious woman, and ecclesiastical savvy and tactfulness were like a gentle wind that swept over the waters of these early converging currents. As Cardinal Bernardin’s official representative . . . Sister McGuire was instrumental in getting for the centennial project not only the support of the Archdiocese but of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago . . . which brought together not only Catholics and the various Protestant denominations but also the Jewish community . . .
In Dr. Parra’s study he argues that Sister Joan’s prudent judgment, patience in building relationships and the trust she has with the religious leaders of Chicago were all instrumental in their receiving her recommendations to support the Parliament. I would add that he correctly describes all her dealings with our partners in dialogue. And, of course, she won me over to the parliament.
Sister Joan was called back to her Order in 1992 to assume a position on the Council. She served there until 1996 when, in December, she returned to again assume the position of Director. Only a few months later, in May, she would introduce herself to the new Archbishop, Francis George, who when she said she ran the ecumenical office, replied, “Good, I’m interested in that.”
That simple remark could not capture the degree of personal engagement and support which EIA received from the new archbishop. Within the first year, she was able to schedule the Cardinal for the first visit of an Archbishop of Chicago to a mosque. Cardinal George’s experience with the Evangelical/Roman Catholic dialogue brought another new dimension to EIA work, as did his focus on Faith and Culture. Sister Joan was also able to help plan and execute the “Dialogue of Love: A Pilgrimage to Constantinople and Rome” with the Greek Metropolis of Chicago.
With utmost gratitude, the Parliament salutes Sister Joan McGuire wish best wishes for a peaceful and exuberant retirement. Her work facilitating relationships between Catholics and Muslim, Jewish, and other faiths made her a perfect match for the Parliament.
Above right: Sr. Joan McGuire, CPWR Board Trustee Emeritus, was recently honored for her retirement from directing Ecumenical Affairs for Chicago’s Catholic Archdiocese. She is credited for rallying Chicago Catholic governance into participating in the Parliament of the World’s Religions.