Center faculty member co-edits new volume on intercessory prayer in Mennonite and Catholic traditions

May 16, 2022

In 2003 Pope John Paul II canonized South Tyrolean missionary priest Father Joseph Freinademetz, S.V.D., (1852-1908) in part because prayers for his intercession on behalf of a terminally ill Japanese Mennonite student are believed to have cured the student of leukemia. Jun Yamada was a student of art history and Christian iconography at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan when he was diagnosed with leukemia in February 1987. Doctors involved with the case could offer no medical explanation of the student’s recovery eight months later when they began referring to him as “the miracle man.” “This miracle will be one of the bridges between Roman Catholics and Mennonites in an ecumenical point of view,” said Pope John Paul II in 2003 on the occasion of Freinademetz’s canonization.

That miracle, as John Paul predicted, has inspired ongoing ecumenical friendship, dialogue, and engagement between Mennonites and Catholics. Intercessory Prayer and the Communion of the Saints: Mennonite and Catholic Perspectives (Pandora Press) is one result of that ongoing ecumenical conversation. The book was co-edited by Margaret Pfeil, teaching professor in the Theology Department and Center for Social Concerns and gathers together presentations from ecumenical Mennonite-Catholic conferences in 2015 and 2016.

Bridgefolk, a Mennonite-Catholic ecumenical movement in North America, centered its annual conference in 2015 on the story of Fr. Freinademetz’s healing of Jun Yamada, the Japanese Mennonite student suffering from leukemia. Following that conference, the Mennonite Catholic Theological Colloquium convened in 2016 to consider the Christian practice of intercessory prayer and doctrine of the communion of saints from the perspectives of both traditions. The volume collects the presentations from those two events, including the personal and theological reflections of Nozomu Yamada, brother of Jun, and Reverend Alfonso Fausone, S.V.D., who initiated the intercessions for Jun.

Part one of the book contains three essays from the 2015 conference. The first two are primarily narrative accounts of Jun Yamada’s healing written by his brother Nozomu together with Alan Kreider and Rev. Alfonso M. Fausone, S.V.D. The third is a theological consideration of intercession by Nozomu Yamada and Fausone that focuses on four salient features of the experience of intercession related in the first two essays: the suprarational nature God’s historical work; the reality of God’s love in concrete historical situations; the varieties of interpretation that God’s infinitely varied love requires; and the community possible among those varied interpretations and liturgical expressions.

The essays in the second part of the book are from the 2016 conference and represent Mennonite and Catholic theological perspectives on intercessory prayer and its contemporary practice, the communion of saints, and ecumenism itself.