On Oct. 14, a festival evensong in honor of Our Lady of Walsingham and in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the covenant between the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and the Cathedral of All Saints, both in Albany, was held at the Cathedral of All Saints.

The Cathedral of All Saints is the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany. The dean of that cathedral, the Very Rev. Dr. Leander S. Harding, presided at the ceremony; the Very Rev. David LeFort, rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, delivered the homily.

A particularly moving part of the service was a responsive reading of the original covenant by Father LeFort and Dean Harding. The service was sung by All Saints' Choir of Men and Boys, which is the longest continuously-singing choir of men and boys in the country. Evensong is the service that Pope Francis invited the Anglican choir of Merton College in Oxford, England, to sing at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome in March as part of the pope's anniversary celebration.

When Vatican Radio covered the story, the word "Anglican" was used. The Episcopal Church is part of the 70 million-strong Anglican Communion, which is composed of all those churches in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. "Nostra Aetate," the document on ecumenism produced during the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, says that the relationship between Rome and Canterbury occupies a special place.

The covenant between the two Albany cathedrals owes much to the personal friendship between Bishop Emeritus Howard J. Hubbard of the Roman Catholic Diocese and Bishop David Ball of the Episcopal Diocese, who passed away in April; and between former Dean Gary Kriss of All Saints and former rector Rev. William Pape of Immaculate Conception.

The covenant provides for coming together for prayer, study, service and fellowship. Traditionally, members of the two cathedrals have met during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity each January to plan joint events in the coming year.

For a number of years, the two congregations have joined together for Stations of the Cross and a simple meal in Lent. One of the most memorable events was a weekend conference with public lectures by both Roman Catholic and Anglican theologians to study the Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission statement on Mary and the Church.

Our Lady of Walsingham is an especially appropriate devotion for a joint celebration between these two cathedrals. Walsingham is sometimes called the "English Nazareth," and is a place of pilgrimage where the mother of the Lord is honored and the ministry of Christian healing prayer is offered with notable results.

In 1061, Richeldis Faverches, the wife of the Lord of the Manor of Walsingham, was granted a vision of Mary, who instructed her to build a replica of the home of the Holy Family in Nazareth. There are now Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Chapels at Walsingham, and this place of pilgrimage is known for its ability to attract Christians from many different ecclesial traditions.

It is a place where people are healed and where the divisions in the church are healed as Christians join in acts of common devotion and prayer. More than 300,000 people visit the Anglican shrine every year. It is hoped that a joint celebration of Our Lady of Walsingham will be something the two cathedrals can share for many years to come.