ALL ARE WELCOME: Lesbian Young Adult Balances Faith and Exclusion

Kate Childs-Graham

Kate Childs Graham

The ALL ARE WELCOME series is an occasional feature  which examines how Catholic faith communities can become more inclusive of LGBT people and issues.  At the end of this posting, you can find the links to previous posts in this series.

For most Catholics, experiences of inclusion in our local parishes during liturgy or various social events are central elements tying us to the faith. A supportive, positive local community can build us up in the face of a wayward hierarchy or, alternatively, tear us down with its rejection.

Kate Childs Graham writing in National Catholic Reporter highlights the experiences of one young adult struggling to find welcome in the faith she loves. Kate narrates the story of Danielle, a college student in Texas who grew up in the same parish, St. Phillip’s, where she now mentors as a peer educator. Kate continues:

“Danielle came out of the closet at 15. The director of religious education at St. Philip’s was one of the first people to accept her.

“She told me, ‘That’s cool,’ Danielle recalled. ‘Just don’t be too gay.’

“So she continued to educate and walk with ‘her kids’ — as she calls them — in the confirmation class. But then, the parish got a new priest and a new director of religious education.

“’He said that being gay is bad,’ Danielle said. ‘I never heard any priest I knew talk like that.’”

After finding welcome, Danielle suffered rejection as a Catholic lesbian due to parish staffing changes. Motivated by fear that she would be asked to stop peer education or be unable to assume leadership of the mariachi choir her family ran since 1969, Danielle went back into the closet.

Danielle’s new personal ministry to attend Mass with LGBT young people who were thrown out of  Confirmation class for their identity, and then plays music at four separate parishes on Sundays. For now, Kate writes:

“Danielle knows the church she loves has a long way to go, but her prayer is pretty simple: ‘I just want my parish to be a bit more accepting.’”

Positive parish-level responses to LGBT individuals and families are sometimes the simplest acts with the greatest effect we can have for our communities. New Ways Ministry maintains a national Gay-Friendly Parishes and Faith Communities list in attempting to identify those communities who strive for welcome and inclusion.

Bondings 2.0 is curious about our readers’ experiences.

  • Is your Catholic parish accepting of LGBT individuals and/or families?
  • What do professional ministers and lay leaders enact that creates a better atmosphere?
  • In your experiences, what are common obstacles to changing a parish’s culture?
  • What are good strategies?

We welcome you to leave your answers to these questions and more below in the “Comments” section.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

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2 Responses to ALL ARE WELCOME: Lesbian Young Adult Balances Faith and Exclusion

  1. • Is your Catholic parish accepting of LGBT individuals and/or families?
    Our pastor (and retired pastor who lives in the parish) and deacon are openly accepting of GLBT people and encourage the parishioners to be likewise. Our DRE is passively accepting because of the pastor’s attitude. Probably most of the parishioners are accepting also. We have a couple of openly gay men in the parish, one of whom has been a cantor.
    • In your experiences, what are common obstacles to changing a parish’s culture?
    We live in a very conservative part of the state and change does not come easily. For the folks who listen to the bishops, the public opposition of the bishops (including our own in Wilmington DE) to marriage equality sends a signal that GLBT people are not welcome in the church.
    Generally, the most difficult obstacle is he attitude of the pastor, according to our experience of other parishes.
    • What are good strategies?
    We are organizing a support group for families of GLBT people, modeled on the Always Our Children group that meets at St. Matthew in DC, between our parish and a neighboring parish. That area includes Salisbury University and we will include students and their families in our group.

  2. K.T. says:

    Is your Catholic parish accepting of LGBT individuals and/or families?
    I am in the miltiary and currently living in a small town in southern Alabama so the church I was attending in town is definitely not accepting. I think there may be individuals that are but some of the priets statements have made it clear that he is not. I have rencently started going on base and while the priest there has made no specific statements either way, in general he has a more positive attitude and I feel welcome just in the homilies he gives. For instance, this past weekend’s homilies he told the congregation to trust in the lord and that God made each of us the way he intended us to be and we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others and neither should our parents and that we are loved by God so much and so we should as well and forgive ourselves. I feel like that really stood out to me and made me feel good. Also, I still keep in touch with the priest from the Parish I grew up in in Arizona and while my family was struggling to accept me, they suggested i speak to a priest. When I called the one here, he wasn’t available so I called mine from back home. He spoke with me right away and when I told him, he told me that was great and that God loves me and he loves me and not to worry about what the church says. Of course I was in shock. I didn’t expect him to chastise me but his positive nature threw me off because I pretty much expected to here quotes from the Catechism that I am loved but any homosexual actions would be wrong. I have since spoke with him many times and he continues to tell me that he is my pastor and confessor. In his eyes, God loves us all and if someone went to confession to him about being homosexual that he wouldn’t regard it as a sin. He is a very great person and is very accepting of all people and I remember in a past bulletin when i lived there, there was a group for LBGT to meet. I’m not sure if it is still going on.

    In your experiences, what are common obstacles to changing a parish’s culture?
    I think it all depends on who the pastor of the parish is and whether they are more conservative or liberal. That seems to be the biggest obstacle in the parish I was attending before i went on base. Whatever the Pastor said, went and he is very stubborn to listen to others opinions even when there are whole committee’s appealing to him for whatever reason. While the Pastor in my parish is Tucson is very open, and easy going, so the parish members are as well and the masses are always full (all 7-8 of them each weekend).

    What are good strategies?
    I’m not really sure what good strategies are since I’ve recently come out in the past year and haven’t been around more than the conservative parish and the military parish but I would agree with Patrick that groups molded after Always Our Children for parents as well as groups for LGBT people would be helpful.

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