Catholic Pastor: ‘I am not the bedroom police.’

May 6, 2014

How do LGBT people fare in Catholic parishes?  How welcoming are Catholic communities to gay and lesbian couples in committed relationships? How important is it to offer a welcome to LGBT people?

Fr. Peter Daly

These are the types of questions that one Catholic pastor has tackled in a recent column in The National Catholic Reporter Fr. Peter Daly, pastor of St. John Vianney parish in Prince Frederick, Maryland (Archdiocese of Washington), offers a frank assessment of how his parish responds to the presence of gay and lesbian people in their midst.

While happy that gay and lesbian couples are welcomed by his community, Fr. Daly admits that the welcome may be as complete as it could be.  He describes the parish as “a fairly typical middle-class, mostly white, English-speaking, American parish.” It is located in a suburban-to-rural community not far from the Chesapeake Bay, which is predominantly politically conservative and Republican.  Yet, he notes that the topic of gay people and relationships has been coming to the surface more commonly in the past few years, due to the greater acceptance and discussion of these issues in the larger society.   Fr. Daly offers the following appraisal of how his parish has responded, noting that it is not the ideal:

“I also think it would be fair to say that our approach to same-sex couples, including marriage and adoption, is evolving. One might characterize our approach as public silence and private acceptance.

“In public, we are silent about the fact that some of our fellow parishioners are gay, even though some people are aware of their relationships.

“In private, we are accepting their relationships so long as we don’t have to acknowledge them.

“Such a modus vivendi is not really an ethical resolution to the question. In fact, it is merely a strategy for avoidance.”

Fr. Daly’s analysis sounds a little like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the former policy of the U.S. military in regard to gay and lesbian service people.  While it allows for some acceptance, it is acceptance that is only partial, not full, and worse, it is acceptance that is only conditional.  Such conditional, partial acceptance should not be the standard for a Catholic community, and Fr. Daly is aware that while it may be the present reality, it is not a healthy one or a helpful one.

Fr. Daly has been trying to move his parish past this type of impasse. Many parishes that welcome LGBT people do so because the parish leadership has fostered a  climate of acceptance and welcome in the community.  From several opinions expressed by Father Daly in his essay, it is obvious that he has been in the forefront of setting an example of acceptance and welcome.  He states:

“The hyperbolic and harsh language of the church will have to change. It is not accurate, and it is not charitable. . . .So long as gay relationships are truly loving and committed, I cannot see how they are intrinsically disordered. . . .

“For more than 40 years, the language of the magisterium said that all same-sex acts are ‘intrinsically disordered’ and may never be approved in any way. But that certainly is not my experience as a pastor of souls.”

The priest’s approach to offering a welcome has been influenced, or perhaps “supported” is a better word, by Pope Francis’ example of first seeing the whole person, as opposed to individual personality traits.

But Fr. Daly also provides his own theory on how parishes, and particularly priests, can be more welcoming.  Of his role as pastor, he says:

“I am not the bedroom police. I do not quiz people on their private lives. I do not know who is sleeping with a boyfriend or girlfriend. I do not know who is cheating on a spouse.  But one thing I know for sure: One hundred percent of the people who come to Communion at every Mass in the history of the world are sinners; redeemed sinners.”

Whether or not individual parishioners are accepting of lesbian and gay people seem to be determined by two characteristics, according to Fr. Daly:  age and familiarity.  Younger people are more accepting than older people.  Those who count a lesbian or gay person among their friends or family are more accepting than those who think they do knot know one.

Welcoming LGBT people in a parish helps far more than only the LGBT people.  They are also sending a message to another population segment that also doesn’t always feel welcome in Catholicism:  young people. Because of the growing strong acceptance of LGBT people by the younger generation, many will not want to stay within a church that only offers condemnatory edicts.  As Fr. Daly states, for young people, welcoming LGBT people “determines whether or not they will remain Catholics.”  This issue should then become a major demographic warning for church leaders:

“As the older Catholics die off, the church will find very little acceptance of its current negative position on gay relationships. We will find ourselves culturally marginalized in countries like the United States.”

The other group that will similarly be affected are parents and family members of LGBT people.  Fr. Daly states:

“Two of my friends who go to other parishes left the Catholic church when their children came out. They simply could not accept a church that judged their children to be ‘intrinsically disordered.’ If someone is put in the position of choosing between his or her child and the church, they will obviously and quite rightly choose their child.”

Fr. Daly’s comments offer sound pastoral advice to other Catholic parishes who want to welcome LGBT people.  New Ways Ministry maintains a list of LGBT-friendly Catholic parishes around the country.  For more information on how to make a Catholic parish more LGBT-friendly, click on the “All Are Welcome” box in the “Categories” section to the right of this post.

What does your parish do to make LGBT people feel welcome?  What effect has this welcome had on the parish as a whole?   Write your responses in the “Comments” section of this blog post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related posts about past Fr. Daly essays:

US Catholics Praise Pope Francis in Polling and Words

The Pastoral Dimension of the New Boy Scout Policy on Gay Youth

Message of Hope: ‘No one should feel excluded from God’s love. . . .Ever.’

 

 


More and More U.S. Congregations–Including Catholic Ones–Are Welcoming LGBT People

November 17, 2013

Regular readers of Bondings 2.0 will know that we like to promote the growing trend in the Catholic Church of parishes opening their doors to LGBT people and their families.  New Ways Ministry maintains a list of gay-friendly Catholic parishes and intentional eucharistic communities which has grown from its origin in 1997 with 20 listings to currently having well over 200 listings.

A new report from Duke University’s National Congregations Study confirms that this trend of gay-friendly faith communities has been growing rapidly across denominational lines in recent years.  The Association of Religion Data Archives’ website reports on some of the major findings from the study, noting that overall the changes seem to be connected to changes in society generally:

“The massive cultural changes in attitudes toward gays and lesbians in American society are also being reflected in religious sanctuaries, the study indicates.”

Some of the major findings from the study show a definite trend in acceptance:

“Twenty-seven percent of congregations in the 2012 study allowed gays and lesbians in committed relationships to hold volunteer leadership positions, up from 19 percent in the 2006-2007 study.

“Nearly half, or 48 percent, of congregations in 2012 reported that gays and lesbians in committed relationships may be full-fledged members; in the 2006-2007 study, 38 percent of congregations allowed such membership privileges.

“Seventeen percent of congregations reported having openly gay and lesbian worshipers. But those congregations were also relatively larger, so 31 percent of people in congregations are part of communities with gays and lesbians who are open about their orientation.”

The study’s director, Duke University’s Mark Chaves, a sociologist noted that the study shows that the perception that faith and LGBT equality are opposed is not, in fact, a reality:

“Chaves notes that an analysis of the 2006-2007 study found that religious communities who were politically active on the issue were about evenly split on both sides.

“And the latest study shows an increasing acceptance that is consistent with cultural changes in the nation.

“ ‘It’s not right to think of religion in an organized way … as being only on the conservative side of the gay-rights issue,’ Chaves said.”

While the study does not single out data on Catholic congregations, it’s clear that the Catholic community is definitely part of this growing trend.  Many recent studies have shown that Catholics are often ahead of the general U.S. population when it comes to societal acceptance of LGBT people (including support of marriage equality).   Hispanic Catholics, in particular, show strong acceptance.  (To learn more about these past studies, click on “Statistics”  under the “Categories” heading  in the right-hand column of this page.)

Why is Catholic acceptance so strong?  I think this has less to do with the general growing acceptance of LGBT people in the wider culture, and more to do with Catholic people living out their church’s social justice teaching with emphasizes the equality and dignity of all people, and that all people must be treated respectfully and fairly.  I think the Catholic emphasis on family also contributes to this strong acceptance.  Catholics are concerned with keeping their families together, and they want to make sure that all families are protected in society.

Whatever the reasons, it’s important to remember that the U.S. Catholic bishops, who speak strongly and loudly against LGBT equality, do not reflect the voice of the Catholic people in this matter.

If you are interested in helping your own Catholic parish or community become more LGBT-friendly, you can start by looking at the installments of Bondings 2.0’s occasional series “All Are Welcome” by clicking on that title under the “Categories” heading in the right-hand column of this page. You can also contact New Ways Ministry by phone, 301-277-5674, or email, info@NewWaysMinistry.org, to obtain additional resources and consultation.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article

November 13, 2013:  “Gay-Friendly Churches And Houses Of Worship Growing, According To National Congregations Study” (HuffingtonPost.com)


ALL ARE WELCOME: Lesbian Young Adult Balances Faith and Exclusion

February 10, 2013
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


ALL ARE WELCOME: What Is a ‘Gay-Friendly’ Parish?

September 21, 2012

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.

Gay-friendly Catholic parishes and communities have sprouted up across the country over the last two decades, and New Ways Ministry has maintained a list of such places both on our website and in every edition of our tabloid newsletter, Bondings.  We began the list in 1997 with 20 parishes.  Today, the list contains well over 200 communities, and new ones are added frequently.

From time to time New Ways Ministry is asked how we decide if a parish is gay-friendly or not.  It’s a good question.  We offer some specifics in our newsletter’s introduction to the list where we note criteria:  the presence of a support or spirituality group, inclusion of LGBT people in a welcome or mission statement, parish involvement in gay community events, ministry for parents and families of LGBT people, public recognition of the presence of LGBT people in the community.

Our criteria are admittedly broad.  While all parishes will have one of these markers that they are welcoming to LGBT people, probably only a handful would have ALL of these criteria.    One unifying characteristic among all the criteria is that the parish is giving some sort of public witness to their welcome of LGBT people.  We believe that being public about support is a minimum.

One type of parish that we generally don’t include on our list is a parish whose sole criterion is that it is a place where a lot of LGBT people are known to attend, but which does not make any public acknowledgement of their presence or of an explicit welcome.  This is the case, sometimes, in urban ministry settings, or parishes that are situated in gay neighborhoods.   While these parishes may, in fact, offer a passive welcome, we believe that it is important for them to acknowledge this welcome publicly in order to be on the list.   Our rationale is that people who are seeking a gay-friendly parish are people who are seeking a place where they can, if they so choose, be public about their identity.   If a parish is unwilling to be public about its affirmation of LGBT people, we are not confident that it will be place that will welcome those who may decide that they want to be public about who they are.

Our purpose in maintaining this list is two-fold.  First, we want to be able to help people find a Catholic parish where they will be accepted.  Many times people have had bad pastoral experiences at parishes due to LGBT issues, so we want to provide a resource that people can refer to in order to find a place where they can be sure such negative experiences won’t happen.

Second, we want to show that there are indeed Catholic parishes that welcome LGBT people and are concerned about their lives and issues.  Too often, people assume that all Catholic institutions are unwelcoming of LGBT people because of negative messages which emanate from hierarchical sources or some pastoral ministers.   While these negative views often capture media attention, the reality is that the majority of Catholic lay people, and a good number of parishes, are supportive of LGBT people.  This list belies the myth that Catholics are unfriendly to LGBT issues.

How do we maintain the list?  The most productive way is by word of mouth.  People call, email, tell us in person about a parish in their region that they have experienced as gay-friendly.   We always make sure that they can verify at least one public way that the parish makes their welcome known.  Once we know that, we put the parish on the list.  To make things easier for folks, we have an online form on our website where people can inform us of parishes that are not yet listed.

Word of mouth is also how we find out if a parish on our list has stopped being gay-friendly.  This phenomenon, while relatively uncommon, can happen due to some change in the parish—usually the replacement of a pastor or pastoral minister who had been the backbone of LGBT outreach.   We appreciate hearing about this change so that we can remove such communities from the list.  So, if you have had a bad experience at any place listed, please let us know, and we will try to find out what might have caused such a change.

Of course, we are aware that this list is in no way comprehensive.  Though we do hear of many of the gay-friendly parishes around the country, we are sure that there are still many others that we don’t know of.  For one thing, many parishes continue to grow in their awareness of being welcoming of LGBT people, so the number of gay-friendly communities continues to grow with each passing year.

So, please do let us know about Catholic parishes in your area that we don’t yet have on the list.  Use our online form or simply post the name and location of such a parish in the “comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

Previous posts in the ALL ARE WELCOME series:

Say the Words, December 14, 2011

All in the Family , January 2, 2012

At Notre Dame, Does Buying In Equal Selling Out? , January 25, 2012

A Priest With An Extravagant Sense of Welcome,  February 13, 2012

Going Beyond the Boundaries, April 11, 2012

St. Nicholas Parish Celebrates 10 Years of LGBT Ministry, May 24, 2012

When Homophobes Attack, June 7, 2012

An Open Door Policy for Catholic Schools, July 15, 2012

Memo to Cardinal George on How to Show Respect for LGBT People, August 4, 2012


ALL ARE WELCOME: When Homophobes Attack

June 7, 2012

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.

An Australian Catholic priest used the occasion of an anti-gay rant to educate parishioners and others about the gifts that LGBT people bring to the Catholic church.

According to Fr. Peter Maher’s blog, he preached recently in his parish, St. Joseph’s, Newtown, near Sydney, about a YouTube video which chastised the parish for its LGBT ministry. The video, shot outside the church by Michael Voris, is a tendentious diatribe that purports to be “news.”  Fr. Maher, however, used this opportunity to spread a message of love and inclusion:

“Far from judging and vilifying lesbians and gays, as we heard from Michael Voris in his video about the Newtown parish Friday night Mass, I suggested that hearing the stories of lesbian and gay Catholics and how that had influenced my reading in order to better pastorally care for all Catholics might offer a new way of seeing lesbian and gay Catholics as gift rather than ‘the other’ for whom we might feel sorry.”

Fr. Peter Maher

Fr. Maher explains what his experience in ministry has taught him about LGBT Catholics:

“What I learned from hearing these stories was that lesbian and gay Catholics are like all people trying to live their faith – they are searching for meaning and joy and authenticity in and through the Catholic community and the spiritual wisdom of the bible and church tradition. Catholics expect to find guidance and encouragement, as well as challenge, but  lesbian and gay Catholics find all too often that they are asked to deny their sexuality or, at best, to be invisible.”

More importantly, he notes that the wider church stands to benefit from what can be learned form the LGBT faith experience:

“Theologians and spiritual writers are beginning to write from the perspective of the world in which we live and the life stories of lesbian and gay Catholics. If sexuality is a gift from God and if psychology and science are correct in finding that homosexuality is God-given, that is not chosen, then homosexuality must also be a gift from God.  What might this gift be?  Those doing theology with the insight of the stories of lesbian and gay Catholics and modern science suggest such areas as intimacy, friendship, faithful love and personal growth might be a gift to the church and indeed the world.”

In particular, heterosexual Catholics have the opportunity to learn about sexual morality from their LGBT brothers and sisters:

“Where traditional sexual ethics has dominated church teaching about heterosexual relationships and marriage; homosexuals have had to find the meaning for themselves of their God-given attraction and have made some astoundingly good gospel-based spiritual discoveries.  While heterosexual relationships are struggling in the current climate of distrust of church teaching; homosexual relationships, lived according to gospel principles of love, seem to be finding a beautiful expression.”

The lessons to be learned from this episode are at least two-fold:

1) An attack on ministry to and with LGBT people can easily be turned into an opportunity to educate and promote the acceptance and inclusion of LGBT people in the Catholic Church.  As the old saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

2) LGBT ministry is more than just “helping” LGBT people, but recognizing that the wider church, in fact, has the opportunity to be helped by its LGBT members.  The unique spiritual and personal journey that LGBT people live has gifts and blessings that can be of benefit to all in the church.  If the church doesn’t welcome these people and gifts, it is denying many great avenues of grace for the rest of its members, too.

Thank you, Fr. Maher, for teaching us not only about LGBT gifts, but also about how to respond gracefully and forthrightly when ministry is attacked.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Previous posts in the ALL ARE WELCOME series:

Say the Words , December 14, 2011

All in the Family , January 2, 2012

At Notre Dame, Does Buying In Equal Selling Out? , January 25, 2012

A Priest With An Extravagant Sense of Welcome,  February 13, 2012

Going Beyond the Boundaries, April 11, 2012

St. Nicholas Parish Celebrates 10 Years of LGBT Ministry, May 24, 2012

 


ALL ARE WELCOME: St. Nicholas Parish Celebrates 10 Years of LGBT Ministry

May 24, 2012

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.

St. Nicholas parishioners bless those of their community who are involved in the parish’s Gay, Lesbian, Families and Friends Ministry, on the occasion of the ministry’s 10th anniversary. (Photo by Emily Bradfield)

St. Nicholas Parish, Evanston, Illinois, recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of their Gay, Lesbian, Families and Friends Ministry.  You can read a history of the ministry here. As part of the celebration, David Phillipart, parish director of liturgy, wrote the following blessing prayer for those involved in the ministry.  It’s beauty speaks for itself.  Parishioner Debbie Winarski commented, “It really was a beautiful moment–the kind that gives one strength to keep going.”

St. Nicholas Parish is on New Ways Ministry’s list of gay-friendly Catholic parishes, where folks can find a local Catholic community which welcomes LGBT people.

To St. Nicholas Parish’ outreach ministry, we say: “Ad multos annos!”

St. Nicholas Parish Prayer of Blessing

For ten years now, our parish’s Gay, Lesbian, Families and Friends Ministry has worked to provide a place for Catholics who are gay and lesbian, their family members and friends, and our parish as a whole to grown in faith, hope, and love. Today we want to bless the members of this ministry, so I ask you to come now to the place of the blessing before the altar.
You are nurturers and prayers,
Preachers and prophets,
healers and photographers,
you are parents,
you are sisters and brothers,
you are Catholics and you are treasured parishioners.
We honor the decade of your lives spent in this ministry.

[As is our custom I now invite others who wish you join these sisters and brothers to come forward and place a hand on them in blessing, and let us all stand and extend our hands.]

Holy God,
in love you created us: men, women, and children
In your own divine image and likeness
enlivening the universe with our variety of gifts, traits, abilities, skills, and circumstances—
faults and foibles, too.
You created us to love you and to love one another
in many and wonderful ways.
So the love of Abraham and Sarah
brought to birth your people,
Ruth and Naomi’s loving faithfulness
to each other shines as a sign of your love for us,
and the deep devotion of David and Jonathan
to each other reveals how complete
is your commitment to us.
Rising from the tomb and ascending to you,
Christ makes new our capacity to love each other.
No longer merely Jew nor Greek, slave or free,
male or female,
we love each other
as heirs to your promise,
your daughters and sons,
sisters and brothers of Jesus.

Bless all the members of our parish Gay and Lesbian, Families and Friends Ministry.
Give wisdom to their search for ways to tell of your goodness and understand our humanity.
Grant success to their long labors to call your church
to be an ever-more inclusive community.
Magnify their joys and heal the hurts
that prejudice and oppression have wrought.
Empower us to draw all your children
into your loving embrace,
made real in our community and in our commitments.
We ask this in the name of the One
who taught us that you are love,
and what when we live in love, we live in you,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

–David Philippart

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Previous posts in the ALL ARE WELCOME series:

Say the Words , December 14, 2011

All in the Family , January 2, 2012

At Notre Dame, Does Buying In Equal Selling Out? , January 25, 2012

A Priest With An Extravagant Sense of Welcome,  February 13, 2012

Going Beyond the Boundaries, April 11, 2012


ALL ARE WELCOME: Going Beyond the Boundaries

April 11, 2012

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

Do you participate in your local parish or have you needed to find another Catholic faith community outside the boundaries of your neighborhood, town, or geographic area?  If you are a Catholic for whom LGBT justice and equality are important, you may fall into the second category.

A recent New York Times article, “A Parish Without Borders,” focuses on St. Boniface parish, in downtown Brooklyn, NY, which attracts parishioners outside of its surrounding neighborhood.  Not surprisingly, the parish’s welcoming approach to LGBT people and families is part of its wide appeal.  Indeed, the reporter also notes that a similar welcome of LGBT people has attracted many to another “intentional parish” in New York City:

“St. Boniface is an example of an intentional parish, a phrase some members of the clergy use to describe a destination church that attracts people from beyond its geographic boundaries. Many gay and lesbian Catholics travel to the Church of St. Francis Xavier in Chelsea [Manhattan].”

(Incidentally, both of these parishes are included on New Ways Ministry’s “Gay-Friendly Parish” list, which catalogs over 200 parishes around the country with an explicit welcome of LGBT people.  Many, though not all, of these faith communities could be described as “intentional parishes.”)

Indeed, the article uses homosexuality as the touchstone for defining the accepting pastoral approach that St. Boniface has adopted:

“ ‘Meeting them where they are’ is a mantra among St. Boniface’s five priests and a lay brother, who make it a point to invite new faces to monthly home-cooked lunches in the rectory.

“But the inclusive philosophy has a stickier side. While the priests hold true to and convey all the church’s teachings, whether from the Vatican, the United States Conference of Bishops or the Diocese of Brooklyn, they accept that not everyone in the pews does.

“When a lesbian couple approached one of the priests, the Rev. Mark Lane, about baptizing their child, they were afraid he would turn them away, he said. But they were welcomed. For Father Lane, 55, the parish’s openness simply reflected Christ’s teachings to love everyone. Even if that could be taken as an implicit critique of the church’s position on homosexuality, the parish did not make the family occasion into a cause.

“ ‘The danger is, you turn that into a platform and forget about the persons involved, and I think that’s wrong,’ Father Lane said. The two mothers stood at the font with their child along with everyone else. ‘The symbol is visually powerful, but that’s enough.’ ”

“The priests prefer to address controversial issues like same-sex marriage and the death penalty outside of Mass, and while anti-abortion marches are listed in the church bulletin, they are not announced after services.”

The question that comes immediately to mind is:  “Since these parishes are so successful, why aren’t other communities following their example?”  If these intentional parishes are able to attract people who must travel some distance to get there every Sunday (and to participate in non-liturgical activities during the week), they must be doing something right.  It seems obvious that a big part of the attraction they offer is the extravagant sense of welcome described above.  “Meeting people where they are” is key to that welcome, and something that all parishes could adopt with no additional cost, other than an intentional effort on the part of parish staff.

The notion of an intentional parish is not without controversy, however.  While the article states that none other than New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan recently gave an endorsement to the idea of Catholics seeking out parishes where they feel welcome, stating:

“I don’t mind telling you to be rather mercantile. If the particular parish that you’re in does not seem to be listening, there are an abundance of those that are.”

Yet the Brooklyn diocese’s Monsignor Kieran E. Harrington holds a different opinion:

“The church is about growing where you’re planted. . . .It’s like a family. . . .You don’t choose your family.”

What do you think?  Which is more important:  worshiping locally or worshiping in an inclusive setting?    Whatever you may have decided, what have you had to “trade-off”?  What benefits do you receive?  How did you find the community in which you feel welcome?  Do you have any advice for others?

Please submit your answers to these questions in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Previous posts in the ALL ARE WELCOME series:

Say the Words , December 14, 2011

All in the Family , January 2, 2012

At Notre Dame, Does Buying In Equal Selling Out? , January 25, 2012

A Priest With An Extravagant Sense of Welcome,  February 13, 2012


Are You Ready to Take the Next Steps?

March 27, 2012

Do you want to do something to help further LGBT equality in society and the Catholic church but are not sure what you should do or could do?  If so, then you are a candidate for New Ways Ministry’s “Next Steps” program.

“Next Steps” is a weekend program designed to help people plot out a course of practical, feasible actions to further LGBT equality and justice that they can perform in their home communities.  If you are an LGBT person, a family member, a friend, a church minister, this program can help you find out ways to make a difference.   No pre-requisite knowledge or experience is needed other than a willingness to listen, reflect, and share.  The only requirement for participating in the program is a desire to figure out what YOUR next steps may be.

New Ways Ministry will be sponsoring a “Next Steps” weekend, May 11-13, 2012.  Our hosts will be Dignity/Los Angeles, and the program will be held at the Dignity Center, 126 South Avenue 64, Los Angeles, California, 90042.  For more information on this event, click here.    The weekend will be facilitated by New Ways Ministry’s Co-Founder Sister Jeannine Gramick, and Executive Director Francis DeBernardo.

The program–a blend of presentations, small group discussions, prayer, reflection, and planning–helps a participant come up with a series of next steps that fit their gifts, abilities, limits, and home community.  No one is expected or encouraged to take any particular action.  Only you can decide what the next steps are for you.  Everyone’s next steps will be unique to them and their situations.

For example, as a result of a Next Steps weekend, a pastoral minister may feel called to start an educational program in a parish setting.  A parishioner may decide that it is time to come out to their family, friends, and faith community.  A teacher may discern ways to integrate LGBT topics into classroom discussions.  A parent may realize that it is time to seek support from other parents of LGBT people.  A social worker may feel called to start a support group for LGBT teens.   All these are different sets of next steps that past participants have developed–and all are excellent because they were appropriate for each individual person.

The weekend is divided into five parts:

  • Discerning an Individual Call to LGBT Equality
  • Listening to the Catholic Call to Work for Justice
  • Appreciating the Gifts and Struggles of LGBT People
  • Designing Your Next Steps
  • Sharing Your Next Steps with Others

“Next Steps”  participants learn from the program presenters, but they also learn from each other.  Networking with other Catholics who are interested in LGBT ministry and activities is an important benefit of participating in the weekend.  People learn from sharing each others’ ideas, struggles, and joys.  They gain support by making contact with people who share their ideals and values.

Do you want to be empowered to further the work for LGBT equality and justice?  Do you want to build a church where all are welcome and valued?  Do you want to take the next steps?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: January 31, 2012

January 31, 2012

Here are some links to items you might find of interest:

1) The controversy surrounding the naming of anti-homophobia student groups in Ontario’s Catholic schools has added a new wrinkle with a Toronto Star report that the Province’s Education “College [is] asked to investigate principal who banned gay-straight alliance.”   Bondings 2.0’s  latest posting on this controversy can be accessed here.

2) The Washington Blade reports that “religious institutions receiving federal funds for housing programs will have to abide by a new HUD (Housing & Urban Development) rule prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people.”  Details can be found in the article “HUD: Religious groups must abide by LGBT non-bias rule.”
In a letter to President Obama, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had opposed the non-discrimination rule. Equally Blessed, a Catholic coalition of LGBT justice and equality, also sent a letter to Obama in support of the rule.

3) The Buffalo News‘ Donn Esmonde writes how a “Priest’s legacy of tolerance is all-embracing.”  It’s an inspiring memoir about the late Msgr. William Schwinger of whom he writes:  “Back when society treated gays as incomplete people, long before anyone envisioned the state sanctioning gay marriage, this priest— despite the Catholic Church’s institutional condemnation of homosexuality— welcomed them into the fold.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: January 6, 2012

January 6, 2012

Here are links to some items that may be of  interest:

1)  CNN’s “Belief Blog reports on the “Courage” story which we commented on yesterday:  “Controversial Catholic program for gays begins in Connecticut.”

2) On HuffingtonPost.com, Joseph Amodeo points out that there are better ministry alternatives than  “Courage” in “Redefining Courage:  What the New Apostolate for LGBT Catholics Gets Wrong.”

3) The Catholic governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, will be including a marriage equality bill and a transgender non-discrimination bill in his legislative package this year reports The Washington Blade in “Maryland to take up marriage, trans bills.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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