ALL ARE WELCOME: Next Steps in London

June 29, 2012

As I mentioned in a previous post,  I am currently in London, England, for the World Pride 2012 celebration which begins next week, and culminates in a parade on July 7th.

New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo conducting a “Next Steps” program in London, England.

While visiting “this side of the pond,” I had the opportunity to conduct New Ways Ministry’s popular “Next Steps: Developing Catholic LGBT Ministry” program for a group in London.  It was the first time that New Ways Ministry conducted this particular program in a non-U.S. setting.

Over 20 people attended the day-long workshop (we also offer a weekend-long version of the program), which is  designed to help people develop a plan of action  (“next steps”) for LGBT ministry for their faith communities and/or themselves as individuals.  The program was held agt St. Ann’s-in-the-City church, in the Soho area of London, on June 23rd.

Terence Weldon, who writes and edits the excellent blog, QueeringTheChurch.com, attended the program and posted about it.  An excerpt from his post entitled “LGBT Ministry: A Mustard Seed Begins to Sprout”:

“The structure and focus of the workshop was entirely action oriented – not ‘What should or could be done?’ but ‘What am I going to do, and when?’

” Every one of the participants ended the day with specific plans that they could begin to work on, in their own faith communities. As Frank pointed out, we now have the materials and structure of the workshop – there is nothing to stop us repeating it, with the more usual weekend time frame, and adapted to British circumstances. I am certain that we will take this up and repeat it, specifically for the Soho Masses community – and possibly thereafter, adapt it for other groups as well. [The Soho Masses are semi-monthly Eucharistic liturgies sponsored by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Westminster  (London) for the LGBT community.]

“The mustard seed has yet to grow to full maturity – but it has undeniably begun to sprout.

Some of the “next steps” participants planned during the program:

–develop a faith-sharing group for LGBT Catholics

–connect with LGBT groups in other faiths for joint projects

–begin to inquire about supporting programs for LGBT youth in the area

–initiate a peer support group for LGBT ministers

–volunteer with a Catholic LGBT hotline

–meet with local parish staff to inquire about LGBT ministry

–advertise that parish counseling services welcome LGBT people

–donate books on LGBT faith issues to parish library

–donate books on LGBT theology to seminaries in South Africa

–initiate a dialogue with the local bishop

–develop a prayer group for LGBT people

–initiate a woman’s group at regular LGBT Catholic gatherings

–start a “speakers’ bureau” of LGBT Catholics and allies who can give presentations to parishes.

England has long been a leader in the discussion of LGBT issues in the Catholic Church, thanks to some a dedicated group of lay people, priests, and some key hierarchical leaders who have been willing to address the issue.  It was a privilege to work with some of those dedicated lay people and priests during the “Next Steps” program.

Based on the intelligence, faith, and enthusiasm of the participants at this recent program, I predict even greater things will be happening in England on Catholic LGBT issues.

For more information on the “Next Steps” program or to schedule one in your area, click here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Greetings from London and World Pride!

June 19, 2012

By the time you read this post, I will have made myself “across the pond,” and be firmly settled in London, England, for a three-and-a half week trip to the United Kingdom for World Pride and to visit with a variety of church reform and LGBT organizations.  Oh, and also to do some sightseeing, too!

As I mentioned here previously, I will be participating on a panel at a multi-national, ecumenical conference as part of World Pride, a two-week gathering of LGBT people from around the globe, as well as conducting New Ways Ministry’s popular “Next Steps: Developing Catholic LGBT Ministry” program. I will also be networking with British and international organizations who are working for equality and justice for LGBT people in church and society. I can’t wait to let them know about the great work that Catholics are doing for LGBT issues and the Catholic church in “the colonies.”

Throughout my stay, I intend to keep on blogging, so I do not expect to pass any day without posting something here.  Because my schedule will not be as regular as usual, some days the posts may appear later than usual. However, because of the time difference (I’m five hours ahead of the U.S. Eastern Time Zone), many times the posts will appear earlier.  Don’t be surprised if there’s an occasional “electronic postcard” as a post–photos from various places that I travel to that I think may be of interest to people who are concerned with Catholic LGBT issues.

I’m open to any suggestions of places to visit that blog readers may have for me while I’m here.  My “home base” will be in London, but I have a BritRail pass and plan to visit a wide-range of places throughout England.  If any readers will be here in London for World Pride, please be in touch so we can say “hello.”

So, the blog will go on while I’m traveling!  It just may be a little different than the regular news and opinion that you may have become used to.  I hope you will enjoy the change. Cheerio!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


New Ways Ministry to Participate in World Pride Celebration in London

June 8, 2012

World Pride, an international celebration of all things LGBT, will be held in London this year, and New Ways Ministry will be there.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director (and your humble author/editor of this blog), will be crossing the Atlantic to join with thousands  of LGBT leaders from around the world.  The World Pride 2012 website describes the event:

“The LGBT community from across the globe is expected to descend on the city for two weeks from 23 June – 8 July for a festival of art, culture and campaigning culminating with the Parade through central London on Saturday 7 July.”

DeBernardo will serve on a panel at a conference entitled “Mind the Gap: Faith and LGBT Rights, ” a multi-faith, multi-national event, on Thursday, July 5th, 12 noon-5:00 pm, at Friends Meeting House, 52 St. Martin’s, Lane, London WC2N 4EA. For information, contact: cuttingedgeconsortium1@googlemail.com, or go to http://www.cuttingedgeconsortium.co.uk.

Francis DeBernardo

He will also conduct New Ways Ministry’s very popular “Next Steps: Developing LGBT Ministry” program on Saturday, June 23rd,  St. Anne’s Church, 55 Dean Street, Soho, London W1D 6AF.  For registration details: info@sohomasses.com, or  + 44 208 986 0807.

DeBernardo will carry the New Ways Ministry banner in the Pride Parade on Sunday, July 7th, along with scores of other LGBT faith groups.

“I’m excited at this opportunity to connect with LGBT advocates from all over, particularly those from the faith community,” said DeBernardo, who was the keynote speaker at the conference on religion and homosexuality at the first World Pride celebration in Rome, Italy, in 2000.  “We have so much to learn from one another, and this is a great opportunity to show one another support.”

London has a strong Catholic LGBT community, with diocesan-sposored semi-monthly liturgies, called the Soho Masses.  A national organization, Quest, also helps to facilitate activities and programs there.  Additionally, the Roman Catholic Caucus of the Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement also coordinates activities.  The blog, QueeringTheChurch.com, is an excellent resource on news, opinions and events of concern to Catholic LGBT people in the UK.

DeBernardo will be traveling to London on June 18th to meet informally with London’s LGBT and Catholic church reform leaders before World Pride begins. Stay tuned for photos and posts on this blog beginning after that date!

–Dwayne Fernandes, New Ways Ministry


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


ALL ARE WELCOME: Say the Words

December 14, 2011

A major focus of New Ways Ministry’s work has always been to help Catholic institutions become more gay-friendly.  For many years, we have consulted with parishes, campuses, vowed religious communities, retreat centers to help them find ways to become more welcoming of LGBT people and their families.   One program we sponsor is the Next Steps weekend retreat/workshop to help people develop a plan of action for themselves and their faith communities in regard to pro-LGBT activities and messages.

Today we are starting an occasional series on this blog called “All Are Welcome.”  We hope to offer some reflections and suggestions for how faith communities can initiate a welcome to LGBT people or how to develop the welcome they may have already begun.   Remember, too, that this blog is social media: the communication works both ways! So in addition to reading the information that we offer, we hope that you will offer your own suggestions, reflections, and experiences, too.

The suggestion for today is “say the words.”  The words to say are “lesbian,” “gay,” “bisexual,” “transgender.”  How powerful a message is sent when any or all of these words is said in a Catholic setting.  When you speak the words, you are validating people’s reality.   In a radio interview once, New Ways Ministry’s co-founder Fr. Robert Nugent, SDS, said that oppression against lesbian/gay people ran the gamut from “silence to violence.”  With this pithy saying, he illustrated the fact that sometimes “silence” can be as harmful as “violence.”  In other words, silence is a form of violence.

Even up to a decade ago, it may have been uncommon to hear these words spoken in general conversation.  Now they are almost household words.  NOT to say them in church settings is a glaring omission.

When do you use them?  When they would come up naturally!  Here are some suggestions:

1.  Use them in the prayers of the faithful, in sermons, in parish bulletins and other publications. Use them in discussions of family.

2.  Use them in discussions of social justice.

3.  Use them in religious education and sacramental preparation.

4. Use them in programs on sexuality.

5.  Use them in youth ministry programs.

6.  Use them in mission statements, non-discrimination policies, and statements of welcome.

7.  Use them in June, which is when many cities and towns celebrate LGBT Pride events.

8. Use them around October 11th, which is National Coming Out Day.

9.  Use them on Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day, to describe the variety of parents that exist in your parish.

10. Use them in presentations on diversity and multiculturalism.

In Always Our Children, the U.S. bishops’ pastoral letter on ministry to families with lesbian/gay members, offers the following recommendation to pastoral ministers:

“When speaking publicly, use the words ‘homosexual,’ ‘gay,’ and ‘lesbian’ in honest and accurate ways.”

The first edition of Always Our Children, before it was edited by the Vatican, had a different wording for this recommendation:

“Use the words ‘homosexual,’ ‘gay,’ and ‘lesbian’ in honest and accurate ways, especially from the pulpit. In various and subtle ways you can give people ‘permission’ to talk about homosexual issues among themselves and let them know that you’re also willing to talk with them.”

Though the Vatican amended that language, they could not amend the human reality that it reflects:  when people hear someone speak of their reality, they not only feel more welcome, but they also hear an invitation to continue the conversation on this topic.

Simply speaking these words may not seem like a major step, yet its effect can be very profound.  In doing so, you are welcoming people, letting them know that you are someone that is interested in them, and you are helping so many others in your parish become more comfortable with these words.

What have been your experiences with saying these words in a welcoming way in your faith community?  What are some other ways that those words can be spoken to help people know that “all are welcome”?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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