Today, as the city of Portland, Oregon, celebrates LGBT Pride Day, a local Catholic parish will be marching in the parade, proclaiming God’s love for all, even though their archbishop has directed them not to do so.
St. Andrew’s parish, a gay-friendly parish since the 1990′s, had announced their intention to take part in the parade, marching with their parish banner, a rainbow flag which says “Welcoming the Whole Family. St. Andrew Catholic Church.” Three other Catholic parishes in Portland had also agreed to march: St. Francis of Assisi, St. Philip Neri, St. Andre Bessette. OregonLive.com reported that Portland’s Archbishop Alexander Sample directed them not to march:
“Monsignor Dennis O’Donovan, vicar general of theArchdiocese of Portland, called St. Andrew’s pastor, the Rev. Dave Zegar, on May 31 on behalf of Sample, parishioners say. O’Donovan relayed the message that individuals could walk in the parade but that the archbishop did not want St. Andrew’s members to walk as a community.
“Sample, who was installed as archbishop April 2, is in San Diego to attend the annual summer meeting of United States bishops, according to Bud Bunce, spokesman for the archdiocese. He could not be reached for comment.
“Bunce confirmed that O’Donovan had made the phone call. While the archdiocese respects all people, Bunce said, ‘this was not an event that St. Andrew’s parish could be in as a parish.’ “
But, St. Andrew’s parishioners thought otherwise:
“On June 4, [Rev. Dave] Zegar [pastor] met with a group of St. Andrew’s parishioners, who decided to stand by their 17-year commitment to Portland’s gay community. At Mass on Sunday, Zegar shared the group’s decision with the congregation, who responded with a standing ovation, according to Tom Karwaki, who chairs the parish’s pastoral council.”
There was no report about what the three other parishes would be doing. The pastor of St. Andre Bessette parish said he had not been contacted by the archdiocese.
One parishioner expressed the need to be public in the parade:
“Joy Wallace, a member of St. Andrew’s since 1998, says it is common for members of the gay community and their advocates to seek out St. Andrew’s because they’ve seen the parish represented in the annual Pride Parade.
” ‘The banner is important because it says we are a community of faith,’ says Jane Braunger, a parish member since the 1980s. ‘For us not to embrace this statement as a core commitment about openness and acceptance and living the Gospel is cowardly.’ “
In an interview with KGW.com,another parishioner expressed the evangelization function that parade participation accomplishes:
But Jerry Deas, a St. Andrew Parishioner says that’s simply not possible. They need the sign to identify themselves.
“ ‘That’s the one thing that [the banner] does. By people seeing that it’s St. Andrew, they know its St. Andrew and then they can come to St. Andrew. If we were just walking, just walking, they wouldn’t’t know who we were,’ said Deas.
“He also said the outreach works. People from the parade in years past have checked out St. Andrews and some have become full members of the church.
“ ‘So respectfully, we will then follow our conscience to reach out to present the good news as the Gospels call us to do and to welcome all people,’ said Deas.”
The issue will not end with the end of the parade, however. Parishioners want an opportunity to talk with their archbishop about their decision to march:
“Karwaki said parishioners would like a chance to talk to the archbishop about their ministry and explain their commitment to the Pride Parade. He says Zegar asked for such a dialogue and the parish is drafting a letter to Sample.
” ‘We’re not acting out of disobedience,’ Karwaki said. ‘We’re acting out of obedience to the Gospel and the mission of this parish.’ “
New Ways Ministry congratulates the people of St. Andrew’s parish for witnessing on how important it is for them to welcome the LGBT community to their parish. We are proud to have listed St. Andrew’s on our gay-friendly parish list since its inception. On their website, the parish mission states:
“St. Andrew is a faith community baptized into one body, which honors and celebrates diversity. We welcome and include persons of every color, language, ethnicity, origin, ability, sexual orientation, gender expression, marital status, and life situation.”
It is only when parishes trust their own discernment and experience and live up to their beliefs that real change will occur in the Catholic church. May their efforts be fruitfully blessed by our loving God.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry