On Spirit Day, Catholics Chart New Course for LGBT Youth

October 17, 2013

SpiritDay13_Graphic_FinalToday is Spirit Day. Millions across the nation will wear purple as a sign of their of their love and support for LGBT youth and for their opposition to bullying. We join GLAAD, the main sponsoring organization, in spreading this message of inclusion and well-being.

LGBT teens and young adults suffer greatly from bullying by peers in person and, increasingly, on the internet. Homo- and trans-phobic harassment against youth leads to vastly higher rates of substance abuse, self-harm, and suicide than the general population.

Rejection from their faith community and religious-based discrimination only compound these problems. For Catholics, Spirit Day is also prime moment for reflection on our Church’s progress and where we are now headed in ministering to younger people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.

Last October, . Jesuit Fr. James Martin’s piece on Spirit Day was considered a bold statement, when he reminded Catholics of a prevalent negativity around Catholic LGBT issues from some quarters of the church:

“Many gay and lesbian Catholics have told me (in person, in emails, in notes and letters and in Facebook messages) how alienated they have felt from the church lately.  Perhaps as a result of some of the rhetoric that has been used recently, an increasing number of gay and lesbian Catholics, and gay and lesbian youth in particular, feel marginalized from the church in which they were baptized.”

Fear, hurt, and isolation persist for many LGBT Catholics who experienced decades of damaging language and actions.  Pope Francis, though, has prompted a spirit of renewal that blows through our communities which demands that we act against anti-gay discrimination, especially when it targets youth.

One bright initiative is called Anti-Bullying Learning and Teaching Resources (ALTER), sponsored by the Diocese of Wollongong, Australia. Responding to the rapid rise in bullying through cell phones and social media, the diocese’s Catholic Education Office produced a video (which you can view below) and a resource kit for adults in leadership.

Of note is the use of the word “gay” in the video, revealing an openness to the realities of the students it hopes to help. The Office explains:

“Fix You was deliberately designed to include significant contribution from Diocesan primary and secondary students. To maintain the integrity of this concept, when asked to list words commonly used to bully and to hurt, students were adamant the word ‘gay’ be included. In explanation, it was our students’ reality that this word was often used as a weapon and that verbal bullying was an experience known to most students. Consequently, this term has been included in the sequence of words depicting how bullying brands someone and how this can leave lifelong scars.”

The Office provides an improved commentary on homosexuality that focuses on respecting people’s dignity and ending injustice. They recommend that educators use the word “gay” in their classroom discussions.

This Spirit Day, Pope Francis’ handful of olive branches to the LGBT community has changed the tone by his comment “Who am I to judge?“, his America interview, or his handwritten note to gay Catholics in Italy. Leaders in the American hierarchy have been slow to follow his lead, but the Catholic laity  continue to advance into greater inclusion.

As Catholics, we at New Ways Ministry support Spirit Day, compelled by our faith to end bullying and sustain LGBT youth as they come to know themselves, their community, and God.  We’ve changed our profile picture on Facebook to purple in honor of Spirit Day, and we invite you to do the same as a sign of support.  If you use Twitter, consider using #SpiritDay in your tweets about support for LGBT youth today.

Why not share the graphic above with your friends on Facebook? You can copy and paste it from this post or you can find it on the New Ways Ministry Facebook page.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Spirit Day Supported by Catholics Across the USA

October 22, 2012

Spirit Day, a national event to raise awareness about the problem of bullying directed against LGBT youth, was held on Friday, October 19th, sponsored by GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation).  People were asked to wear purple on that day as a sign of solidarity with LGBT youth who’ve experienced bullying or violence.

Catholic individuals and parishes played a prominent role in promoting the event, including: Dignity USA, New Ways Ministry, Fortunate Families, the Los Angeles Archdiocese Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Catholics and the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry.

National Catholic Reporter columnist Jamie Manson notes that one long time Catholic justice advocate who took part in the event explained her reason for doing so:

Sister Alice Zachmann, SSND

“Sr. Alice Zachmann signed onto Catholics for Spirit Day. She is a well-respected voice throughout the American Roman Catholic Church, and also in Rome. Zachmann is also a recipient of the Catholic University of America’s highest honor — the James Cardinal Gibbons Award. In responding to why she’s signing the statement, she wrote: ‘The issue is one of justice concerning young people who are being bullied because of their sexual orientation.’ “

[Editor’s Note:  Sister Alice is also a regular reader of Bondings 2.0.]

You can view (and post) photos of Spirit Day activities by clicking here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


‘You Shall Love Your LGBT Neighbor As Yourself’

October 18, 2012

Tomorrow is Spirit Day, sponsored by GLAAD, to take a stand against anti-LGBT violence and  bullying among youth. LGBT supporters worldwide will wear purple and promote #SpiritDay on social media as a show of solidarity. Noted Jesuit priest  and author James Martin wrote a blog post for America magazine earlier this week on why participation by Catholics is important, entitled ‘Why Not Wear Purple on Friday?

Citing statistics from the Trevor Project  and US Department of Justice officials, Fr. Martin highlights thatLGBT youth are at a vastly increased risk for suicide attempts, family rejection, and bullying in schools. He encouraged Catholic participation in Spirit Day:

“This should be a no-brainer for Catholics, who are called by Christ to support those who suffer or struggle in any way, particularly those on the margins.

“This is an especially relevant issue for Catholics who support traditional families…For Catholics overall it is an opportunity to demonstrate their ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity’ for their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, and thus heed the call of the Catechism.  (There’s even a site for Catholics supporting the initiative.)  And when we’re talking about suicide, we’re talking about a ‘life issue.'”

James Martin, SJ

Martin even responds to Catholics objecting to Spirit Day and similar initiatives because of an implied endorsement of organizations that oppose official Catholic teaching. He reminds Catholics that it is important to act against injustices, even if partners do not agree on all aspects, because the alternative of waiting for perfection means halting progress. Martin speaks to the heart of Catholic participation in Spirit Day:

“Many gay and lesbian Catholics have told me (in person, in emails, in notes and letters and in Facebook messages) how alienated they have felt from the church lately.  Perhaps as a result of some of the rhetoric that has been used recently, an increasing number of gay and lesbian Catholics, and gay and lesbian youth in particular, feel marginalized from the church in which they were baptized.

“So why not do something simple to show compassion for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, especially those who are bullied or who have even attempted suicide? Purple is a penitential color, the color of remorse, and so it is particularly appropriate as a sign of remorse over any LBGT hate speech.  Why do something small to show your love of neighbor?”

Those of us at New Ways Ministry will be wearing purple tomorrow to publicly witness against the bullying, violence, and hate speech that harm so many LGBT youth and New Ways Ministry hopes you will join in taking a stand because, as Fr. Martin writes:

“You shall love your LGBT neighbor as yourself.”

Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 


Jesuit Author Supports Spirit Day Activities

October 8, 2012

Father James Martin SJ

Renowned Jesuit author James Martin, SJ, has tweeted his support for Spirit Day, a national event where people will be wearing purple to show their support for LGBT youth who face bullying.

In anticipation of the event on October 19th, Fr. Martin tweeted the following message:

New campaign to end bullying against LGBT youth seeks  Catholic support : catholics4spiritday.wordpress.com

The WordPress address is a specifically Catholic effort to get individuals and organizations to participate in Spirit Day this year.   They are asking people and parishes to endorse the following statement:

We, the undersigned, pledge our support for Spirit Day. We pledge our support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth who have been victims of bullying, so as to let them know that they are truly created in the image of God and they are loved.

“At the center of all Catholic social teaching are the transcendence of God and the dignity of the human person. The human person is the clearest reflection of God’s presence in the world; all of the Church’s work in pursuit of both justice and peace is designed to protect and promote the dignity of every person. For each person not only reflects God, but is the expression of God’s creative work and the meaning of Christ’s redemptive ministry.”

- The Challenge of Peace, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1983

As a symbol of our support, we pledge to wear purple to Mass on Sunday, October 14 at parishes across the country.

We believe that our Catholic faith provides a solid basis for standing up against bullying and working to ensure that our schools are safe for all students without exception. Catholic social teaching reminds us that bullying is wrong.

You can sign the pledge by clicking here.   Your parish can endorse the effort by clicking here.  A Twitter hashtag has been established for the event: #SpiritDay.

New Ways Ministry has endorsed Spirit Day, as well as the following national and regional Catholic groups:  the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Ministry with Lesbian & Gay Catholics, the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay MinistryDignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and  Church of St. Francis Xavier in New York City.

Spirit Day is coordinated by GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), and has been successful in past years.

In addition to being culture editor at America magazine, Fr. Martin is a frequent contributor for CNN, NPR, Fox News, Time Magazine, and The New York Times. Fr. Martin also has the distinction of being the “Chaplain to the Colbert Nation” on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report.   He is also the author of the popular spirituality books: My life with the Saints The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything, and Between Heaven and Mirth.

While wearing purple on October 19th is the primary way to participate in Spirit Day,  many churches, synagogues, and other religious organizations will be preaching about the event on the Sunday preceding October 19th.  For other ways to get involved in preparing for Spirit Day, click here.

Let’s hope and pray that thousands of Catholic individuals, parishes, and organizations will take part in this event!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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