In this second installment of our blog’s occasional series, “ALL ARE WELCOME” which reviews how Catholic parishes and other faith communities can become more accepting of LGBT people, we have guest bloggers, Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata, offering their thoughts on family ministry. The Lopatas have been active in LGBT ministry since the early 1990s, and they are the co-founders of Fortunate Families, a national network of Catholic parents and family members of LGBT people.
Reaching Out to Families with LGBT Members
Several years ago, David and Joan visited their pastor. Their son, Jim, had just told them he is gay. They loved Jim, but struggled with a myriad of emotions: loneliness, fear, confusion, and grief to name a few. These were not the first parents to come to Fr. Tom with this story, but this visit made him realize parents need more than his listening heart. So, he established a support group for parents who love their gay kids and want to support one another.
Such support groups have helped allay Catholic parents’ tears and fears. Many successful alumni have come to understand that our LGBT daughters and sons are made in the image of God and inherently as whole and holy as our straight kids. We see God’s love revealed in them as they strive to love God and neighbor, as the person God made them to be, faithfully seeking God’s voice in their hearts, often in loving relationships and as loving parents.
We understand ourselves as Fortunate Families. When we experience discriminatory words and actions of those who lack this understanding, strong feelings arise: frustration, anger and sometimes betrayal, especially if from our own Catholic leaders.
Parents’ understanding of our LGBT loved ones, our passionate commitment to justice for them, and the fact that parents are more likely to be listened to because we are the faithful, heart and soul (and wallets) of our parishes, are precisely why Catholic parents are uniquely positioned to make a difference. As one parent said:
“…this precious son of ours is the same son that we and God conceived, carried, gave birth to and had baptized into the Catholic family. Though he is too tired to fight for a place at the table, we will spend our last breath carrying the message that God loves each of His precious children, and so do we.”
Additionally, establishing a ministry to parents is a good way to introduce this new ministry to a parish that may be a bit hesitant to approach LGBT topics. People who may feel awkward about addressing the topic head-on may find that this alternative allows them to ask the questions that they need to address about LGBT topics.
Today, another kind of outreach to parents is also needed. Engaged and nurtured, as we move from our initial tears-and-fears into the ire-and-fire of advocacy, parents can—and do—add an extra dimension to the Catholic LGBT equal justice movement.
How can you encourage and help parents to share our stories of love and faith and demand LGBT justice and equality? Can you offer us opportunities to collaborate with other individuals and groups who insist our loved ones be treated with dignity and accepted into the Catholic faith community as full and equal members, morally equivalent to heterosexual persons? We’re available!
–Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata, Fortunate Families