Former television talk show host Phil Donahue will be one of the featured speakers at a “Pilgrimage of Mercy” sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame and St. Mary’s (GALA-ND/SMC) on Sunday, October 2, 2016, 11:00 a.m., beginning in New York City’s Central Park. The 1.5 mile pilgrimage walk and peaceful rally is a way to for LGBT Catholics and supporters to celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy called by Pope Francis.
Donahue, who is a 1957 alumnus of the University of Notre Dame and the host of the groundbreaking Phil Donahue Show, will be joined at the rally by Greg Bourke and Michael DeLeon, two of the plaintiffs in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell case which granted marriage equality nationwide; Father Warren Hall, an openly gay priest who has been a strong advocate for LGBT equality and who was sanctioned by his local archbishop for such efforts, Francis DeBernardo, executive direcctor of New Ways Ministry; Joe Vitale, another Obergefell plaintiff; along with several GALA-ND/SMC members and leaders from other Catholic LGBT organizations (complete list of speakers is below).
The pilgrimage begins at 11:00 a.m. at the entrance to Central Park at East 69th Street and Fifth Avenue. (Participants are asked to gather by 10:50 a.m.) The rally will be held at Columbus Circle (West 59th Street and Central Park West). For more information and updates, click here. To register for the pilgrimage, click here. The pilgrimage’s Facebook page can be accessed by clicking here. For church groups and organizations which would like to join the pilgrimage, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following the rally, the pilgrimage will continue with a walk to St. Paul the Apostle Church, concluding at 12:15 p.m. Participants are invited to attend the parish’s 12:30 p.m. Spanish language mass. The pilgrimage will go on rain or shine.
A GALA-ND/SMC press statement explained the purpose of the pilgrimage:
“The pilgrimage is inspired by Pope Francis declaration last fall, ‘We are in the midst of an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Catholic faith,’ decreed Pope Francis, during which we are to be ‘merciful like the Father’ and perform acts of mercy and forgiveness to all.”
“The goal of the pilgrimage is to call upon The University of Notre Dame, and Catholic bishops across the US, to join in a show of mercy and compassion for LGBT Catholics, who continue to be marginalized by the Catholic Church.”
Jack Bergen, chair of the alumni group, commented further on the purpose of the event:
“The University of Notre Dame, through the leadership of Fr. Ted Hesburgh CSC, has had a long history of leadership in supporting civil and human rights. We ask that they demonstrate that same type of leadership now when it comes to welcoming LGBT Catholics into their community and be more inclusive of LGBT students and alumni.”
Co-sponsoring the event are a number of Catholic and LGBT organizations: Catholics for Fairness, GLAAD, HRC, New Ways Ministry, Equality Blessed, Dignity/USA, Dignity/New York, Freedom for All Americans, Out At St Paul, Fortunate Families and Believe Out Loud.
Bourke and DeLeon will be leading the pilgrimage walk. Commenting on the inspiration for the pilgrimage, Bourke said:
“After the devastating event in Orlando this summer, Pope Francis sympathetically told his worldwide flock “I repeat what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: that they (LGBT people) must not be discriminated against, that they must be respected and accompanied pastorally. It is a great honor to be able to bring a successful movement, Catholics for Fairness, to New York City and partner with so many willing supportive organizations to promote a fully inclusive Catholic Church.”
Currently, the roster of rally speakers is as follows:
- ND alum Greg Bourke and his husband Michael De Leon, 2015 Persons of the Year by the National Catholic Reporter
- Chris Hartman, Director of Kentucky’s Fairness Campaign and co-founder of Catholics for Fairness
- ND alum Phil Donahue ’57, American media personality, writer, and film producer best known as the creator and host of The Phil Donahue Show.
- Joe Vitale, SCOTUS Marriage Equality plaintiff
- David Swinarski ND ’01, Out at St Paul Board Member
- Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry Executive Director
- Father Warren Hall, gay priest and advocate for LGBT Catholics
- Jack Bergen ND ’77, GALA ND/SMC Chair
Following the walk at 4:00pm, GALA ND/SMC will be holding their Second Annual LGBT Student Scholarship Benefit at ND Alum Phil Donahue’s ’57 apartment. The Scholarship helps LGBT students who attend Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s. For information on this event, go to: NYC LGBT Scholarship Benefit (registration is limited). You can contribute to the scholarship fund by clicking here: ND/SMC LGBT Student Scholarship Fund.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry