As people here in the U.S. continue to bask in the exhilaration of the new reality of marriage equality across the nation, there have been many exciting ways that people have been celebrating this past week.
Here’s an idea for your consideration if you are looking for new ways to celebrate: go on a Catholic LGBT-friendly pilgrimage to Ireland, the first nation to enact marriage equality by popular vote!
New Ways Ministry’s Co-Founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick, has just announced that she will be leading an eight-day pilgrimage to the Emerald Isle in April 2016. Entitled “Ireland: Land of Rainbows and Wedding Bells,” this journey is a perfect way for Catholics in both countries to celebrate together their two historic marriage equality victories that occurred just about one month apart from each other.
In addition to visiting historic and sacred sights connected to Ireland’s Catholic heritage, the pilgrims will be meeting with members of Gay Catholic Voice Ireland, the national Catholic LGBT ministry, and will participate in a monthly Mass and social in a Catholic parish in Dublin which has been established for LGBT people and their families.
News of the pilgrimage was heralded on Yahoo yesterday, with an article by Jo Piazza, who wrote If Nuns Ruled the World: 10 Sisters on a Mission, which included a chapter on Sister Jeannine’s ministry with the LGBT community. Piazza described the trip:
Jeannine, a Sister of Loretto, is a big world traveler. This was just the most recent in nearly two decades of gay and lesbian pilgrimages that she has led around the world. Hers is a highly specialized group tour. It’s targeted to gay and lesbian Catholics and their families and is led by a Catholic sister.
A sister? Yup.
She’s a spitfire of a woman, and I can imagine that she is a ton of fun to travel with.
Piazza interviewed Sister Jeannine about her 20 years of leading Catholic LGBT pilgrimages. They discussed the February 2015 Italy trip, in which Sister Jeannine’s pilgrimage group were provided with VIP seating at the papal audience in St. Peter’s Square on Ash Wednesday. Sister Jeannine commented on what that welcome meant to her then and now:
“Of course, there is special significance to this particular pilgrimage we took to Italy. Our 50 pilgrims, that included 7 same-sex couples, were invited to special seats within 25 yards of Pope Francis at the papal audience on Ash Wednesday. Just as LGBT people, their families, and friends were welcomed to the Vatican, the SCOTUS decision on June 26 welcomes lesbian and gay couples into the civil family.”
Included in the upcoming pilgrimage to Ireland will be visits to places of Catholic and LGBT importance, as well as those of ancient and contemporary Irish history, including: Our Lady of Knock Shrine, Oscar Wilde’s home, sites important to both St. Brigid and St. Patrick, the Book of Kells at Trinity College, the Convent where Catherine McAuley founded the Sisters of Mercy and where she is buried, murals in Belfast commemorating victims of modern religious conflicts, and a museum dedicated to the S.S. Titanic, built in Ireland.
The Ireland pilgrimage will take place on April 11-18, 2016. The cost, including round-trip airfare from Newark, N.J., is $2,599, which also covers breakfast and supper every day, all admissions, hotel accommodations, and all transfers. For more information, please visit the New Ways Ministry website to view and download a PDF brochure for the trip, including registration form. Or contact New Ways Ministry in one of three ways to request a brochure: email: info@NewWaysMinistry.org; phone: 301-277-5674; postal mail: New Ways Ministry, 4012 29th Street, Mount Rainier, MD 20712.
So if you are looking for special and unique way to celebrate marriage equality here in the U.S., consider joining with Catholic LGBT people, friends, family members, supporters, and pastoral ministers in making a pilgrimage to Ireland where your joy will surely be doubled!
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry