The ALL ARE WELCOME series is an occasional feature which examines how Catholic faith communities can become more inclusive of LGBT people and issues. At the end of this posting, you can find the links to previous posts in this series.
For most Catholics, experiences of inclusion in our local parishes during liturgy or various social events are central elements tying us to the faith. A supportive, positive local community can build us up in the face of a wayward hierarchy or, alternatively, tear us down with its rejection.
Kate Childs Graham writing in National Catholic Reporter highlights the experiences of one young adult struggling to find welcome in the faith she loves. Kate narrates the story of Danielle, a college student in Texas who grew up in the same parish, St. Phillip’s, where she now mentors as a peer educator. Kate continues:
“Danielle came out of the closet at 15. The director of religious education at St. Philip’s was one of the first people to accept her.
“She told me, ‘That’s cool,’ Danielle recalled. ‘Just don’t be too gay.’
“So she continued to educate and walk with ‘her kids’ — as she calls them — in the confirmation class. But then, the parish got a new priest and a new director of religious education.
“’He said that being gay is bad,’ Danielle said. ‘I never heard any priest I knew talk like that.’”
After finding welcome, Danielle suffered rejection as a Catholic lesbian due to parish staffing changes. Motivated by fear that she would be asked to stop peer education or be unable to assume leadership of the mariachi choir her family ran since 1969, Danielle went back into the closet.
Danielle’s new personal ministry to attend Mass with LGBT young people who were thrown out of Confirmation class for their identity, and then plays music at four separate parishes on Sundays. For now, Kate writes:
“Danielle knows the church she loves has a long way to go, but her prayer is pretty simple: ‘I just want my parish to be a bit more accepting.’”
Positive parish-level responses to LGBT individuals and families are sometimes the simplest acts with the greatest effect we can have for our communities. New Ways Ministry maintains a national Gay-Friendly Parishes and Faith Communities list in attempting to identify those communities who strive for welcome and inclusion.
Bondings 2.0 is curious about our readers’ experiences.
- Is your Catholic parish accepting of LGBT individuals and/or families?
- What do professional ministers and lay leaders enact that creates a better atmosphere?
- In your experiences, what are common obstacles to changing a parish’s culture?
- What are good strategies?
We welcome you to leave your answers to these questions and more below in the “Comments” section.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry