Answering God’s Baptismal Call for Equality

Jeannine Gramick, SL & Bob Shine

Jeannine Gramick, SL & Bob Shine

New Ways Ministry co-founder, Jeannine Gramick, SL, and staff member, Bob Shine, will be presenting at Call to Action’s national conference this November in a workshop focused on inter-generational Catholic LGBT dynamics. This piece is co-posted on the blog Young Adult Catholics, of Call to Action’s 20/30 Group. For more information on the conference, visit Call to Action’s website. Bob Shine describes the workshop a bit:

Though our baptisms are separated by many years, how Sister Jeannine and I live out our sacramental call is strikingly similar, as are the stories which led us separately into LGBT ministry.

Sr. Jeannine Gramick, of the Loretto Community, was attending the University of Pennsylvania in the early 1970s when she met Dominic, a Catholic “homosexual” as it was termed then. This young man kept asking the Catholic nun what her Church, and his Church, was doing to support gay and lesbian people. What pastoral initiatives cared for their well-being amid intense isolation? Where was the Catholic voice against all-too-common discrimination and violence targeting gays and lesbians?

The questions provoked Jeannine to inquire further, educate herself, and eventually act. Holding home liturgies for those  Catholics who felt excluded, she began serving the gay and lesbian community to welcome them back into the Church they loved. Jeannine encountered many people whose love, commitment, and faith were so evident, and it guided her towards her life’s ministry.

As a student at The Catholic University of America, I was similarly transformed by my time on campus. Raised in a progressive home and parish in Massachusetts, I never questioned the goodness and God-givenness of every person’s sexual orientation. Marriage equality was approved in my state when I was thirteen, and I grew up with families who had two moms and two dads. Equality was normal for me.

Only when I went to college did I personally encounter Catholics who opposed LGBT equality, and vehemently so. I struggled to try to establish an LGBTQ student organization that would create a safe, affirming space on campus while we worked to make the university’s culture more welcoming. We were denied repeatedly and ostracized officially, even while student support grew. Personal experiences with gay and lesbian students challenged me to do more, think harder, act more courageously with them.

And so we left our universities, directed by our experiences on campus to live out the baptismal calls to seek justice and equality. Jeannine began four decades of ministry with the LGBT community, co-founding New Ways Ministry, authoring books, and facing down the Vatican. I began working at New Ways Ministry as it paints a path forward on Catholic LGBT issues.

Jeannine and I encountered LGBT people on campuses, transforming our lives by answering God’s baptismal call. The intergenerational relationship present in our ministry together is evident, as our style, language, and beliefs diverge at certain moments. Yet, the pursuit of the Gospel’s demand that all people are welcome into our Catholic community and all people live in a just society unites us.

For Jeannine and me, this ministry is not handing down one generation’s previous struggles to the next one. It is about struggling together, in the present, for the world we seek. We look forward to engaging with participants at CTA’s national conference this year as we listen to how intergenerational dynamics affect their thoughts and actions on LGBT issues, and share further insights from our lives. We hope you will join us!

Jeannine Gramick, SL, has been involved in pastoral outreach to lesbian/gay Catholics since 1971. She co-founded New Ways Ministry, a national organization to promote justice for LGBT Catholics and the wider Church. Her story is documented in the film, In Good Conscience: Sister Jeannine Gramick’s Journey of Faith.

Bob Shine coordinates outreach to young adults and Catholic higher education at New Ways Ministry. He has experience organizing LGBT students while studying theology at Catholic University of America. He regularly blogs on Catholic LGBT issues at Bondings 2.0, other Catholic issues at Imagine the Kingdom, and tweets at @bobshine89

4 replies
  1. Erma Durkin
    Erma Durkin says:

    I have been enjoying Bob’s postings on Bondings 2.0. This, and his participation in the upcoming CTA conference gives me increasing hope. A younger generation is now raising their voices and sharing their thoughtful, educated and conscientious ideas about what is necessary to achieve a renewed Church which welcomes everyone to a spiritual journey.

  2. Barbara Karamon
    Barbara Karamon says:

    God bless you in your journey!!! I was brought up believing homosexual people were freaks, sinners and the low life of our society. Sometimes as young adults, we ventured into the ‘gay bars’ for an evening of laughter and ridicule. Men paraded around in grotesque makeup and silly movements. We never met the gay person who was attempting a normal life, because he/she were forced to stay in a closet. It was against the law, and subject to arrest to participate in homosexual activity. My friend’s piano teacher was arrested and jailed on a ‘morals’ charge. I had to ask my mom what a morals charge was. She explained as best she could, and I was horrified. So, our understanding and exposure to the gay community was pretty negative and filled to the brim with disgust, anger misinterpretation. Please continue to help all of us begin a new journey into our thinking and acceptance. When my children went off to college they came home with such beautiful new insight on knowledge, sensitivity, acceptance of their gay colleagues/students. It was a beautiful awakening for them and for me. We still have a way to go, but keep up your wonderful work with all of God’s children! …. and continue to keep all of us informed. Thank you.


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