Catholic Mother Shares Her Journey of Loving LGBT Family Members

Rosa Manriquez

An LGBT storytelling project recently profiled Rosa Manriquez, a Catholic mother and church justice advocate, as she tells the story about the LGBT people in her family. In the seven-minute video, she discusses the coming out experiences of her former husband and daughter — and how her Catholic faith and Latina identity have shaped the journey.

Manriquez says she refuses to be identified by her sexuality, but says she is a mother and a grandmother foremost. She is also an associate member of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters Community. Raised Catholic, she attended Catholic schools and was planning to enter religious life before meeting her former husband, Enrique. She says of this first relationship:

“Enrique was gay. He never came out of the closet but the signs were all there. Being a good Mexican wife I refused to see those signs. I just figured I could carry the family by doing what I had been taught to do. One morning he came home and told me I can’t do this anymore, and he abandoned the family. And I found things like pictures and love letters and the like. And at that point for me the face of “gay” was Enrique. And I really hated him. And it followed that I hated anyone who was gay. His lovers and anyone else. And I honestly believed that anyone who was gay should go to hell. I was upset because my heart had been broken, I was abandoned with two little daughters, two infants, I had debt all the way through the roof. And it was really a difficult time for me but having my background, my up-raising, being raised Catholic and being devout, I realized that I couldn’t let a lie be the basis of my life, including the lie that he was all bad.”

In the midst of this, Manriquez looked to prayer and the support of others for guidance. Years later, her youngest daughter, Cecilia, came out in high school as a lesbian woman. She says of this moment:

“And she came up to me and she said, ‘Mom, I’ve got something to tell you but don’t get mad…Mom, don’t hate me. I date girls. I like girls. Don’t hate me.’ And that was pretty hard because for me I would do anything for my kids…But she was afraid of me, believing with all her heart that I was going to hate her. We talked. I told her, ‘Mija, I love you now the way I loved you before you told me, the way I’ll love you until I die. You’re my jewel, you’re my gift from God.’ “

The project which shared Manriquez’s story is  I’m From Driftwood, which “aims to help LGBTQ people learn more about their community, straight people learn more about their neighbors, and everyone learn more about themselves through the power of storytelling and story sharing.” It was begun by Nathan Manske, inspired by a photo of Harvey Milk, which made Manske realize there are LGBTQ people everywhere in the world. To read more about I’m From Driftwood, click here.

There is no agenda tp the project besides furthering understanding and empathy for LGBTQ people and their allies through storytelling.  Manriquez’ final words of her story make clear how important understanding and empathy are:

“I counseled [Cecilia] on love and commitment and trust and having self-respect for herself and all of these things you’re supposed to tell your children, and I think I did okay except for one thing that I told her, and that was, ‘Careful who you tell.’ And I feel badly for telling her ‘Careful who you tell.’ I told her out of fear but there’s something wrong with that, something very wrong. If she had been straight, I never would have told my daughter ‘Careful who you tell.’ And it’s got to change. We can’t be worried that our kids are going to be harmed because of who they love.”

To watch the video in full, see below or click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

0 replies
  1. tomfluce
    tomfluce says:

    Rosa’s and Enrique’s story is maddening beyond words. Yes her story is heroic and the fulfillment of the ideal of the virtue of love and forgiveness, not to mention of the sacrifice of motherhood no matter the demands. In this context of Bondings, though, the story raises two challenges to all of us. The first is the challenge to the Catholic and all religions to recognize that homosexuality is a normal and a fully potential holiness for living life fully as any other orientation. That is when people like Enrique won’t get stuck in such a hard place. The second is what is still controversial as I have found among us homosexuals. This is the challenge to control one’s sexuality needs in favor of higher needs, as in this case, not abandoning your family, or at least your children. That fact of engendering human beings so dependent for so much and for so long is a big deal. Can we control this? Yes? Should we? Of course.

    So when I realized in elementary school that I had a thing called a vocation–something that has bugged me and everyone else since–and that this meant being celibate, I, of course, took this for granted. Maybe I have a low sex drive and shouldn’t be laying on this control thing on anyone else. But I was a faithful abstainer throughout my youth and right on through seminary and priesthood (ordained in Rome in 1963), a total of of 13+ years. I was told, but never was personally a witness, that some of my seminary classmates experimented with sexual activity. But for me and, I thought, a majority of my classmates,we were faithful celibates and not feeling deprived either. That is how we were going to be 100% at the service of the neediest in the world, anywhere, anytime.

    Then I arrived in 1968 at the point where I conscientiously went on record for married clergy and went through the process of discerning whether I personally should/could commit to marry. I had met my wife-to-be and we did it on Aug. 22, 1970– now for a total of 43+ faithfully married years. Yes I went through at age 62 the process –call it slow, or preferably, thorough–of conscientiously identifying myself as homosexually oriented. I usually refuse to mouth the “G” word because of the stereotypes that arise out of stories like Enrique’s. I never had experimented with homosexuality because 1) I had made a sacred vow for no sex (even though this sounds awful and negative, it was a positive giving out of a sacred context equal to the ecstasies of personally creating a human being); 2)Dr. Kinsey was telling us there was a fluid continuum on which any of us could travel at will. I chose to marry a woman and we engendered and nurtured 3 children and we have continued creating/enjoying family life with 3 grandchildren. Not without it’s soul-stirring sacrifices, but still doable.

    One local clergyman tried to tell me that I had to be “bisexual” since I did marry and am still married to a woman. No. Sorry. To tell me that one cannot have and enjoy sexual relations especially in the creation/nurture of a human being when one is same-sex oriented is simply not a truth I can accept. Does being same-sex oriented present problems in a “mixed” marriage? Of course. And could this be a cause for separation/divorce? Of course. But “abandon” children, wife? Create children in the first place? No! So I leave this already long response with the plea that we homosexuals need to look at the limits to our sexual drive and eventually leave the behaviors totally behind that stalk us today, feeding the prejudice against us from the stereotypes. I am eternally grateful for the same-sex couples in Vermont in 2000 who understood the marriage commitment. That is why I dealt with moving on from my out-dated Kinseyan concepts to embracing my orientation 14 years ago and still not feeling helpless about it with nothing to do but leave home and try out a brand new life. I know that the Unitarians and UCC have created a K-12 Sex ed program that addresses the morality of sexuality. “OWL”- Our Whole Lives. We just need to develop more and institutionalize our convictions.

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