The Twin Cities’ Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM) has been one of the oldest and most effective regional LGBT ministries in our Church since it first began its work in 1980. Because this Minnesota group has a long and valued history, it was with more than a little sadness that I learned this week that they were closing up shop. My sadness was ameliorated somewhat, though, when I learned that the Committee’s work will be continued by two other organizations.
The news was announced on The Wild Reed blog, which is maintained by Michael Bayly, who for many years was the executive coordinator of the group, which offered programs and resources to LGBT Catholics, their families, and pastoral ministers. Bayly notes that members of CPCSM determined that their work was completed–and that includes a very impressive list of accomplishments which helped transform the Catholic LGBT landscape in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Bayly wrote:
“Basically, the board feels that CPCSM . . . has run its course. We’ve accomplished some incredible things in our 33-year history, including groundbreaking LGBT sensitivity training in local parishes in the 1980s; safe staff training in eight of the eleven Catholic high schools in the 1990s; publication of the first (and to date only) safe staff training manual for Catholic high schools in 2007; and the forming of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN initiative in 2010, which played an important role in defeating the anti-marriage equality amendment of 2012, paving the way formarriage equality in Minnesota in 2013. There’s still work to be done, but we’re confident that both Dignity Twin Cities and the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (which CPCSM helped co-found in 2009) are more than able to carry forward many aspects of CPCSM’s mission and work.”
The CPCSM has had a distinctly Catholic vision of their identity and mission. On their web page, they state:
“. . . [L]ike many Catholics, we believe the hallmark of our Catholic faith is a trusting openness and loving response to the presence and action of God within all of creation, including the vast and diverse arena of human life and relationships. We see this “trusting openness and loving response” as a profoundly catholic (i.e., universal) endeavor. We work toward recognizing and celebrating a catholicity of life, by which we mean the discovery and celebration of God as creator and lover of all humanity, a God who desires all people to experience both personal and communal flourishing.”
CPCSM began officially in 1980 by a group of people from Dignity/Twin Cities and pastoral ministers who worked in the local archdiocese. In another Wild Reed blog post, the early history was remembered:
“[The founders were] David McCaffrey, who at that time was serving as Dignity Twin Cities’ pastoral coordinator (1980-1981); Bill Kummer, Dignity’s pastoral coordinator and outreach director from 1977 to 1980; Father Herb Hayek, OP, a Dignity Twin Cities co-founder ans regular Mass presider; Cindy Scott, then a staff member of the Archdiocesan Urban Affairs Commission and later an editor and writer for various local LGBT and women’s publications; Donna Kurimay, then vice-president of the local chapter of the Association of Pastoral Ministers; and Karen Chicoine, then an administrative assistant in the Archdiocesan Catholic Education Center and a former religious for 15 years.
“It should also be noted that the first stirrings of CPCSM’s outreach and pastoral efforts predate its May 9, 1980 founding by almost two years. In the fall of 1978, in an attempt to help educate ministers working in parishes, Bill Kummer, David McCaffrey, and a number of other members of Dignity Twin Cities began a series of monthly speaker-luncheons. Over the next two years, these meetings were held at various parishes, usually hosted by a local pastor whom Dignity had contacted and who, in turn, invited other priests who were known to be hospitable to LGBT persons and sensitive to their pastoral needs.
“Initially, 20-30 priests attended these monthly events where they would listen to a local professional speak on some aspect of the lives, needs, and gifts of LGBT people. Seated among the priests. Dignity members attempted to make their guests feel welcome as they chatted with them over lunch. More than a few priests remarked that this was the first time they had met psychologically and spiritually healthy gay men and lesbians. Most of their previous encounters had been either in the confessional or in a counseling situation.
“Eventually the speaker-luncheons were expanded to include the non-ordained Catholic pastoral professionals in the archdiocese. “
This same blog post also recounts a productive meeting the leaders had with Archbishop John Roach, who led the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis at the time, and was also president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. (For a series of Wild Reed blog posts exploring the history of CPCSM’s relationship with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, see the Related articles section at the end of this post.)
Last year, CPCSM conducted a survey at the Twin Cities’ Gay Pride Festival, and one of the top issues people wanted to see the group work on was anti-bullying programs. While CPCSM had already made great headway in that area by publishing Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective, edited by Michael Bayly. Bayly noted that the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform, which is one of the groups that will continue CPCSM’s work in this area.
One CPCSM achievement that was not mentioned in Bayly’s blog post is the fact that this group represented a model of regional coalition work that can be replicated in other areas of the nation. It is so important for Catholic parishes and individuals to support one another in LGBT ministry because the work can sometimes seem daunting. In the New York metropolitan area, a number of gay-friendly Catholic parishes meet regularly to support, encourage, and learn from one another.
While it is sad to see CPCSM close, it is comforting to know that their agenda has been taken up by the broader Catholic Church reform movement in the Twin Cities area. More importantly, the good work that CPCSM has done over the decades will live on in the many lives and institutions which they have touched and transformed.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry