Last month’s “Pilgrimage of Mercy,” sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Alumni Association of Notre Dame and St. Mary College, was a plea for extending mutual mercy between the LGBT community and the institutional Catholic Church.
The march, which began in New York City’s Central Park, paused for a prayer rally at Columbus Circle, and concluded by participating in the Sunday liturgy at St. Paul the Apostle parish, attracted about 50 participants. Greg Bourke, a gay Notre Dame alumnus who organized the event, explained to The Observer the intention of the program:
” ‘What we wanted to show with this pilgrimage is that being merciful and forgiving is an interactive process,’ Bourke said. ‘We extended our forgiveness and mercy to the Catholic Church, and we ask for those same things in return.’
“Bourke said the rally was meant to be ‘an expression of faithful LGBTQ Catholics.’
” ‘There are many of us, and Pope Francis has started to push that door open for us,’ he said, referring to the statements the pope has made on LGBTQ issues.”
He expressed a similar sentiment to The National Catholic Reporter:
“We are both seeking mercy from our church, and in return we offer mercy and forgiveness to all those in our Church who have not been so gracious to us in the past,” said Bourke.
The idea of LGBT people and the institutional church showing mutual respect to one another was the theme of Jesuit Fr. James Martin’s talk when he accepted New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award last Sunday. You can read his talk by clicking here.
Bourke also recalled Notre Dame’s legendary president, Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, as an inspiration for the event:
” ‘By supporting the civil rights movement among conservative circles, he [Hesburgh]was ahead of the curve in many ways,’ Bourke said. ‘Now, he is respected and admired for that courage.’
“Bourke said a main theme in the day’s speeches was the need for mutual reconciliation.
” ‘We all need to give a little and work better at understanding each other,’ he said. ‘We need to find that area we can agree on.’ . . .
” ‘We need someone willing to take a controversial stand, someone within Catholic leadership and the Catholic community,’ Bourke said. ‘Notre Dame could do that.’ “
The event was modeled on a similar Pilgrimage of Mercy in Louisville, Kentucky, held earlier this year.
At the New York event, legendary television talk show host Phil Donahue was one of the speakers at the prayer rally. Other speakers included: Jack Bergen, of the Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College; Chris Hartman of Catholics for Fairness; Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry executive director; Fr. Warren Hall, an openly priest from the Newark archdiocese who was recently because of his support for LGBT issues; Dave Swinarski, a St. Paul’s parishioner and a leader of their OUT at St.Paul’s LGBT ministry; and Holly Cargill-Cramer and Rosemary Grebin Palms of Fortunate Families.
Legendary television talk show host Phil Donahue was one of the speakers at the prayer rally. Other speakers included: Jack Bergen, of the Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College; Chris Hartman of Catholics for Fairness; Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry executive director; Fr. Warren Hall, an openly priest from the Newark archdiocese who was recently because of his support for LGBT issues; Dave Swinarski, a St. Paul’s parishioner and a leader of their OUT at St.Paul’s LGBT ministry; and Holly Cargill-Cramer and Rosemary Grebin Palms of Fortunate Families.
At the rally, DeBernardo called for greater conversation between bishops and LGBT people:
“This morning, all of us gathered here renew our call to our church, and especially to our church’s leaders, the U.S. bishops, to reject homophobic and transphobic words and deeds of the past, and instead to reach out in a spirit of mercy to LGBT Catholics who are an important but often under-recognized blessing to our Church. And we ask LGBT Catholics to show mercy to church leaders for past harm, to offer forgiveness and reconciliation to them, just as Jesus offered forgiveness and reconciliation to Peter who denied him three times.
“In this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, we ask the bishops to remember the words of Pope Francis, spoken in a homily soon after his election in 2013, when he said that from Jesus ‘we do not hear the words of scorn, we do not hear words of condemnation, but only words of love, of mercy, which are an invitation to conversation.’ This year of mercy is a time to begin the conversation. It’s a time for both the church’s bishops and LGBT Catholics to sit down together in humble and honest dialogue. May the Spirit of God open minds, hearts, ears, and mouths so that this dialogue can take place with understanding and charity.”
The Pilgrimage was co-sponsored by the following organizations: Catholics for Fairness, GLAAD, HRC, New Ways Ministry, Equality Blessed, Dignity/USA, Dignity/New York, Freedom for All Americans, Out At St Paul, Fortunate Families and Believe Out Loud.
–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 3, 2016