A pilgrimage of LGBT Catholics will be welcomed by Cardinal Joseph Tobin at the Archdiocese of Newark’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart when they arrive there on Sunday, May 21, 2017.
Sacred Heart Parish, South Plainfield, Church of the Precious Blood, Monmouth Beach are organizing the event, which seems to have had a serendipitous origin.
Rev. Alexander Santora, a Hoboken, N.J. priest, described in an NJ.com essay how the pilgrimage idea grew:
“David Harvie was at a regional meeting in Brooklyn of the Interparish Collaborative [a group of about 15 Catholic parishes in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut region that have LGBT ministries]. . . . He was seated next to Redemptorist Father Francis Gargani and talked about how there are so many beautiful church edifices that deserve to be seen.
” ‘I am a church architecture geek,’ Harvie said, mentioning, for example, the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark.
“Gargani, who resides at the Redemptorist Provincial House in Brooklyn, said he would bring it up to the new Archbishop of Newark, Joseph Cardinal Tobin, also a Redemptorist, who was coming to dinner the next evening.”
“I am delighted that you and the LGBTQ brothers and sisters plan to visit our beautiful cathedral. You will be very welcome!”
The mass will take place in Our Lady Chapel of the Cathedral, at 3:30 p.m., followed by a tour of the building.
It has been a long time since a bishop has welcomed a group of LGBT people to the local cathedral. Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen welcomed the DignityUSA convention to the Seattle cathedral in 1983 (though his welcome message was delivered by audio recording because he had been summoned to Rome). When Rochester, N.Y.’s Bishop Matthew Clark held a mass for the gay and lesbian community in his cathedral in 1997, 1300 people showed up for the space which could hold only 900, so the remaining spilled out onto the sidewalks. A year later Richmond, Virginia’s Bishop Walter Sullivan followed suit with a similar mass in his diocesan cathedral, telling participants, “You are welcome here. It’s about time someone told you that.” In 2015, a group of LGBT pilgrims led by New Ways Ministry was given VIP seating at the papal audience in St. Peter’s Square in Rome on Ash Wednesday.
The organizer of the event reflected on how far the LGBT community and the Catholic Church have come in his lifetime:
Harvie recalled first marching in the annual Gay Rights Parade in Manhattan at a time when a wall of police would separate the marchers from entering St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue.
“We could not get anywhere near our Catholic church,” Harvie recalled, contrasting that experience with the gesture of Cardinal Tobin. “No one can believe it.”
Harvie expects an overflow crowd in the chapel, which can only hold 40 to 50 people. But that would be a wonderful problem to have, he said.
Harvie is the facilitator of the LGBT ministry in Sacred Heart parish, South Plainfield, N.J.
It is so good to see that a cardinal is eager to extend a welcome to a group of LGBT Catholics. Indeed, his example should be emulated by others. If bishops want to make Pope Francis’ message of welcome tangible to LGBT people, more instances like this need to take place. God will surely bless this beautiful initiative!
For more information on the pilgrimage, click here or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You can contact David Harvie at Church of the Sacred Heart, 200 Randolph Ave., South Plainfield, NJ 07080; phone: 908-822-5895.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, May 9, 2017