Looking Toward the Youth Synod and Helping Young LGBT Catholics Tell Their Stories

Now that the World Meeting of Families is over, it’s time to look forward to the next major Catholic Church event:  the Synod of Bishops discussing youth and the church.  It will take place at the Vatican in October, 2018–less than two months away.

The perfect way to connect the WMF and youth synod took place in Dublin last week:  the launch of a website designed to allow LGBTQI youth from around the globe to share their experiences of faith, coming out, oppression, and joy not only with one another, but specifically with the bishops from their nation or region who will be attending the youth synod.  The website is entitled “Equal Future 2018,” and organizer Tiernan Brady says it is the “largest ever global initiative of LGBT groups in over 60 countries, established to raise awareness of the damage done to children when they grow up feeling being LGBT is wrong.”

Emily Dever, Caarlos Velasquez, Xorje Olivares, Tiernan Brady

The launch took place on August 22nd, at a press conference located just across the street from the World  Meeting of  Families.  New Ways Ministry is among the co-sponsors of this project.  Others include the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, We Are Church Ireland, Drachma (Malta), Efeta (Mexico), Cammini di Speranza (Italy), Diversidade Catolica (Brazil), Padis (Chile), DignityUSA, Australian Catholics for Equality, Quest (UK), LGBT+ Catholics Westminster (UK), Gay Christians (Slovakia), Faith and Rainbow (Poland), David and Jonathan (France), HuK (Germany), Farug (Uganda), the Working Group of Catholic Gay Pastors (Netherlands).  More co-sponsors are expected as the word about the project spreads.

At the press conference, four young Catholic LGBT people told parts of their personal journeys growing up LGBT and Catholic.  Eros Shaw, who grew up in a traditional Catholic family in China said:

“As my sexual orientation became more and more apparent, stress from studies and uncnertainties about the future also become more intensive, as did my feelings of guilt towards my parents.  But it did  not stop my feelings from growing. From one day to the next, I struggled in agony.”

Emily Dever, a 22-year old from Florida whose father is a Catholic deacon and who has a transgender sister, explained that her parents were very supportive of her identity awareness:

“Although my older sister has faced far more distress and hatred than I, she plays a vital role in my story and my fire.  The faith that I love and rely on resides often within a religious structure whose community and leaders shame my sister’s very being and my innate ability to love.”

Xorje Olivares, who was born in a Mexican-American family in Texas and now lives and works in New York City where he is part of  Out at St. Paul, the LGBT ministry of St. Paul the Apostle parish, Manhattan.  He described the stress he felt coming to awareness of his gay identity:

“Towards those later years I alrewady knew I was gay but couldn’t quite figure out God’s plan for me.  The Church was no help, nor was my heavily Latino community, both of which were seemingly unwelcoming to kids like me back then, based comments made by certain authority figures.

“I’ve come to accept the fact that being gay is a choice, but God’s, not mine.”

Caarlos Velasquez, an LGBT young adult from Venezuela described, in Spanish, that immigrating to Ireland became a necessity for personal safety and security issues.

Ursula Halligan

Ursula Halligan, a Catholic lesbian media personality in Ireland, was also on hand to promote the new website.  Having come out at 54, Halligan had a different, but no less urgent, perspective than the younger people present. Ireland’s Gay Community News captured some of her comments:

“For almost 40 years, I kept a secret bottled up inside of me. For all those years I had repressed an essential part of my humanity, my instinct to love.

“I was truly astonished by the impact telling my story had, I couldn’t believe that by simply telling the truth, that I had been able to touch and help so many people. . . .

“Let [bishsops] know what it feels like to grow up being told you are objectively disordered and that your love is intrinsically evil. How else will they know if we don’t tell them.”

During the 2015 Synod on the Family, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago said it would have been good for the synod bishops to hear testimony from families with LGBT members.  While we can still hope and pray that the organizers of the synod on youth will have the wisdom to let LGBT Catholic youth tell their stories to the assembled bishops.  But if that doesn’t come through, this website is a great way for youth to get their messages to the bishops who are synod delegates from their nations or regions.

Share the information about the Equal Future website, www.equalfuture2018.com, with young LGBT Catholics that you know.  Encourage them to tell their stories.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, August 29, 2018

Related articles:

RTE.ie:  “Church urged to change tack on LGBT issues” part of  “Abuse scandals have caused distrust in church’s message – Martin

ITV.com: Activists urge Catholic Church to change tack on LGBT issues

Advocate.com: Catholic Deacon, Bi Daughter to Promote Inclusion at Church Event


1 reply
  1. Mary Jo
    Mary Jo says:

    “Bishops discussing youth in the church” This phrase, used to open this article, actually turned my stomach and made my skin crawl.


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