Though they often do not make headlines, parish LGBT ministries are one of the most important ways that Catholics are living into the inclusive and just church which they seek. One writer recently shared how such a parish ministry helped her become Catholic, a story which should inspire Catholic advocates for LGBT equality to keep going.
Caitlin Weaver wrote in The Huffington Post about her experience of becoming Catholic because of LGBT pride . Weaver’s husband was a Catholic, and they at first lived in New York City where his parish was inclusive. But after moving to Atlanta, she was not hopeful of finding an LGBT-accepting Catholic church–until one day she and her husband went to the city’s Pride celebratioon:
“And there they were. Decked out in rainbow T-shirts, the members of Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, a downtown Atlanta Catholic church, waved and smiled at us. We had a warm power chat, and they sent us off with bedazzled fridge magnets, T-shirts and our promise to check out Mass the next day. The church was only 2 miles from our house.
“The next morning, we parked on an empty street in the hollowed out downtown neighborhood known mostly for its homeless shelters and decrepit government buildings. The church soared proudly upward in the midst of the decay. Inside, we encountered a packed house and a dull roar of pleasantries as people hugged and greeted each other in the pews. Nearly half the congregation wore rainbow T-shirts emblazoned with the name of the church. In the still-informally segregated South, it was the most mixed group I had seen — people of every race, young and old, gay and straight. Our pew alone felt like a New York City subway car (minus the smell).
“The priest, a genial Santa Claus type, spoke passionately about Jesus’ love for all people. He closed by reminding those who planned to march in the Pride parade after church to wear their T-shirts and noting that the next LGBTQ church potluck was taking place next Friday. The choir nearly blew the roof off with a rousing spiritual that had everyone clapping and dancing in the pews. As the Mass ended, the priest and the deacons threw off their robes to reveal their own rainbow T-shirts and marched proudly down the aisle to wild applause.”
Almost immediately, Weaver and her husband settled on the Shrine becoming their parish. Weaver reflected further in her piece that her experience during Pride and since then is, but should not be, relatively unique. Noting both the Shrine’s history of longstanding ministries to the HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ communities and also her awareness of athe present clergy sexual abuse crisis, Weaver commented:
“If we truly want to move away from the corrupt and insular church of the past, we need a blueprint of openness and radical hospitality for the future. Many other Catholics share this conviction. . .When I look around my church, however, I see a future I want to be a part of. So although I never wanted to belong to a Catholic church, that’s where you’ll find me every Sunday. I baptized my son there. I do service there. I have a freaking bumper sticker with the name of our church on my car. . .This year when I’m marching in the Pride parade with others from my church, I’ll likely look around and sadly question the absence of other Catholic churches. I will also be filled with gratitude that, for now, I’ve found the place for me, where grace abounds and everyone is welcome to it.”
The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Atlanta is one of some 200 churches on New Ways Ministry’s listing of LGBT-friendly parishes and communities (which you can find here). Also included on that list is a church recently profiled in the National Catholic Reporter for its 90 ministries, Holy Name of Mary in San Dimas, California, which hosts “No Barriers to Christ” as a ministry for LGBT Catholics, families, and allies. You can read more stories of inclusion in local communities using the “Parishes & Pastoral Care” category in the list of “Categories” on the right-hand column of this page (or by clicking here).
Most often, however, the slow and steady efforts of Catholics in the pews are not covered by the media or are even widely known. With so many headlines dedicated to the bishops’ politicking, the local work can seem insignificant or be forgotten. But it is a mistake to let these good works slip out of sight. For there are countless warm conversations over potluck dinners, there are times of worship where deep emotions are shared in community, there are healing embraces and inspiring voices, and there are moments to challenge injustices in the Church. One day, when we can truly sing of the Catholic Church that all are unconditionally welcome, it will be because these acts of love, more than any bishop’s statement or papal act, that changed the Church.
Should your parish or faith community be included on our LGBT-friendly listing? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 20, 2018