Earlier this summer, Good Shepherd Catholic Church, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, held a Mass of Inclusion to welcome LGBTQ people to the church. Father Greg Greiten, an openly gay Catholic priest, presided at this first openly inviting LGBTQ mass in the Milwaukee area. Fr. Greg welcomed the congregation of about 60 people by saying, “I know those of us in this room wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t encountered wounds.”
Connecting these wounds to the wounds of Jesus he went on, “Jesus shows his wounds to his disciples. In our lives, we have to have the courage to show our wounds and find healing; find those who are safe, who can journey with us…How many have left because they were so deeply wounded by a community that was called to love us?”
A blogger for Still Great in America captured much of the homily, which was a message of welcome and affirmation. Father Greg, pastor of St. Bernadette’s parish, Milwaukee, continued his message of healing by stating “My prayer is this – take time to stop, to listen, and to be renewed. It’s in that we are healed. This is only the beginning. . . All we want to hear is that we are God’s Beloved. We are loved by God for who we were made to be … that’s what we are called to do, ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’”
During the Prayers of the Faithful, one intention offered was “May this Mass be a sign to (the LGBT community) that our doors are open and we welcome them here.”
The Mass is one more sign of how grassroots Catholics are doing the pastoral work of welcoming. A survey conducted in 2014 by the Pew Research Center identified 70 percent of all Catholic adults as believing homosexuality should be accepted by the Church, with 85 percent of Catholics between the ages of 18-29 holding the same view.
With this growing message of acceptance, the number of openly gay priests continues to remain low. Earlier this year, The New York Times noted that less than 10 priests in the United States have come out publicly, even though gay men comprise at least 30 to 40 percent of the American Catholic clergy, according to estimates from gay priests and reasearchers.
After being asked if he had regrets about coming out publicly, Father Greg said, “Do you know what freedom is? I was chained and bound by shame put on me by others. Today, I walk in freedom. Today, I have my life.” Father Greg was received with a standing ovation when he came out to his parish in December 2017
At the social which followed the end of the inclusion mass, one attendee said the last time he came to the parish was 1973. Others talked about the ways that they kept up Catholic traditions privately because they did not feel welcome in traditional parish life.
The blogger noted that when she returned home after the mass, her husband joked that she was going to be excommunicated because of her excitement about the event. “Let them try!” she said, “ I already have a post-schism priest!What are they going to do? Ex-communicate us all?”
—Marisabel Alonso, July 18, 2019