A new film by a group sponsored by the Marianists has premiered that shares the perspectives of LGBTQ+ people with the wider church in the hopes of prompting further dialogue about inclusion.
The LGBT Initiative of the Marianist Social Justice Collaborative produced the film, titled Living Our Marianist Charism: Embracing the LGBTQ+ Community,” as a “collection of stories and perspectives from LGBTQ+ persons, family members, and allies in the Marianist world.” The film, which is available on YouTube here, is intended to be a prompt for dialogue and for action, according to the Initiative’s website:
“We hope that many people in the Marianist family and the larger Church have an opportunity to watch the video and enter into dialogue with their community. We wish to engage in communal dialogue and discernment with the Church and our Marianist family through the sharing of personal stories and experiences. We believe it is crucial, when discussing these teachings, to take into consideration findings in biology, anthropology, and psychology. Most importantly, we believe we are called to be prophetic on the profundity of God’s love toward everyone and our call to be witnesses who embody God’s love toward LGBTQ+ people.”
The film features the stories of over a dozen people, including a former Marianist provincial, a gay Marianist brother, two Marianist sisters, and a number of lay Marianists, several of whom have been longtime LGBTQ advocates. The following are but of few quotes from these powerful stories.
Brother David Betz shared about his experience coming out as gay in religious life:
“Some of the first people that I told when I came out were fellow Marianists, and that was a very grace-filled moment when you have your own brothers able to say, ‘Yes, David, we support you and we love you for being who you are.'”
Dominic Garascia, the gay son of Catholic LGBTQ advocates Beth and Tony Garascia, lay Marianists, discussed the journey he and his parents walk together in the church:
“It’s been incredibly powerful and heartening to see both my mom and my dad struggle with their faith in such an explicit way, both because it gives me an example of how I can live out that struggle but also because it makes me feel loved to see you fight for my space in the church.”
Brother Brian Zampier spoke to the Marian beliefs of his community as they relate to self-understanding:
“When I was growing up, I didn’t understand what was going on with me. Mary, now I see her as the role model of her not understanding what was happening to her. But I realized that she didn’t keep it a secret.”
The film features an LGBTQ couple, Miguel Ochoa and Jose Martinez, Jr., as well. Ochoa said of their relationship:
“I think our relationship is God showing each one of us how much He loves us. I strive to be a more loving, compassionate person because I want him to feel that way. I feel like I see and receive God’s love through the way he loves me.”
Lay Marianist Bradley Leger commented on the reality that LGBTQ people and their loved ones are often on the peripheries of the church:
“That’s where I find God, in the liminal space, where there’s powerlessness. That, to me, is where love is.”
Several of the people interviewed spoke more abstractly about the world–and the church they believe Jesus intends. Mark Guevarra, who was fired by a Catholic employer over his sexual orientation, spoke of Jesus’ prayer for the church to be one as the desired outcome for these efforts.
Marianist Sr. Nicole Trahan said:
“We look at our understanding of the kingdom of God, we have to be inclusive because that is the vision that God has for this world.”
Getting to that place is no simple task. Ish Ruiz, one of the Initiative’s leaders, offered a starting point:
“We don’t know all the answers. that’s maybe a first step to dialogue.”
To facilitate more conversation, the film is accompanied by a resource guide, available here, that includes short prayers and questions for reflection.
The Marianist family includes members of the Society of Mary, an order for priests and brothers, the Marianist Sisters, and affiliated lay people. The LGBT Initiative’s goal is notably not just pastoral care, but a desire to be a “prophetic witness” on welcoming and embracing LGBTQ people in the church and in the world. In addition to the film, the Initiative regularly hosts retreats and has previously published, “Addressing LGBT Issues with Youth: A Resource for Educators.”
Many LGBTQ ministries are parish-based, as New Ways Ministry’s LGBTQ-friendly parishes and faith communities listing attests. But what is special about the Marianist effort is that it is in a sense rooted in religious life, which has been understood to be a more prophetic space in the church’s history. More spiritual families of religious orders and their affiliated lay people who share common charisms should draw on these rich traditions to develop similar ministries so they, too, could be prophetic witnesses in dialogue. Congratulations to the Marianist family for leading the way!
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 25, 2020