What are you thankful for in 2020? That’s a very hard question for a year that has had a lot of dark clouds. But there have been silver linings, too, and Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S. is a time for us to remember all the good things we have received from God, even if during some years we have to dig a little to remember them.
Every year on Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., Bondings 2.0 presents a bundle of gratitudes from the volunteers, board, and staff of New Ways Ministry.
We all agreed that, like many other LGBTQ and Ally Catholics, we are collectively thankful for Pope Francis’ comments supporting civil unions. So, we decided instead to highlight some of the lesser-known blessings in our lives.
Below are this year’s gratitudes, reminding us that God is always bountiful in blessing us! Please use the “Comments” section of this post to share your own items for which you are thankful.
Bob Brady, Board Member: I am grateful for the new transgender friends I have made this year. I have learned so much from them about their daily life, the relationships that sustain them, the obstacles they must confront, and their successes and failures in gaining and holding employment. I have learned where their needs overlap with, and differ from, others in the LGBTQ community, and they have given me some thoughts about avenues and methods to advocate successfully for them. Each of them is a blessing to me.
Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director: I am so grateful for all the people who have continued to support New Ways Ministry through this treacherous year. Your prayers, financial gifts, and encouragement keep us afloat. I’m also grateful for the ever-expanding field of Catholic LGBTQ ministry and advocacy that I see growing in our church. New names and initiatives are continually spouting and flourishing. All our efforts are building a more just and equal church.
Dr. Jerry Fath, Board Member: Social, political and religious conflict dominate our world. Voices shout and scream, statues tumble, and unrest shatters the fragile veneer of our societal norms, religious beliefs, and standards of living. These dissonant voices appear to be harmonizing with a very conservative judicial system (SCOTUS) and the American hierarchy that openly challenge marriage equality, employment policies, and other social justice issues that touch the core values our LGBTQ community. On top of this, we have all been affected by the scourge of the pandemic. For many, anxiety, fears, and suspension of everyday activities have increased worry about the future and paralyzed our modus vivendi. But for others, this compelling moment in history provides a unique opportunity to reflect upon our values, priorities, commitments and reset our spiritual compass.
The challenge, I believe, is not to be distracted by the external clammer of unrest or polarized judgements but retreat into the silence of our souls and hear the cries of the poor, disenfranchised, marginalized and oppressed. Hopefully, this is the time to reimagine the possibilities found in the promise of the gospels, recommit to our ongoing LGBTQ values, find common ground, and renew the face of our world today. For this, I am most grateful.
Dwayne Fernandes, Director of Spirituality: I am grateful this year for all the awareness and conversations that were generated by the events of 2020. The happy ones were the Pope’s endorsement of same-sex unions and the election of the Biden-Harris team noted for their support on LGBTQ rights and equality. The uncomfortable ones were the discussions on racism intersecting with LGBTQ identities, and a raging pandemic. In all, these were sacred opportunities for listening, for speaking, for being compassionate and for bringing this all to prayer.
Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, Co-Founder: I am thankful for the lesbian nuns who wrote their stories in the soon-to-be-published book, Love Tenderly: Sacred Stories of Lesbian and Queer Religious. The book, which is being published by New Ways Ministry and will be available shortly, is a tribute to all the lesbian and queer women religious over the centuries who lived in silence and fear about their sexuality and to those who are now courageously claiming their sexual identity.
Brian William Kaufman, Blogger: This Thanksgiving, I am so grateful for my boyfriend, Timothy. We met earlier this summer soon after my professional life had unexpectedly sustained a seismic shift due to the global pandemic. Finding love, companionship, and emotional connection during such a volatile time in my life and in our nation’s history was truly an act of God’s loving grace. As a gay cisgender man and a practicing Catholic, it can be challenging to know and feel that God longs for our joy and flourishing as we continue to advocate for LGBTQ equality and justice in our church and in our wider society. Our world has changed profoundly since last March. And even though so many unprecedented uncertainties remain, I remain in awe of having met someone on this journey of life who is so loving, supportive, compassionate, and inspiring.
Kevin Molloy, Campus Ministry Coordinator: This year, I am grateful for the care my colleagues in campus ministry have shown LGBTQ students throughout the U.S. Through their programming, their individual counseling, their messages of welcome and affirmation, and their pursuit of justice, these tireless ministers continue to build God’s Kin-dom on earth. Through their witness of God’s love to the LGBTQ community, they have transformed the Church’s relationship with young LGBTQ people and have modeled Christlike compassion in the face of exclusion. And to the LGBTQ students we minister with: thank you for welcoming us into your lives and journeys. Your embrace of us is a true example of mercy and it is a privilege to walk alongside you.
Ryan Sattler, Board Member: This has been a difficult year. Yet, as people of faith, we are called to be hopeful and to be thankful. So this Thanksgiving I give thanks for the LGBTQ+ Catholics, their families, and allies. Their commitment to work for LGBTQ+ justice and equality is a blessing to all. Locally, we have parishes and individuals of all genders and orientations who aspire to create a visible, affirming, and safe space for people to gather and share their stories. I give thanks for these prophetic people. They desire an inclusive and welcoming church that offers pastoral care and upholds the dignity of each person made in God’s image and likeness. Yes, I am thankful for these brave people of God.
Robert Shine, Associate Director: In spite of 2020’s best efforts, I remain hopeful that LGBTQ equality in the Catholic Church is progressing. Local communities continue to launch LGBTQ ministries, church officials are increasingly open to church blessings for same-gender couples, and, when anti-LGBTQ injustices do occur, Catholics are quick to challenge them. The global Covid pandemic, the Movement for Black Lives, and Pope Francis’ latest encyclical all force us to admit creation’s interconnectedness, and we continue to remind the church that includes equality for LGBTQ people, too. Though at times small, I am grateful this year for every step made towards the collective liberation we seek.
Vernon Smith, Volunteer: This year, I am thankful that Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, DC has demonstrated himself to be a reasonably positive pastoral presence with respect to LGBTQ+ people and other marginalized groups. Each bishop appointed by Pope Francis and who appears to be sensitive to diverse peoples slowly reverses the excessively negative right wing bent of recent generations of bishops. May he continue to grow in his ability to support our communities.
Cristina Traina, Board Member: This year, when so many things are inaccessible, I feel most grateful for the amazing people in my life. I want to lift up my friend Gloria Woods–army vet and diversity educator–for her steadfast work. Since the time when BLM meant Bureau of Land Management, “me too” was a tag-on when anyone mentioned craving ice cream, and her wife was her “partner,” Gloria has been lovingly telling hard truths about race, gender, and queerness to people with the power to enact justice. A firm believer that the hardest work has to be balanced with joy and sheer fun, she is an inspiration to me and to her community of St. Nicholas, Evanston, IL.
Add your own items of gratitude in the “Comments” section of this post.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, November 26, 2020