A Catholic nun was included on a list of “19 incredible lesbians who are loud, proud and making the world a better place,” published by Yahoo News in honor of Lesbian Visibility Week.
The list highlighted Sr. Janet Rozzano, a Sister of Mercy, for publicly celebrating her lesbian identity. Rozzano was a contributor to Love Tenderly: Sacred Stories of Lesbian and Queer Religious, an anthology published by New Ways Ministry.
In an Openly essay which was based on her contribution to the anthology, Rozzano wrote:
“It wasn’t until I was in my 40s and 25 years in a religious community of sisters that I began to deal with and integrate my sexual identity. During those years I struggled with a church and society largely silent about and often unwelcoming of LGBT+ people. I struggled to overcome my own fears – of disapproval, rejection, internalised homophobia – if I told others I was lesbian. . .
“The joys and blessings that have been a part of my story, however, are much more important than the areas of struggle. In this whole process of coming to understand and accept myself as a lesbian sister, I believe I have been powerfully touched by grace.”
Rozzano has experienced God in solidarity with other queer people, she said:
“Having experienced the pain of the Church’s or society’s rejection of LGBT+ people, I feel continually called to be true to myself in the midst of this oppression. My faith has been strengthened by so many of the liturgies I have attended with gay and lesbian people. When I pray with them, I hear the liberating message of the Gospel in powerful and living ways that I don’t always hear in other settings.”
The sister wrote that she has been supported by many of her fellow Sisters of Mercy:
“With each new step on this journey over the years, I have felt strengthened and encouraged by the affirmation and support of so many of my sisters. Their response is a source of great pride for me, as well as a very precious gift. The Spirit has led me in ways that sometimes feel so unorthodox, that confound my natural reticence, and that demand risks and a courage I never dreamed I possessed.
“Yet I have a strong sense that what I am doing is in the best tradition of my community, the Sisters of Mercy. Our foundress, Mother Catherine McAuley, would understand and bless my journey. She always urged the community to reach out and embrace those most in need with compassion and practical help, to open the door to the marginalised and outsiders, and to follow Jesus’s example of abundant love for all people.”
Since media narratives rarely emphasize how many queer people are religious, it is great to see women with public faith identities highlighted in the list of notable lesbians, too. The next generation of queer Catholics could learn a lot from elders like Rozzano. Their stories need to be shared!
For more information about Love Tenderly: Sacred Stories of Lesbian and Queer Religious, including how to obtain a copy of the book, click here.
—Mac Svolos, New Ways Ministry, May 24, 2021