Priest Credits LGBTQ Parishioners with Keeping Ministry Alive During Covid Pandemic

Fr. Richard Prendergast

A Chicago priest has written about how the LGBTQ community stepped up during the pandemic to keep parish life alive, which could teach church leaders a wider lesson.

Fr. Richard Prendergast of St. Gertrude Parish wrote in the National Catholic Reporter that when the pandemic changed everything in March 2020, “members of the LGBTQ+ community answered that call for help.”

Prendergast lauds parishioners’ response generally as they enabled liturgies and activities to continue, but more specifically, the priest writes at one point:

“The only reason we had those sufficient volunteers for the COVID protocols was because, first and foremost, our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters stepped forward and did the work.”

Prendergast contrasts his parish’s experience with another church moment during the pandemic: the March 2021 Vatican’s ban on blessing same-gender couples. He sent a letter to parishioners at the time that expressed “my utter dismay at the ignorance and bigotry that statement exhibited.” He received an outpouring of gratitude for it. The priest continues:

“Here is my point. I believe the pandemic was in this one way an extraordinary gift to the world. Not the sickness and death — that was and continues to be horrible and sometimes seems even Godforsaken. But it was a full-stop for a world so busy about so many things that we often forget what matters most–one another. In this sense, COVID 19 was and could continue to be a profound spiritual moment for all the world’s inhabitants. . .

“In my heart of hearts, I would love to see a statement of apology for that hateful statement about same-sex blessings. But short of that, I can at least give public credit to the LGBTQ+ members of our parish whose faith-filled service made possible our reopening and regular schedule of services.

“I stand in awe and respect that these women and men have remained in the church — not only remained but continued to minister to all the members of our parish. Quite literally, without them we would not have reopened for Mass when we did. Nor would we have had the confidence that we could easily welcome every grieving family to a funeral, and every joyful bride and groom for their wedding, and every beaming young family to their child’s baptism.”

Prendergast’s counsel to the Vatican “and all who continue to hold people who are different from them in sexual orientation in thinly veiled contempt” is to recognize Jesus’ priorities expressed in the Greatest Commandment which do not include “any discrimination.” (Fr. Prendergast’s full column can be read by clicking here.)

Too often, LGBTQ parishioners involved in ministry go unnoticed or must keep semi- or wholly-closeted to carry out their work. But, as at St. Gertrude’s, it is often LGBTQ people who are the backbone of parish ministries. The queer community’s unique gifts enrich the church’s life greatly. Fr. Prendergast’s acknowledgement of this reality is a welcome and necessary tribute.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 9, 2021

2 replies
  1. Caroline osella
    Caroline osella says:

    Thanks for sharing this heartening news. It’s easy to walk away from the church and write it off, but many feel called to stay and struggle and work from inside for change. Stories like this help bring hope and a sense of belonging.

    Reply

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