So Much to Be Thankful For!

Vaccines. Lower covid infection rates. More concerted efforts to prevent climate change. The end of a 20-year war. In the wider world, it is easier in 2021 than it was in 2020 to list things to be thankful for.

But what about in the world of Catholic LGBTQ issues?

Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S. is a time for us to remember all the good things we have received from God. Every year on this day, Bondings 2.0 presents a bundle of gratitudes from the volunteers, board, and staff of New Ways Ministry. We asked respondents to focus solely on the world of Catholic LGBTQ topics. And we invite our readers to offer their own prayers of thanksgiving in the “Comments” section of the post.

Below are this year’s gratitudes.  May they remind us that God is always bountiful in blessing us!

Michaelangelo Allocca, Blogger: I am grateful for two letters from Pope Francis in the past year. First, in June, to Fr. James Martin, SJ, on the occasion of the Outreach LGBTQ Catholic Ministry Webinar, thanking him for his work with our community, and encouraging him to continue his ministry ‘in the style of God’; and more recently, just this month, to gay Catholic journalist Michael O’Loughlin, thanking him for his book on the ministries of those who cared for AIDS patients in the darkest days of the epidemic.

Bob Brady, Board Member: I am grateful for our community of LGBTQ+ people, including all those who support them and advocate for them, and those who share their gifts of treasure, talent and time to uphold and advance our community.  The road is hard sometimes, but the journey is made lighter by those who travel with us.

Rev. Peter Daly, Board Member: This thanksgiving I am grateful for the presence of Jose in my life. He came to me with his cancer and need for help but he has given my life joy, companionship, and meaning. “A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter” (Sirach 6:14).

Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director:  So grateful, as I am every year and all through the year, for New Ways Ministry’s financial benefactors who make our work for LGBTQ equality and justice possible. We do not do our work alone. We see every donor as an essential part of our ministry. Every day of the year, I pray to God for the gift of our donors.

Elise Dubravec, Blogger: As a graduate student in theology school, I am thankful for finding other LGBTQ+ students who study theology in hopes to build a Church of solidarity and inclusion. They inspire me to continue advocating for justice within our Church.

Jerry Fath, Board Member: Since summer I have had to deal with multiple deaths in my family as well as lifelong friends.  Given my age this should not come as a surprise but rather a reminder that tomorrow is promised to no one.  Along with this, the hatred, discrimination, and political unrest continue to affect our LGBTQ community in a disproportionate way, especially for the black, women, and the trans community.  The ecclesial leadership continues to fail miserably in addressing these pressing pastoral needs.  They seem to be shepherds who have lost their way.  Without spiritual and creative leadership, suffering, pain, and death continue to widen the distance between peoples regardless age, race, color, gender identity, or creed.  The temptation to surrender to despair and apathy by accepting the status quo is not an option.    Though I struggle at times, I reflect upon my family and friends who have passed from this life to the next.  I am grateful for the hope they shared, their dedicated love and compassionate presence in my life.  For them, and those that continue to inspire me, I remain committed to the Gospel message of peace and justice for all.

Dwayne Fernandes, Director of Spirituality:  I am grateful for this year at New Ways Ministry because it shed light on the distinction between church as “building” and church as “mission.” As I mentored an 18-year-old gay migrant from El Salvador, I was directed to a God who is found on dusty roads and who crosses borders rather than reclining in ornamented tabernacles.  My experiences with this young adult took me through the pages of scripture where migration and displacement are real events woven into historical and biblical narrative. As an immigrant myself, living in a foreign land, I could relate to the boy’s tale of how socioeconomic, political and religious systems pushed him to journey. In his cry to the living God, I see God responding to his immediate needs but I am more aware of how God is directing this young gay man to find his home in Christ – a refuge and sanctuary that is interminable.

Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, Co-Founder: The Catholic community seems more open now to accepting our gay priests and brothers but has thought little about the existence of lesbian nuns. During this year, I have been especially grateful for the lesbian nuns who courageously told their stories in the anthology, Love Tenderly: Sacred Stories of Lesbian and Queer Religious. Bless you, my sisters!

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Board Member Emeritus: I am most of all thankful that at this time parents like my mother no longer live in fear that her son will go to hell because he is gay! I was abled to reassure her about my brother, but now Pope Francis, by words and actions, has made this a universal message for the Church.

Barbara Ann Kozee, Blogger: I am grateful for LGBTQ Catholic youth. It takes a great deal of courage and compassion to come into yourself when you carry these identities, and I draw hope for the future of our church from our young people.

Sister Elizabeth Linehan, RSM, Board Member: I am thankful for what the Sisters of Mercy Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity work group has been able to accomplish, though the task is not finished.  This fall we have engaged several hundred participants in sessions on the development of Church moral teaching in these areas, and on the centrality of conscience. The sessions, and we, have been graced.

Elsie Miranda, Board Member: While there are many things to be grateful for, this year I am particularly grateful to be included in a writing project with Queer Catholic Theologians of Color with editors Miguel Díaz, Rev. Bryan Massingale, and Craig Ford.  I am also grateful to the mothers of Trans children and lesbian daughters who were willing to share their stories of radical love with for this writing project. Grace abounds! Gracias!

Ryan Sattler, Board Member:  I am grateful for Catholic LGBTQ+ Allies. Those moms and dads, sisters, brothers, grandparents, priests and nuns, and all of us who love our LGBTQ+ children, family and friends. I thank these wonderful allies who are committed to reform the Church into a welcoming, inclusive, and loving Body of Christ. So we give thanks for these amazing allies and pray they never give up on that dream for a new Church where All Are Truly Welcome. AMEN!

Michael Sennett, Blogger: LGBTQ+ religious and clergy, whether out or not, radiate immense courage. I marvel at their ability to proclaim the Good News in the face of homophobia and transphobia. Truly their hearts beat with the selflessness and compassion of Christ. It is for their witness that I am exponentially grateful.

Robert Shine, Associate Director: The creativity of LGBTQ Catholics and our allies is such a gift to the movement for equality, and I am especially grateful this year for it. The pandemic these past eighteen months or so has forced us to adapt how we do this work, but it has not stopped parish groups from developing, educators from doing their own learning, and the People of God from entering into a synodal journey with tremendous promise. But two example of this creativity are Mary DeBernardo’s generous offering of her crafting gifts to create Christmas ornaments with New Ways Ministry’s logo on them and the insights that Bondings 2.0 readers offer as comments each day. To everyone who sustains Catholic LGBTQ ministry, thank you.

Vernon Smith, Volunteer: I am thankful for those people who are quiet, unknown heroes for the Catholic LGBTQ+ community. I occasionally stumble unwittingly across people that I learn support us in ways about which I had no idea nor appreciation. I am thinking of those who do not seek recognition or publicity, but who love and support us simply and straightforwardly. In this era of social media noise, their quiet, loving actions rise above the din to inspire true hope.

Cristina Traina, Board Member: I am grateful for the Synod on Synodality because it welcomes all LGBTQ people–Catholics, ex-Catholics, never-Catholics–to dream about how Catholics can best be God’s light and life in the world, together.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, November 25, 2021

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