Pope Francis has written a supportive letter to Sr. Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, describing her work as in “‘the style’ of God.”
America broke news of the pope’s handwritten December letter to Gramick, which was sent to mark her 50th anniversary of being involved in LGBTQ ministry. The letter reads, in part:
“Your letter reminded me of ‘the style’ of God… God has his own style to communicate with us. And we could summarize that style in three words: closeness, compassion, tenderness.
“And I am thinking of your 50 years of ministry, which were 50 years with this ‘style of God,’ 50 years of closeness, of compassion and of tenderness.
“You have not been afraid of ‘closeness,’ and in getting close you did it ‘suffering with’ [compassion] and without condemning anyone, but with the ‘tenderness’ of a sister and a mother.”
America reported on Gramick’s reaction to the letter:
“Sister Gramick told America that many Catholics will read the arrival of these letters as an institutional affirmation of her ministry. She noted that it is going to be more difficult for bishops and other Catholics ‘who do not appreciate the work of New Ways Ministry to make derogatory remarks.’ . . .
“But Sister Gramick resists the idea that this letter represents some kind of ‘rehabilitation’ of her life or ministry because she has always understood herself as doing the work of the church. ‘I always felt like the Holy Spirit was guiding me,’ she explained.
“‘I felt wonderful, of course,’ Sister Gramick said of receiving the handwritten letter. ‘But the Scripture that came to me was from John: “I do not call you servants, I call you friends.”‘
“‘That’s how I felt, like I was getting a letter from a friend,’ she said. ‘I think that’s how Pope Francis wants us to live. And it’s what I hope we would be as a people of God: a community of friends.'”
News of Francis’ letter to Gramick comes a few weeks after reports that the pope wrote supportive letters to New Ways Ministry, saying “Thank you for your neighborly work.” He also noted of Gramick, “I know how much she has suffered,” and in those letters referred to her as a “valiant woman.”
The release of the initial letters was prompted after New Ways Ministry materials were removed from the Synod office’s resources website, a decision later reversed and resulting in an apology from Vatican official Thierry Bonaventura to the organization and to LGBTQ Catholics .
This latest correspondence between Pope Francis and Sr. Gramick strikes a much different tone than the Vatican’s previous treatment of Sr. Gramick, which in 1999 tried to prohibit her from doing ministry with lesbian and gay people altogether. It is good to see Pope Francis among the many Catholics celebrating Sr. Gramick’s efforts these past five decades. And the letters now are further evidence of the pope’s desire for pastoral ministers be close to the people they serve, and with a particular encouragement for outreach to marginalized communities like LGBTQ people.
If you would like to learn more about Sr. Jeannine Gramick’s 50 years of LGBTQ ministry, click here to view a photo gallery of her work over the years.
Tomorrow, Bondings 2.0 will report on an interview Sr. Gramick gave to America on the occasion of her 50th anniversary of LGBTQ ministry.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, January 10, 2022