The English edition of a book by Catholic parents in Italy who have lesbian and gay children has been released, coming days after Pope Francis encouraged such parents to accompany, not condemn their children.
The book, Blessed Parents: Experiences of Catholic Parents with Lesbian and Gay Children, was published in English by New Ways Ministry. It is an anthology of parents’ stories about having rainbow families. Originally published in 2019 by the Italian LGBTQ group Tenda di Gionata, it was later shared with Pope Francis in 2020. The Italian group requested New Ways Ministry to produce an English language version.
Though the stories were all written by Italians, they reflect the same worries, questions, fears, courage, hope, faith, and love that so many Catholic parents of LGBTQ people worldwide experience on their journeys. Across different cultures with different customs, what shines through these stories is the universal love that all parents have for their children, and their commitment to building an inclusive church, too.
The English version has an introduction by New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo and an afterword by Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder of New Ways. It also includes a list of print, web, and video resources for Catholic families with LGBTQ members.
In 2020, one of the authors, Mara Grassi, who has a gay son and is the Tenda di Gionata’s vice president, presented the pope with the Italian copy of the book during a private audience. Last fall, in 2021, Grassi gave an address about the experience meeting Francis and what that encounter meant to the parents involved with Tenda di Gionata.
She explained that the group had asked to participate in a papal audience and had received an immediate invitation, though the actual audience would be delayed due to the pandemic. Grassi made clear from the outset: “our presence was wanted.” She further described the encounter:
“And this is what the pope told me: ‘They are all children of God, just as they are’ and hugging me, he hugged the mothers of Mestre who had yelled at him shortly before: ‘Pope Francis, remember us, we are parents of [LGBT] children. Our children need your embrace’.
“He stopped at those cries and gave his blessing. As Dea and Stefano, parents from Rome who were present…, wrote: ‘After years of bewilderment, pain and shame, those parents were there shouting, in a square full of people, without hiding anymore, proud of their sons and daughters ‘.
“When he came to me. . .I told him that the gift was precisely this new lens that made us see in our LGBT children the wisdom and goodness of God.
“But, I added, it was also necessary for the Church to change her gaze. While I was speaking [Francis] said to me: ‘He does it, he does it’. And he repeated to me, clearly articulating the words: ‘Every man and every woman are children of God and God loves them and the Church must love every man and every woman’.”
The impact of this encounter with Pope Francis was profound for the parents. Grassi stated in her 2021 address:
“We understood that we did not only have to dream of a different Church, as the pope had written, but that we were ready to spend all of ourselves so that a Church became a reality in which it is possible to pass from the paradigm of sin to that of the journey, from the paradigm of the law to that of the person.”
She expressed a commitment now to the Synod on Synodality as part of the parents’ work, saying they would “do everything possible to make our voices heard, in the parishes, in the dioceses, in the synodal groups, so that the words that the pope told me actually become reality.”
Whether you are a parent or not, you will find an abundance of information and inspiration in the pages of Blessed Parents, reading the words of Mara Grassi and so many other wonderful authors.
Copies of Blessed Parents are available through the New Ways Ministry website. If you would like to learn more about the book or order your copy now, please click here.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, January 29, 2022