Review: Yunuen Trujillo’s New Book Is Essential Reading for Starting LGBTQ Ministry

Today’s post is from guest contributor Mark Guevarra. Mark is a PhD student at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, with an interest in how restorative justice practices are necessary steps along the synodal path, drawing from his own experience as a fired church worker. Mark’s faith, shaped by his Filipino-Canadian and gay identity, is something he is passionate about witnessing to, sharing, and nurturing.

Like many who’ve started an LGBTQ ministry, I know the stepping stones and obstacles in creating such a necessary program. Yunuen Trujillo’s LGBTQ Catholics: A Guide to Inclusive Ministry provides an essential roadmap in six short yet detailed chapters.

Trujillo is a Catholic lay minister, a faith-based community organizer, and an immigration attorney, as well as Bondings 2.0 contributor. In the book, she (1) concisely yet compellingly makes a case for the need for such a ministry, (2) offers an image of who LGBTQ Catholics are, (3) provides practical frameworks for creating a ministry, (4) reinforces and critiques church doctrine, (5) reviews Pope Francis’ models of church, and (6) calls readers to listen to lived experiences.

In the first chapter, Trujillo delves into her personal life, including more than seven years of pastoral ministry, to make the case for LGBTQ ministry. With sensitivity and careful analysis, she brings voice to the “rejection, violence, bullying, suicidal attempts, depression, abuse, discrimination in the workplace, homelessness, and poverty” faced by LGBTQ persons.

In the second chapter, Trujillo focuses on dismantling stereotypes, addresses the challenged existence of LGBTQ Catholic clergy, and exposes the difficult reality of pedophilia with precision and honesty. She exhorts her readers to believe that:

“The LGBTQ person is far more than simply a sexual orientation or identity. We possess a spiritual longing, with life goals and dreams, with virtues and shortcomings, with God-given gifts and talents, with a capacity for self-knowledge and self-determination, with interests and needs beyond sexual orientation and identity…we are as complex, varied, loved, and holy as any other human being made in the image of God, imago Dei, and born into a community with a dignity that must be respected.”

The third chapter provides frameworks for those wanting to create inclusive ministry. The first frame outlines the steps for developing a “Support Group” and an “Evangelization” model of parish ministry. Outside the parish, Trujillo describes frameworks for LGBTQ ministries within a diocese or archdiocese, religious orders, colleges, high schools in national and international contexts. Her descriptions and critiques of each are brief, honest, and informative. Of note is her presentation of Courage. Trujillo is balanced, providing not only criticism for example of its “predominant focus on sex” but also praise for its “focus on fellowship and in creating a safe space for holy friendships,” which are meaningful to some LGBTQ Catholics.

Trujillo’s presentation of church doctrine in the fourth chapter is concise and accessible. She begins with a careful analysis of how the teachings on the dignity of the human person, non-discrimination, and chastity apply to LGBTQ Catholics. This section includes practical approaches and tips for applying the teachings. Throughout the book, quotations from teachings, scripture commentary, background information, and contemporary insights from social sciences, such as the notion of “othering”, are included. Her detailed explanation of chastity and its application demonstrates her knowledge of the teachings and her balanced ability to critique how they’ve been discriminatorily applied on the one hand, with how they can be applied effectively, on the other.

The fifth chapter paints a detailed thumbnail sketch of Pope Francis’ three pastoral approaches: becoming a church of encounter, a listening church, and a church of accompaniment. Together, these provide readers with an ecclesiological foundation from which to proceed.

The last chapter begins with a call to continue the journey of discernment. This journey starts with listening to the stories of LGBTQ Catholics. To do this, Trujillo offers helpful suggestions for how to listen to lived experiences, such as noticing common themes and recognizing the diversity and holiness of all. The heart of the chapter is Trujillo’s personal testimony. More than a coming out story, it is a story of discovering and struggling to live out one’s vocation, and of a constant questioning whether or not to remain in the Catholic Church.

Besides these chapters, the book includes appendices with testimonies, sample mission statements, and prayers, as well as a short bibliography. As she states, Trujillo’s concise book is a starting point. It empowers readers with necessary tools and resources, and points them in the direction of ministries and organizations like New Ways Ministry, which have more practical resources to cultivate a thriving LGBTQ ministry. LGBTQ Catholics: A Guide to Inclusive Ministry is essential reading for people working towards such ministry. Certainly, a book like this would have given me greater confidence in starting my own group.

[Editor’s note: Sr. Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, wrote the book’s foreword.]

To learn more about LGBTQ Catholics: A Guide to Inclusive Ministry, click here. To read Yunuen’s previous reflections for Bondings 2.0, click here.

Mark Guevarra, June 20, 2022

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