Today’s liturgical readings for the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time can be found here.
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few” (Luke 10:2)
This past weekend, the first in-person Outreach Conference, a gathering of pastoral ministers and LGBTQ Catholics sponsored by America Media and Fordham University, attracted several hundred people to reflect on different topics relevant to LGBTQ ministry. It included many panelists, each one of us with a specialty in ministry or presenting on a topic suited to our lived experience.
At the end of the conference, New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeanine Gramick reflected on the progress that has been made in LGBTQ ministry over her 50-plus years of LGBTQ pastoral work. I cannot begin to fathom what it felt like to be Sister Jeannine or any of the other LGBTQ ministry pioneers who were involved before it became popular or acceptable, and when the workers were far fewer than today. (I say “popular or acceptable” with a grain of salt because all of us are aware of how the institutional Church at large still sees us with suspicion.) There is still much work to do, and, as today’s Gospel reading notes, still far too few laborers. Nonetheless, it is wonderful to see that there are more hands working and planting seeds for future generations.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us a few tips that can be helpful in ministry. First, he says, whenever possible, travel in pairs. I remember seeing this method practiced often in young adult ministry. Many of the preachers who would come to the young adult group I attended would bring a friend who would be there as support or praying silently for them throughout their presentation.
I try to follow this advice myself in LGBTQ ministry. As one of the Religious Formation Coordinators with the Lesbian and Gay Ministry of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, I sometimes “preach and teach” about LGBTQ ministry. I’ve historically focused mostly in Spanish-speaking ministry, though I now speak with more English language groups, too.
Very few people are doing LGBTQ ministry entirely in Spanish in the U.S, and sometimes it feels very lonely, especially because racial and culture undertones make it slightly more toxic.
When I started doing LGBTQ ministry in Spanish, I decided to do the same as those early preachers, bringing a friend along to my workshops for support. However, that approach soon became less than practical when the friends I’d invite became less motivated because of the toxicity they sometimes encountered. I soon learned I was going to have to rely on the Holy Spirit to be my companion. Whenever I go somewhere to preach or teach, I always say “we are going to teach”, even when I go physically alone. Because all of my ministry work is on a volunteer basis, this makes it slightly more exhausting to do on my own since I still have my full-time job, as many of us do.
Jesus also reminds the disciples that he is “sending [us] like lambs among wolves.” He acknowledged that sometimes the disciples will not be welcome. How to respond? He reminds us to bring a message of peace: “first say ‘peace to this household.'” If a peaceful person is in that space, the person will be receptive to the message. Otherwise, one should still be at peace knowing that, if the message is not well received, it’s not because the message is problematic or wrong, but because the land is not fertile. One should wish the person well, “shake off the dust,” and go to more fertile spaces.
At the Outreach conference somebody asked me: what should we do about the people who vocally oppose LGBTQ ministry? I believe 99% of the time the people who voice opposition are actually interested in learning more about how we reconcile doctrine or about our lived experience —even if they are slightly toxic or confrontational in their approach, don’t use the right language, or don’t agree with everything we say. To them, we must offer the same we are asking for: encounter them as they are and walk with them in their journey of discernment–but only as long as it is not toxic for us. If toxic or unsafe, then their pastors can walk with them in that journey.
For the other 1%, the truly oppositional and loud voices, we must wish them peace, shake the dust off, and move to more fertile spaces. That doesn’t mean we must leave the Church. If they’re bothered with our presence, the door is open for them to leave as well. While that sounds harsh and is not the ideal outcome, the time when LGBTQ Catholics had to leave the Church to be safe or to not make others uncomfortable is over. This is our rightful home, we are here to stay.
—Yunuen Trujillo, July 3, 2022