DignityUSA’s 25th National Gathering Focuses on a “Church Transfigured”

DignityUSA held its 25th national gathering this past weekend, which focused on the organization’s vision for a church transfigured and included an award for Fr. Bryan Massingale, an openly gay theologian who works for racial justice and LGBTQ equality.

The gathering, titled “Proclaiming Our Vision: Church Transfigured” and held in San Diego, was the Catholic LGBTQ organization’s first gathering since the pandemic began. A National Catholic Reporter in advan de of the event described:

“The conference will feature several leading Catholic voices including keynote speaker Victor Carmona, a theologian at the University of San Diego. He will speak on the shared experiences of LGBTQ+ and immigrant Catholics. Other guests include former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Miguel Diaz and Grammy-nominated singer Gina Chavez, among others.”

Also included in the program was giving DignityUSA’s Risk Taker/Justice Maker Award to Fr. Bryan Massingale for his LGBTQ advocacy “at great personal risk.” The only previous recipients are Bishop Thomas Gumbleton and Fr. Roy Bourgeois. Aaron Bianco, a gay church worker forced to resign after being targeted by hate crimes, also received an award.

This year’s gathering, which followed a 2021 virtual gathering, focused on DignityUSA’s vision for the church. Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director, commented:

“‘At that point, it was really about us. . .Reflecting on the ways DignityUSA interacted with the larger church, and some of the ways in which we believe that that we have a responsibility to proclaim our vision of the church as a more inclusive, welcoming and just organization for LGBTQI people, for women and for people of color broadly. Then, of course, COVID happened.’ . . .

“‘For our church, it’s the same issue. [We need] to realize that what has happened in the past may have served those times, but it’s not going to deliver on the Gospel for the years ahead in the same way. [Additionally, we need] to invite more folks in the church into this work of transforming our structures and our practices to meet the needs of people in the world today, tomorrow and the years to come.'”

NCR’s report highlighted a talk by Latinx theologian Victor Carmona, an ally who has supported LGBTQ migrants. The newspaper cited a draft of his address on “borderlands”:

“Borders lay bare humanity’s wounds, including wounds that connect the LGBTQ+ and immigrant communities. In their efforts to heal those wounds, the actions of many in our border communities offer glimpses of Jesus’ compassionate God and the pursuit of justice such love inspires. Their actions remind us that God’s compassionate love lies at the heart of Jesus’ transfiguration and the subversive hope in God’s reign that it inspired in him. They also point to the challenges that lie ahead.”

I was an attendee at the conference, and it was moving to see that not only did DignityUSA’s members proclaim their vision, they were realizing it in the conversations held, the liturgies celebrated, and the community strengthened. In short, DignityUSA’s members are already being the church transfigured they seek.

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, July 11, 2022

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