Parishioners at Old St. Patrick’s Church in Chicago gathered for Mass on Father’s Day weekend listened as two married gay men offered a reflection at Mass together.
As Knox News reported, Alex Shingleton and Landon Duyka have been parishioners at the church for ten years, ever since they found themselves welcomed by its “radical inclusivity.”
“Chicago is celebrating Pride and, of course, today is Father’s Day,” they told the congregation. “Conveniently, we tick both of those boxes.”
The Gospel that weekend was the story of Jesus miraculously multiplying the loaves and the fishes. For Shingleton and Duyka, the journey to the moment when they stood before the congregation, sharing their story, felt miraculous, too.
“If you had told us as young boys who wasted countless hours of our lives in church trying to ‘pray the gay away’ that we someday would be standing in front of all of you in our Catholic church talking about our family on Father’s Day, we would never have believed you,” Duyka said.
The couple told their community that they felt blessed by three miracles in their own lives: their marriage, their parenthood, and their membership at Old St. Pat’s.
For a while, they thought that neither legal marriage nor fatherhood would be possible. But when same-gender marriage was legalized in Shingleton’s native England in 2006, the two married. They went on to make their home in the U.S. and adopted two daughters, Ella and Clara.
Both lifelong Catholics, Duyka and Shingleton knew they wanted to transmit their faith to their children — just as their own fathers had done for them. Non-affirming parishes they had encountered made them wary of the environment where they would be raising their daughters, however. They encountered parishes with homophobic homilies, pamphlets promoting conversion therapy, and congregants who refused to shake their hands at the sign of peace.
“We can handle that,” Duyka said. He and his husband knew that they were just as much a part of the Catholic Church as the people who refused to welcome them. Even so, they wanted a better environment to share their faith with their children.
“We didn’t want to expose our children to bigotry and have them feel any shame or intolerance about their family,” he said.
Things were different at Old St. Pat’s. “The final miracle in our story is here,” Shingleton said.
At a meeting for the gay men’s group at Old St. Pat’s, the priest hosting the group told them never to fear that they would be welcome at the parish: “All are welcome in this place.”
Finally, they knew that they had found a spiritual home for their family. “Fatherhood is challenging enough,” Shingleton said. “But here, in this place, our fatherhood has been celebrated as a blessing, and we could not be more grateful for that.”
The congregation’s applause for the couple’s words went on for a long time — an indication, perhaps, that their call to allyship was taken to heart.
This story from Chicago is a heartening snapshot of what an inclusive Catholic community can look like. By celebrating these two fathers as beloved members of the parish, Old St. Pat’s models a church in which all are welcome to share the pews and their faith together.
—Grace Doerfler (she/her), New Ways Ministry, August 10, 2022