Sister Jeannine Gramick: “After Ten Years, This Pope Still Gives Me Hope”

Sister Jeannine Gramick

Today’s post is from Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, the co-founder of New Ways Ministry. This post is the first in Bondings 2.0’s series marking the tenth anniversary of Pope Francis’ election on March 13th. In the coming week, we will also share the results of our survey on what grade you, our readers, gave the pope on LGBTQ+ issues, as well as feature commentaries from global Catholic LGBTQ+ advocates.

I quickly knew that the pope elected on March 13, 2013 would be different from any pope the Church had seen in centuries. How did I know? I heard that he paid his own bill at the Santa Marta guest house where he had been lodged during the conclave. I heard he sent word to his paperboy in Buenos Aires to stop delivering his daily newspaper. I heard he wanted his old pair of shoes to be mended by his cobbler back home. Reading his first public interview after the election, in which he acknowledged, “…I am a sinner…,” I was absolutely sure this pope was not in the mold of the typical Roman hierarch.

Here was a man who did not use power and clerical position to gain privilege. Here was a person who understood, and lived like, ordinary folks. Here was a humble bishop who acknowledged that he made mistakes, but who was equally aware of the loving mercy and forgiveness of God. This was my kind of pope!

And he has not disappointed me or others who were hungry for a pope who would lead us in fulfilling the ideals of the Second Vatican Council and the 1971 Synod on Justice in the World. Pope Francis has shown us that justice and mercy, not rules and doctrines, are the heart of the Gospel and that they should be the mark of Jesus’ disciples.

In following the Gospel of peace and justice, Pope Francis has reached out to the margins of church and of society to be in solidarity with the economically poor, the imprisoned, refugees and migrants, Indigenous peoples, and a whole host of peoples on the periphery—especially LGBTQ+ people. From his world-shattering question in his first pontifical year—”Who am I to judge?”—to his latest statement in which he condemned criminalizing homosexuality, Pope Francis has gradually put LGBTQ+ issues on the church’s front burner.

Pope Francis has met with LGBTQ+ people and their parents, invited trans people to the Vatican, and appointed many LGBTQ-friendly bishops. He sent a congratulatory blessing to a Brazilian gay couple on the baptism of their three adopted children, and has written many encouraging letters to other LGBTQ+ people and to their ministers. He supports civil unions for same-sex couples, and he removed the bishop from the Vatican who was responsible for the ban on same-sex blessings.

But no one is perfect. Pope Francis needs education about the myth of gender ideology, and yet are not we all in need of education? Who of us came to our current understanding of sexuality or gender all at once?

Some people complain that the pope has not changed the church’s sexual teachings. I reply: “The Pope relies on the whole church to speak up before any formal change in church teaching is to be made. It is the responsibility of all the faithful to speak what we believe so that we arrive at the truth.”

Already, many Catholics worldwide are calling for a revision of sexual ethics. But a greater chorus of voices in the universal church is needed. Each person has a prophetic role to play in that change; each person has a responsibility to tell their story. Only if the Catholic community accepts that responsibility of each person to speak one’s truth will the Holy Spirit breathe in our Church.

This fact remains: No pope in Christian history has ever been more welcoming to LGBTQ+ people. In December 2013, Pope Francis was named “Person of the Year” by both Time and The Advocate, in large part because of his welcoming tone on LGBTQ+ issues. I propose that the Catholic LGBTQ+ community name him “Pope of the Centuries” for the hope he has given to LGBTQ+ people, their families, and allies.

On my computer, I have a little blue and white decal containing a picture of Pope Francis with the words, “This Pope gives me hope.” I believe that he is the world’s pastor and that Catholics are truly blessed to have a leader like Pope Francis. Indeed, ten years on, this pope still gives me hope!

Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, New Ways Ministry, March 11, 2023

13 replies
  1. Claire Jenkins9
    Claire Jenkins9 says:

    Brilliant appraisal of Pope Francis who is why I became a Catholic trans woman convert in 2014. He does inspire hope for all of us in the LGBTQ community.

  2. Loras J Michel
    Loras J Michel says:

    I remember a famous speech by Harvey Milk in 1977 in which he said: “You have got to give them hope”. By that he meant you, us, we called to give that gift to another so that this separated gay person wondering what to do will not give up as without it, life is not worth living. But — we were so afraid, and I knew what that felt like. At that time, there was no real voice in the church hierarchy, and certain Catholics were treated as invisible and left to wander alone in the darkness. There was fear, there were consequences for rocking the boat, better stay safe.

    New Ways Ministry and a few other prophetic voices started to crack open that closet door amidst many challenges. Now with Pope Francis, we have a true visionary who is doing what no one did before, and what a gift to the church and the world. Sr. Jeannine’s photo of Pope Francis with the words, “This Pope gives me hope” is a true testimony of the impact this Servant of the servants of God brings. So many hearts have been filled with a new vision of possibility. Thank you, Sr. Jeannine, for sharing that personal reflection as that Presence speaks for all of us. Hope is contagious and that light cannot be kept under a basket — it’s in all of us to “pay it forward” and give it away. In doing so, we truly keep it forever ourselves.

  3. Ginny King, OP
    Ginny King, OP says:

    I do agree with your perception of our Pontiff. Thanks for sharing this.
    I wish before he leaves office, that he would remove the sentence containing “intrinsically disordered” in the statement about homosexuals or queer people. It was there when he came but I hope he rids us of this degradation. He is a holy man. I’m glad we have him as our Pope. God bless Pope Francis.

  4. Ann
    Ann says:

    Sister Jeannine, thanks so much. As always, your perspective is bold, challenging, and apt. It is easy, in the face of daily obstacles, to forget that each of us has a part to play. Your bracing reminder helps me to remember this!!

  5. Pam Linnell
    Pam Linnell says:

    Dear Sr. Jeannine, You know when I knew that “this Pope gives me hope?” It was when he came out on the balcony and timidly raised his hand and gave that little wave. The gentle air I sensed told me he was going to be a keeper! Sending you my deep love, Sister.

  6. Tom Keep
    Tom Keep says:

    Thank you for giving me hope, hope for a more loving and inclusive Church for me and for my brothers and sisters in Christ. You are a blessing to the CMLGP and the entire LGBTQ+ community.

  7. Anne Marie Gardiner, SSND
    Anne Marie Gardiner, SSND says:

    As always, your words focused, gives the context and remind us that justice requires the entire church to speak, advocate, live in relationship with compassion and welcoming. I’m proud to call you “sister”. You too Jeannine have been and continue to be hope. Every blessing.

  8. Jeff Hollender
    Jeff Hollender says:

    Sr. Jeannine, even though you are now a Sister of Loretto, your roots as a School Sister of Notre Dame, and a daughter of their foundress Blessed Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger, are sturdy and strong. May the Lord continue to bless your ministry to the Church, the People of God!

  9. Joe Jurovcik
    Joe Jurovcik says:

    Sr. Jeannine, While I wholeheartedly agree with you, I have a question for you.
    How have you maintained your ability to smile, to look for the good, when quite frankly, the two previous pontiffs, tried to kick you to the curb?
    You have given me hope in the past 5 years when matters of the LGBTQ+ became more personal to me. God bless you Sister, for staying on the “Long Loneliness” as described by Dorothy Day.
    I am less than two months away from my 70th birthday, and I find that I do have more control over how I feel simply y carefully regulating the amount of “news” I allow myself to consume.
    And you and Francis together, along with some other wonderfully happy individuals, ie, Fr. James Martin SJ and Fr. Richard Rohr OFM, maintain your smiles and seek the good even among those most mean spirited among us.
    May God grant each of you continued health and moral courage when the rest of us run for cover!
    With Much Love,
    Joe Jurovcik

  10. Robert J. Muldoon
    Robert J. Muldoon says:

    Dear Jeannine (that’s what you permitted me to call you as a gay former Jesuit):
    I don’t know if you will remember me. I met you at the Dignity conventions in Miami and San Francisco in 1987 and 1989. I was in charge at that time of creating the weekly liturgies for Dignity NY, and I was a candidate for President of Dignity NY in 1990. I, also, prepared the monthly liturgies for our Cathedral Project demonstrations on Fifth Avenue opposite St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and participated in several Civil Rights demonstrations and arrests after our liturgies. You and Bob Nugent were always a source of inspiration for me and for my fellow Dignity members. As for your having faith in Pope Francis, I was watching coverage of the papal election on March 13, 2013, when the white smoke began to rise from the Sistine Chapel. I turned to my partner, and expressed my wish and prayer that the new Pope be a Jesuit, and that he take the name Francis. I knew the current commitment of the Society to the poor and the marginalized, and Ignatius Loyola’s devotion to, and desire to imitate, il Poverello. Also, I felt that, after JPII and Benedict, the Church needed a Pope who turned to ‘discernment’ (the Ignatian Discernment of Spirits) in making decisions that would affect the world-wide community of believers, in the manner of Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI. Love, Bob Muldoon


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