I had planned to devote this reflection to an unabashed celebration of DignityUSA’s many accomplishments over our 40-year history. Just as I opened a file to begin writing, my phone rang. The caller was a 50-something woman from a small city in the Northeast, who told me she has been part of Courage (an organization promoting chastity as the only option for Catholic lesbian and gay people) for years. She has recently realized that she deserves a life that is richer than the celibate, shameful existence she has endured up until now. She was searching for someone to talk with, and for a safe Catholic place that would support her in finding that richer life, a life that might even include a loving relationship with another woman at some point in the future.
As we spoke and wept together, I realized that this is the other side of LGBT Pride Celebrations. While it is vitally important that we march in public witness and celebrate our blessedness in sacred liturgy, LGBT Pride also re-energizes us to continue the ministry and outreach that brought DignityUSA into being. Even to this day, there are some who still experience what Dignity founder Pax (formerly Fr. Pat) Nidorf called “an excessive and unreal problem of guilt” over simply being who they are. And too often, these individuals, created in the Divine image, still do not know where to turn for the support that honors and delights in them, and leads them to embrace themselves in wholeness and holiness. Despite all that we have achieved, the need remains great.
Yes, let us celebrate —
- that the words “gay” and “Catholic” are no longer seen as mutually exclusive,
- that Catholic families no longer automatically reject their daughters and sons who come out,
- that hundreds of gay-friendly parishes have sprung up around the country.
Let us revel in the overwhelming support our march toward full equality has from the grassroots Catholic community, and in the increasing emergence of Catholics willing to challenge church officials on hateful rhetoric.
Let us honor the work that enables today’s Catholic youth to understand and accept their sexual orientation or gender identity with much less shame and trauma than so many of us had to work through.
Let us show appreciation to the many straight allies who march with us in the streets, and walk with us every day.
Let us rejoice in the many thousands of lives that have been transformed throughout DignityUSA’s 40 years of ministry. We are out and proud and Catholic! And when the marches are over, the parties are happy memories, and the Pride liturgies complete, let us maintain that sense of pride as we renew our commitment to those who still need to find their way to wholeness.
Blessings throughout Pride month! I look forward to seeing many of you in San Francisco during our 40th Anniversary Convention to continue the celebration.