Dignity/Chicago Celebrates 39 Years of Ministry to LGBT Catholics

Alderman James Cappleman and Partner Richard Thale to receive John Michie Award

Originally printed in the Windy City Times

FROM A NEWS RELEASE

Dignity/Chicago will celebrate the thirty-ninth anniversary of its founding in 1972, and its ongoing ministry to the GLBT communities, family and friends with an anniversary Mass at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 22 at Dignity/Chicago, 3338 N. Broadway. Dignity/Chicago's annual John Michie Award for community service will be presented to newly elected Alderman James Cappleman and his partner Richard Thale in recognition of their service in the Uptown neighborhood.

The Anniversary Mass will be followed by a reception in the church social hall. For further information, call Dignity/Chicago at 312-458-9438 or visit www.dignity-chicago.org . All are welcome to attend.

Said Dignity/Chicago board president, Chris Pett, "Dignity/Chicago is one of the city's oldest GLBT organizations and the only GLBT Catholic organization to publically affirm our sexuality as loving, life-giving and life-affirming. We have held mass every Sunday, continuously for thirty-nine years and have helped thousands navigate the integration of their sexuality and their spirituality."

Pett continued, "Selecting James and Richard as the recipients of this year's Michie Award compliments our history. Both have shown a long-term commitment as members of Dignity/Chicago, but also a dedication to the larger Chicago community through their work to improve life for residents in the Uptown neighborhood. The John Michie Award goes to individuals or organizations that show hospitality and service in our community. Richard and James certainly meet and exceed that criteria."

John Michie was a member of the chapter well-known for his hospitality and welcome to new comers. This award was created to honor his memory after he passed away in the 1980's. Awardees have included both individuals and organizations that have helped to make Chicago a more welcoming city for LGBT people.

Both Cappleman and Thale served on the Dignity/Chicago board in the 1990's — James as President and Richard as Treasurer. They have been active in Uptown community organizing since the late 1990's.

James has been on the board of directors for the Uptown Chicago Commission (UCC), a not-for-profit neighborhood organization that seeks to improve the quality of life for all Uptown residents. He just finished serving his second term as the board president. James has helped form block clubs, organize service projects, and create open access to necessary information for residents throughout the 46th Ward. It was this service to the community that lead to his position as Alderman of the 46th Ward.

James formerly worked in quality improvement research at ACCESS Community Health Network and has published a book for individuals with chronic illness entitled, "Asking the Right Questions to Get the Health Care You Need."

James's fiancé and partner of 19 years, Richard Thale, is chair of the 23rd Police District's Court Advocacy Committee and a CAPS facilitator for Beat 2312.

Dignity/Chicago was formed in January of 1972, the fourth DignityUSA chapter in the nation, approximately one year after Ms. Mary Houlihan, a member of the Legion of Mary, began a home Mass for the gay and lesbian community under the Legion's aegis. Following Dignity's formation, the chapter was asked to assume sponsorship of this Mass. Dignity then secured St. Sebastian Church for a weekly Sunday evening Mass, which continued until 1988.

The 1970's were an active time for the chapter. It played host to the national convention of Dignity/USA in 1977, was a charter member of Call to Action, an umbrella organization for progressive Catholic groups, and co-sponsored the Orange Ball, a Chicago benefit to raise funds to combat Anita Bryant-backed anti-gay referendums around the country.

The 1980's presented a challenge that forever altered Dignity/Chicago as the chapter to grew to over 150 members. In May of 1988, after sixteen years of ministry, the chapter membership voted to remove its ministry from St. Sebastian Church and all church property rather than submit to a demand from Cardinal Joseph Bernardin to withdraw Dignity's public statement affirming homosexuality which said "we believe that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons can express their sexuality in a manner that is consonant with Christ's teaching. We believe that we can express our sexuality physically, in a unitive manner that is loving, life-giving and life-affirming."

After leaving St. Sebastian's Dignity/Chicago first met at Resurrection Lutheran Chuch, then spent several years at 2nd Unitarian on Barry Ave., before settling at Broadway United Methodist in 1992.

In the '90's Dignity/Chicago reasserted its role as a Roman Catholic faith community ministering the needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. Dignity has continued to protest the denial of its place in the life of the Church and has responded to statements issued from the Church that would encourage discrimination in both religious and civil life. In 1992 we brought our call for justice to the home of Cardinal Bernardin in a prayerful protest.

In 1999, the chapter was reorganized to focus on the three core ministries that underlie its mission: Worship, Spiritual Growth, and Leadership and Advocacy. From this base Dignity/Chicago continues to provide the Mass and other liturgical services while remaining involved in many social and social justice events in the community. In the summer of 2001, Chicago again hosted the DignityUSA convention.

In response to the summer 2003 letter from the Vatican denouncing civil recognition of same-sex unions, Dignity/Chicago organized the 'Always Your Families, Always Our Church' coalition to affirm and support same-sex unions. The coalition took out a full-page open letter in the Chicago Tribune that addressed the U.S. Catholic Bishops and urged them to seek dialogue with GLBT people on the issue of same-sex unions.

Dignity/Chicago is a chapter of DignityUSA and works for respect and justice for all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the Catholic Church and the world. We minister through education, advocacy and worship. We believe that same-sex relationships are life affirming and life giving. The chapter holds a weekly Roman Catholic Mass at 5:00 p.m. on each Sunday at the Broadway United Methodist Church. For further information about Dignity visit www.dignity-chicago.org or www.dignityusa.org .

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