By Art Stoeberl, Dignity/Twin Cities and Call To Action-Minnesota

What’s possible when a local Dignity chapter, a local Call To Action chapter, and a couple of local Listening Parents from Fortunate Families team up for action? In the case of Dignity/Twin Cities, CTA- Minnesota, and Fortunate Families, you get a successful retreat for Catholic parents of LGBT children.

Conversation started late last summer for such a collaboration, and without a tremendous amount of effort, a 5 hour retreat transpired on February 23 in Minneapolis. Nineteen parents attended, in addition to the planners. Our hope was to see parents at different points along the journey toward acceptance and peace, and that is precisely what appeared. One mother’s fear of the potential “haters” for her recently-out gay daughter was evident in her fresh, full tears. Another set of parents hadn’t batted an eye when their son came out to them. A parent is deeply grieving the loss of her dreams for herself and her daughter who is coming to terms with her transgender identity. One set of parents was attending on the request of their gay son. These parents are daily Mass attendees who fully stand behind the church’s teachings, but want to continue to love their son unconditionally. They shared honestly, and stirred some reactions among other parents. The sharing throughout the day was powerful.

After each parent or set of parents shared, all of us offered silent prayer and blessing for them and their family before we moved on to the next parent. Three presentations were offered through the course of the gathering; one by a parent of a transgender son, another by a parent couple who have been active advocates of LGBT rights and marriage equality, and a third that covered a healthy, holistic, Catholic theology of sexual and identity ethics.

The retreat ended with participation in the regular Dignity/Twin Cities Eucharistic liturgy and a pot-luck supper.

The efforts to make this event happen were very manageable, in part because of the shared vision and responsibilities, and because much of the retreat was given to the parents themselves to share their journeys.

Do dioceses and Catholic parishes offer this necessary ministry to parents of LGBT children? Almost never! Can we do the ministering? Yes we can. And partnerships can make it easier and more effective. A template of the planning elements and of the retreat agenda will be made available on the DUSA website in the near future. It’s a beautiful way to fulfill our Dignity mission to educate and form Catholics in the “wholeness and holiness” of LGBT lives.