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Dignity/Detroit’s 39th Anniversary: Pride and Protest

By Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA Executive Director

Sometimes the Holy Spirit works overtime on Dignity’s behalf! Months ago, it was decided that DignityUSA President Lourdes Rodríguez-Nogués would attend Dignity/Detroit’s 39th Anniversary celebration to present an award to Bishop Gumbleton, who was scheduled to preside at the Anniversary liturgy. Then, a couple of weeks ahead of the event, Detroit Chapter officials started receiving calls from conservative Catholic groups to protest the event. These groups were angry that the Anniversary liturgy was being held at a chapel on the campus of Marygrove, a Catholic campus.

As time went on, more and more groups, including the American Family Association, joined the calls for protest. They contacted Detroit papers, claiming they would have up to 200 Catholics on hand the night of the event, and calling on Detroit Archbishop Vigneron to demand that the celebration be cancelled. The Archbishop, who had gained notoriety a few weeks earlier by saying that Catholics who support same-sex marriage should not take Communion, was out of the country at the time and did not comment on the controversy. Officials at Marygrove College put additional security measures in place, and told the media that the Mass would proceed as planned.

The night of the Anniversary liturgy, May 5, only about two dozen protesters showed up. On the other hand, the Detroit chapter liturgy swelled to more than double its usual size as over 200 people filled the chapel. Chapter members were joined by members of Fortunate Families and PFLAG, Marygrove Alumni, and people from several local parishes. Five diocesan priests and twenty IHM Sisters joined in the two standing ovations given to Bishop Gumbleton. Lourdes said, “It was quite an example of people of faith coming together to denounce division and exclusion and celebrate union and inclusion. A true example of the Body of Christ. There is no doubt in my mind that more and more people of faith, Catholics in the pews, stand with us. It was very powerful and moving to be part of this event.”

Glenn Crane, President of Dignity/Detroit, reflected on the celebration this way: “Dignity/Detroit experienced an outpouring of support yesterday that was overwhelming. The spirit of our faith is renewed. The support of the DignityUSA community is abundant and is felt by me and Dignity/Detroit. There is no such thing as bad publicity. I am hoping to see our membership numbers increase. Thanks to everyone for their prayers.”

What a way to kick off this Chapter’s 40th year! Congratulations, Dignity/Detroit, on this proud and courageous witness to your fantastic legacy of service!