By Lourdes Rodriguez-Nogues, Outgoing DignityUSA President
As I have said many times before, a movement is not built in a moment. A movement is built one action at a time, one witness at a time. It all adds up to where we are now.
And yes, Dignity started with the vision that LGBTQ Catholics needed a place to come to and be safe, to claim our faith and express our sexuality. We celebrated liturgy, we gathered socially and we planned how to influence bishops into accepting and blessing us.
With time and the realities of the hierarchical Church's unmovable position toward us, and with the social changes pressing for LGBTQ civil rights, we in Dignity in the past dozen years have come to a realization. In order to gain our rightful place in the Church and in society, we had to amplify the voice and the tent to include advocacy for all left out of the Church’s message and sacraments, and for all those marginalized in the society we live in. We realized that a movement does not progress unless we join forces and resources with those many others who also envision inclusivity. Our connections nationally and globally have expanded the work of Dignity and have given the movement of the progressive church many more legs. We should be proud of our participation and leadership in this movement, and we should know that our fight is not over. Our relevance as a faith-filled organization, engaged in advocacy, and inspired by the witness of so many, is stronger than ever.
It is interesting perhaps that now that we see membership declining in our local expressions of Dignity, in chapters, for example, our testimony, our voice, our presence, our leadership seem to be growing and getting stronger. We are no longer hiding in our safe communities, content only in our local events, as important as those are. We are out, loud, and more certain than ever of our place of leadership and our effectiveness in change.
A movement is not built in one day, but if we all stay committed and engaged, it cannot be stopped. We cannot be stopped.
That is where I see DignityUSA today and I am proud to have had the opportunity to join so many dedicated leaders before me to get there. And I count on the leaders yet to come to bring us through the challenges and changes ahead.
The Board is thankful to and for all of you for the many ways that you have supported and been engaged in the work. We also need to ask you to stay connected, faithful, and generously give to the next steps yet to come.
It has been for me personally an honor and a privilege to have worked alongside many skilled and committed individuals these past four years. No one can do this work alone. My partner in crime, Lewis, works harder for Dignity than anybody I know. We really have been a team of equals and for that I am grateful.
We have been blessed with efficient national officers in Glenn, Paula, and Mary Kaye, and with all Board members who have given generously of time, talent and treasure. I expected almost everything that happened when I accepted the call, the push, to be President. But I did not expect to have as much fun! This Board has a wicked sense of humor and we have had many good laughs, I am very happy about that.
I do not know how Sam and Peggy did this work eight years ago without an Executive Director or staff. I do not know if you have any idea what a competent staff DignityUSA has. I have been truly blessed to work alongside Marianne (Duddy, as I fondly call her). She is a brilliant and strategic leader and her work made it so easy for me to be President of the Board. And we have competent and committed people around us like Peggy, Logan, and Jim. I am very grateful for the many ways they have helped the Board in the last four years. We can't thank them enough.
I am proud to have come from the Boston chapter. They “get” the work of DignityUSA and support it: by sending many Bostonians to serve nationally, by generously supporting USA with funds, and by being a strong community of faith nourishing me spiritually at every step. Thank you.
The power of our own personal energy and ability to do what we have committed to do always comes from those behind us. Some very special women, my Ya-Yas, have sustained me in more ways that can easily be explained. They said yes to everything I ever requested: ran for the Board, donated big money, were involved with conventions, served on national committees, gave me advice, shared good food and wine, and helped me maintain my head and sense of balance, in the good times and in the hard ones. They were always with me in the journey and I treasure them.
I am eternally grateful for the love, support, and understanding of Diane, my spouse. I can't say she was always happy with my many travels, phone calls, or hours returning e-mails, and yet she was unwaveringly supportive. With an ever present sense of humor, keeping me on task ("Don't you have a call tonight?"); cooking delicious meals for me every night, taking more of the share of dog duty, cheering me, and most of all loving me unconditionally. She was quite a "first lady." My love and gratitude to her, always.
Every action, every witness, every small step, and every gigantic one is what it takes to build a movement.
We are onto something; let's keep it going, Dignity. I will continue to join you all in the journey ahead.