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News from Dignity/Washington

​Heather Mizeur Reflects On Dignity’s Work and Catholic Community Life
by Henry Huot, Dignity/Washington Board member

Maryland Delegate from Montgomery County, Heather Mizeur, delivered an affirming and challenging message at the June 9 Dignity/Washington Sunday Mass culminating Capital Pride festivities. To the delight of her audience, she quipped that she was not to be confused as the “homely guest” but rather the guest homilist. Drawing on the assigned Scriptures for the day (First Kings 17:17-24, Galatians 1: 11-19 and Luke 7: 11-17), she compared today’s Catholic Church to the grieving widow from the Elijah story and the widow of Naim who encountered Jesus. She stated that local parishes are suffering the departure of Catholics who have left because of the prejudices and offenses of those in pastoral positions of authority, and the homophobic attitudes of their general members. These parishes could benefit from the challenge of having LGBT Catholics join as members deeply committed to changing hearts and minds.

Mizeur shared her memories of growing up Catholic in rural Illinois in a small town of 1,100, and attending the University of Illinois where she was active in the Catholic student center. Her involvement there led to a close collaboration and friendship with the campus chaplain whose initial reaction to her coming out to him as lesbian was his rejection, He later apologized and they reconciled. This experience convinced Mizeur of the importance of persevering in the practice of one’s faith, and witnessing to those inside the Church who harbor prejudices against LGBT individuals.

She related how, later in her life, her commitment to stay involved with her parish was strengthened when her wife, currently of eight years, decided to enter the Catholic Church through the process of the RCIA at her parish, and how her sponsorship of her had a profound impact on three straight couples of the parish. Toward the end of the months of public preparation, as Mizeur’s wife was to be received into the Church through the sacraments, these couples came together as a group to Mizeur and her wife to express gratitude for the faith witness they had given. They told Mizeur and her wife that they had been on the verge of leaving the parish because they had witnessed intolerance against LGBT members earlier, but the welcome and acceptance that the parish had given Mizeur and her wife had changed all of that for them.

Mizeur forcefully challenged Dignity members to start by experiencing what a vibrant Christian community can be in their Dignity communities, but then to go forth, strengthened and affirmed, into the mainstream parishes. She emphasized that this was where LGBT persons needed to bring their witness, centered around the presence of Christ they experience in the sharing of the Eucharist. Like Elijah and Jesus with those widows in the Biblical stories, they would comfort those in the Church who grieve the loss of their children.

Finally, she spoke of the “primacy of conscience” as an official, central, but often ignored, teaching of the Catholic bishops since the Vatican II Council (1962-1965). It involves that: 1) all men and women in the Church form their conscience based on a quest for truth, including the teaching of the bishops, but also all other sources of knowledge; 2) they engage in a careful and prayerful reflection process, alone and in dialogue with others; and 3) finally embark on a path of action that will honor and embrace their truth, often and especially in matters of sexuality, even if it means dissenting from official Vatican positions.

Mizeur is expected to announce her candidacy for Governor of Maryland for the Democratic primary election in June 2014 and the general election in November, replacing Governor Martin O’Malley, who cannot run again by state statute.

Dignity/Washington Celebrates the 38th Annual Capital Pride Week with a Special Award
by Henry Huot, Dignity/Washington Board member

Since 2007 Dignity/Washington has been a proud Community Partner in the Annual Capital Pride Week of official events. This year on May 29 at the Annual Heroes Gala, held to honor LGBT heroes who have helped to enrich the community, and who reflect the values and mission of Capital Pride, Dignity/Washington was honored with the Larry Stansbury Award For Exemplary Contributions to Pride; the award is named after a long-time activist in the DC gay community who served as a health educator, club manager, member of the leather community and gay motorcycle club groups, and executive director of the charitable organization “Brother Help Thyself.” Dignity/Washington was cited for being one of the earliest organizations to take part in DC’s Pride celebrations, and for its long and rich history of service to the wider community over four decades. In 2008 Dignity/Washington supported the decision to award the Capital Pride Alliance the right to produce the celebration, and donated free space to the Alliance at its Dignity Center. This event was followed on June 4 by the Pride Week Interfaith Service, held at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, where Dignity/Washington was once again a program participant. On June 8 the Dignity/Washington Capital Pride Parade contingent of marchers stepped off to the cheers and applause of an enthusiastic crowd of spectators. The Dignity/Washington booth at the Capital Pride Festival the next afternoon became a gathering place for a sizable number of inquirers and friends who stopped by. The Week culminated with a well-publicized Special Pride Dignity/Washington Sunday Mass featuring Maryland Delegate Heather Mizeur, who shared her reflections on the continuing importance of Dignity communities in a changing Church and society (see companion article for a report on her homily). After such a week of festivities, many, if not most, of Dignity/Washington members needed a week to rest up!

Dignity/Washington Continues Its Tradition of “Moon Over Washington”
by Henry Huot, Dignity/Washington Board member

Dignity/Washington member, Jim Bedore, hosted a community potluck dinner on the rooftop of his condominium home in the evening hours of Saturday, June 1, as the sun was setting and the moon was rising. Jim’s building commands a hill in the shadow of the Washington National Cathedral with spectacular panoramas of the entire metro DC region, making this a breathtaking setting for this annual social with old and new friends. Many thanks go to Jim, and to Ted Xakellis and his team of volunteers, for making “Moon Over Washington” such an enjoyable affair again this year.