By Martín Witchger and Sam Albano
The Dignity Young Adult Caucus (DYAC) gathered July 29-31, 2016 in Chicago for its third biennial summer retreat. Twenty-three young adults from across the country gathered at the Cenacle Retreat & Conference Center for friendship, prayer, faith sharing, and storytelling. Guest retreat leader Judy Brown was chosen to guide participants during the weekend.
Young adult leaders chose the theme, “Telling Our Story, Creating a Home.” Retreatants explored the reasons for storytelling, the art of telling stories, and the impact we can make on others by sharing our stories of faith as LGBTQ Catholics. The weekend also included opportunities to share our stories both inside and outside our group.
Throughout Saturday, the retreatants told their stories in their small groups and then workshopped them with others to tell it in any creative way they wanted in preparation for an evening of storytelling to the whole group. Members of Dignity/Chicago brought dinner and shared the meal with the young adults and guests. Dignity/Chicago members and guests from PFLAG Chicago then shared an evening listening to the prepared stories of about ten young adults. Each story was powerful and heartfelt — some devastating, some painful, some humorous. But all were very real and honest about the struggles of coming out as LGBTQ to themselves, their families, and their faith communities. It was a powerful witness to the real struggles faced by so many in our community, and to the courage and perseverance demonstrated by those who continue to live and love among a society and a church that too often do not want to accept us or see us and our full human dignity. It was also a blessing and affirmation to our community to know that so many of us have found a wonderful home with Dignity.
A special focus throughout the weekend was learning and brainstorming how we can be more inclusive and attentive to the trans members of our community. We learned and discussed the unique struggles and challenges that trans people go through and many simple things we can do with our spaces, our language, and our activism.
The weekend ended with a Sunday morning discussion with DignityUSA leaders Mark Matson and Bob Butts, who came to hear from young adults about our vision and hopes for the future of DignityUSA. We discussed the many ways that society and the world are changing, and how the organization must change as well. Many good ideas were shared for what will be an ongoing conversation as we prepare to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of DignityUSA.
Special gratitude goes out to the Boston, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington faith communities, along with the many individuals whose financial support made this retreat possible. It was truly a spirit-filled weekend that helped bring young adults from across the country together in loving fellowship and closer to Dignity as we build the next generation of DignityUSA.