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Dignity/Chicago Marks 42nd Year; New James Bussen Award to Victor Salvo and The Legacy Project

Dignity/Chicago, the inclusive faith and advocacy organization for LGBT Catholics and our allies, celebrated an anniversary Mass on Sunday, May 18 to honor its 42 years of ministry.Dignity/Chicago alsoan annual award in memory of James Bussen, former DignityUSA President and Chicago LGBT rights advocate who passed away last June.

L-R: Ibrahim Zabaneh (Chapter President), Barbara Henney (Spirit of Dignity Awardee), Victor Salvo (James Bussen Awardee), Rev. Barbara Zeman (RomanCatholicWomanPriest)

Past Chapter President Chris Pett said, "We are pleased to remember Jim with this award which will go to individuals and organizations that advance our mission to seek justice and equality in church and society.  It gives us great pleasure to announce that the first recipient of this award will be Victor Salvo and The Legacy Project. The project's work to make our history and our lives as LGBT people visible and public is at the core of our values and public witness at Dignity. Breaking that silence was very much what Jim Bussen was about. We have been honored to partner with The Legacy Project in raising funds to install a plaque in recognition of Fr. Mychal Judge. Fr Mychal serves as a visible symbol for the thousands upon thousands of LGBT people of faith whose lives have been silenced and hidden.”

Victor Salvo expressed his honor in receiving the award saying, "The urgent work of trying to survive the horrific onslaught of AIDS and the virulent politics it unleashed on a vulnerable community, things Jim Bussen and countless others fought against, forced a ten-year delay in the implementation of The Legacy Project. That turbulent time was the crucible, the FIRE, that forged this community into the dynamic force it is today... a community that has earned the right to celebrate its own history and the legacy of those who came before us. I honestly don't think The Legacy Walk could ever have been created anywhere else. I am most flattered and honored to accept this award. Jim Bussen was a friend of mine waaaay "back in the day," one of my favorite people, so full of wit and integrity and wonderful, wonderful humor—what a character! I loved that man and I wasn't alone; few people in Chicago from that difficult era were more beloved than Jim, or are more fondly remembered today.”

The chapter also gave its Spirit of Dignity Award to member Barbara Henney who has brought her infectious spirit to the community.

In his remarks, Chapter President Ibrahim Zabaneh noted Dignity/Chicago’s ministry to the LGBT Catholic community, along with our friends, family, and allies, with the mission to bring justice and equality to our church and society.  Ibrahim reminded all that at the core of this mission is the belief that put us at odds with our church leadership, with many of our fellow Catholics, and even with many of our LGBT brothers and sisters.  He recounted that in 1987, Dignity, under the leadership of Jim Bussen and many others, stated publicly that same-sex relationships are “loving, life-giving and life-affirming.” Ibrahim said, “It is for this belief that we are worshipping here, with the generous welcome of the community at Broadway United Methodist Church, rather than in our local Catholic parishes. It is for this belief that we have continued to grow ever-more inclusive as a Catholic faith community.”

“As the current president of the chapter, I want to extend my gratitude for all who have come before us, and those who travel with us today. We are witness and model for a church that truly embraces all.”