Sunday, October 08, 2006

Update from the Great South Land

Well, friends, my return to the U.S. has been delayed yet again.

Basically, I’m still waiting to receive word on the scheduling of my interview with officials at the U.S. consulate in Sydney. This is the last step in what has turned out to be a longer-than-expected process to return to the U.S. with green card status. I now hope to be back in Minnesota sometime in early November.

In the meantime, I’ve been getting up to date with various vaccinations, along with other U.S. visa requirements such as undergoing a national police check so as to certify that I have no “disclosable court outcomes” or “outstanding matters” recorded against me. I'm happy to report that I have a clean record!

Without doubt, I’ve had a very enjoyable time in Australia and, in particular, I’ve greatly treasured the opportunities for reconnecting with family and friends – from
Townsville to Wagga Wagga, Gunnedah to Wollongong, and Port Macquarie to Goulburn.

Meanwhile, the summer sun increases each day, the flags are out on Town Beach, and the lifesavers are on patrol. I’m even starting to get a nice tan! Flowers are blooming and the trees are blossoming, and school students are once again on holiday break – this time before their return to school for the last term of the year.

And I realized this morning that I’ve now spent more of 2006 in Australia than in the U.S.

I have mixed feelings about this. Obviously, as I've already noted, I am very grateful for the chance to reconnect with family and friends that my time here has afforded. But I'm also aware of an ever-increasing desire to return and resume my life in the States and, in particular, my involvement in the local justice and peace community, my participation in the CSJ consociate program, and my work with CPCSM.

Of course, such work has not ground to a halt during my sojourn in Australia. Since my arrival in Australia in late May, I’ve been kept busy with various aspects of the upcoming publication of CPCSM’s first book, Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective.

In particular, I’ve been corresponding, via e-mail, with the folks at the U.S.-based Haworth Press as we work to edit and finalize the manuscript of the book. I’ve also been e-mailing a range of individuals and organizations – from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to theologian Joseph O’Leary, from retired Catholic bishops to the Gay and Lesbian and Straight Educators Network (GLSEN) – so as to secure permission to reprint various material in Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective.

As I’ve noted in a previous post, Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective is a 5-session training program of strategies, resources, and reflections aimed at empowering Catholic high school professionals in their interactions with youth who have either come out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) or who struggling with questions related to sexual orientation and/or identity.

You could call it a “safe staff” training manual for the Catholic high school context, one that is slated for publication by Haworth Press in winter 2006/2007.

The program itself grew out of a series of “safe staff” training workshops developed by CPCSM and implemented in the mid-late 1990s in a number of Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis. I feel very honored to have played a small role in these original workshops, and a major role in producing from them the great resource and faith testimony that is Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective.

While in Australia over the last four months, I’ve been grateful to a number of friends who have been keeping me up to date with events in Minnesota. I recently heard, for instance, that three-hundred people gathered in St. Paul last Tuesday to protest the visit of James Dobson, founder of the homophobic organization,
Focus on the Family. Dobson was in town to lend support to a Focus on the Family rally aimed at helping elect anti-LGBT candidates this fall.

According to
OutFront Minnesota, “more than 300 fair-minded Minnesotans [ . . . ] demonstrated in downtown St. Paul. The crowd cheered, chanted, and received lots of supportive honking from rush hour drivers”.

“The event”, says OutFront Minnesota, “showed that respect and fair treatment of all our families are values we will stand up and fight for.”

Demonstrators held up a host of signs, some of which read: “I stand for all families”, “I love my transgender daughter”, and “James Dobson does not speak for all Christians”.

I look forward to my return to Minnesota and my involvement in important pro-active events like this, and to resuming my work with CPCSM and collaborating with a range of groups and communities dedicated to bringing about positive change within both the Church and society in relation to LGBT people.

For photos of the October 3 demonstration against James Dobson, click

No comments: