Wednesday, July 09, 2014

CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis (Part 5)

Today is the third anniversary of the death of my friend and colleague David McCaffrey (1947-2011), co-founder of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM).

To commemorate David on this special day I share an excerpt from an article he wrote for the Spring 2005 issue of The Rainbow Spirit, CPCSM's print journal from 1998 to 2008. This particular issue celebrates CPCSM's 25th anniversary, and in its cover story, "Looking Back Over 25 Years," David provides an overview of the organization's roots in Dignity Twin Cities and its subsequent development as an independent, unique, and ground-breaking coalition dedicated to honoring and sharing the spiritual journeys and insights of LGBT Catholics and their families.

The sharing of this excerpt from David's 2005 article also serves as the fifth installment of The Wild Reed series dedicated to documenting the relationship between CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. Highlighting this past relationship is important as today there are some within the hierarchy of the local church who would like to downplay or even deny that this relationship ever existed.

NOTE: To read about events in CPCSM's history that immediately preceded those highlighted in the following excerpt, click here.


An excerpt from
Looking Back Over 25 Years

By David McCaffrey
The Rainbow Spirit
Volume 7, Issue 1 – Spring 2005

CPCSM's first board meeting was held in September of 1980 and soon thereafter we began to convene a committee, which I chaired, to plan the Pastoral Needs Assessment Survey Project. This project became our primary focus over the next four years. In all, 250 gay and lesbian Catholics and 85 family members returned survey forms, which included many poignant responses to the survey's numerous open-ended questions. In May of 1984 the study's 125-page report was published and its findings presented at our annual meeting. The first of its kind, the report was subsequently sold to hundreds of pastoral ministers and ministry groups, locally as well as throughout the country. A few were even requested by ministers and groups in other countries.

Next, CPCSM took Archbishop John Roach up on his offer of access to his departmental heads by inviting many of them and other key pastoral leaders in the archdiocese to a series of informal luncheons. These meetings provided us with an ideal venue for presenting these administrators with our study's findings as well as its recommendations.

In summary, the message from the survey respondents to the official Church was simple: first they asked that the Church break its conspiracy of silence and acknowledge their existence. Second, they requested that the Church treat them on an equal basis with all other Church members. Finally, they asked that they be allowed to share their many talents with the Church and to engage the Church in a mutual ministry process. It was the respondents' hope that as the pastoral workers ministered to GLBT persons, they would also be open to all the ways that GLBT persons could educate and minister to them and other members of the Church. Since the publication of the Pastoral Needs Assessment Survey Report and up to the present time, CPCSM has been actively attempting to implement its recommendations through a wide range of programs and activities.

After our formal gatherings with departmental administrators of the archdiocese and other pastoral leaders, it became clear to us that much more work would be needed. At that point, we made the decision to focus our energies at the parish level, especially since we already had so many allies from the earlier Dignity-sponsored monthly speaker-luncheons. At about the same time we also decided to maximize the number of people we could reach through a story-telling process by producing a video tape depicting people sharing their personal stories that could be used as part of an educational effort. The sharing of our faith journey, after all, had been a hallmark of CPCSM from its inception.

Silent Journeys of Faith

Soon thereafter a number of important aspects of the video production began to fall into place. Quite by accident, Bill Kummer and I met Lynn Miller, a member of the Newman Community., who expressed concern about the justice issues involved with Dignity Twin Cities' struggles with the archdiocese over the use of meeting space at the Newman Center. Lynn, a very creative and articulate lesbian who then was a professional writer and would later receive a Doctorate in Theology from Harvard Divinity School, was very happy to share her poignant story on tape.

Next, I learned that a co-worker at the University of Minnesota was in training as a videographer. He agreed to co-produce the video with us, as well as to do all of the filming and the post-filming technical work. He requested a small stipend – about 1% of what a professional studio would have charged and all that our meager budget could afford. To make the video more inclusive in its message, we approached John Billig, a long-time Dignity member and frequent musician at the Friday night liturgies who was in a 10-year committed relationship. We asked John to tell his story on tape. John had painfully come to terms with his same-sex orientation as a teenager growing up in a strict charismatic Catholic family in a small rural community and at that time was still enduring his mother's rejection of his sexual orientation and of his committed relationship with his partner.

Finally, Deacon Roger Urbanski and his wife Donna, Catholic parents of a gay son, agreed to share their journey in the video. We hd first heard Roger and Donna's story at a Dignity post-liturgy meeting on a Friday night in the spring of 1980. The theme of the evening was "Family Night," and all members were asked to invite their family members or friends. The Urbanskis, along with two of their non-gay children, were keynote speakers.

We premiered the video, entitled Silent Journeys of Faith: Gay and Lesbian Persons in the Catholic Church, at CPCSM's annual meeting in May, 1988. It received a favorable reception, especially since it was made at such a reduced cost and in spite of the fact that it lacked some of the polish of a more professional production.

It soon became clear, however, that the video could be best used for educational purposes with the help of a companion training manual. Hence we contracted with a GLBT curriculum specialist who created for us a five-session seminar series described in great detail in a 115-page training manual that she authored. The video took on an important role in the series as a consciousness-raising tool and a stimulus for discussion among the seminar participants. To reflect the connection between the video and its companion manual, we entitled the booklet Sharing Silent Journeys of Faith; Embracing Our Exiled Gay Brothers and Lesbian Sisters.

Following our original strategy to focus on parishes in our outreach projects, and with our video and guidebook in hand, we created the Parish-Based Gay and Lesbian Ministry Project. This initiative spanned the years 1990-1995, during which time we conducted the seminar series in about 25 parishes of the archdiocese and for a wide range of parish audiences: priests, pastoral ministers, parish council members, members of various parish committees, and parish volunteers. The results of this initiative continue to this day in the form of various official parish-based GLBT ministries at a number of Catholic parishes. [NOTE: The slow dismantlement of these parish-based ministries by the chancery, starting in 2007, the final year of Archbishop Harry Flynn's tenure and the year of John Nienstedt's tenure as coadjutor archbishop, was a source of both sadness and frustration for David in the last years of his life.] Beyond the Twin Cities, the seminar series has been requested by a wide range of Catholic pastoral professionals from across the United States as well as a few working in foreign countries.

– David McCaffrey
Excerpted from "Looking Back Over 25 Years"
Rainbow Spirit 25th Anniversary Issue
Spring 2005

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Sad News (The Wild Reed's July 10, 2011 announcement of David McCaffrey's death.)
"I Have Never Felt Closer to Anyone in My Entire Life Than to David" (David's partner Michael Douglas eulogizes his husband of 13-and-a-half years.)
God is in the Roses . . . (Photos and commentary from David's funeral Mass.)
Out and About – July 2011
Remembering David McCaffrey, One Year On
CPCSM Co-founder Responds to "Not Catholic" Assertion
History Matters
Far from "Innocuous" (David's 2008 response to Stephen’s Heaney’s defense of Coadjutor Archbishop Nienstedt’s “innocuous” statements on homosexuality.)
CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 1)
CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 2)
CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 3)
CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 4)
How Times Have Changed
For the Record

1 comment:

Lisa Vanderlinden said...

I remember the last time I saw him, at our preview of the C4ME video series. He was really proud of it! He would be very proud and happy about marriage equality in Minnesota. He truly was a courageous prophet.