Wednesday, July 10, 2013

An Inspiring Evening of Conversation and Camaraderie

Last night I had the honor and pleasure of hosting an evening of conversation and camaraderie that brought together some very inspiring people. Special guests at this gathering were Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo from the national organization New Ways Ministry, which describes itself as "a gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Catholics, and reconciliation within the larger Christian and civil communities." In addition, there was a number of local Catholics who have for many years and in a variety of ways been advocating for and ministering with LGBT Catholics and their families and friends. Many of those gathered had worked to defeat last year's proposed 'marriage amendment.' Some of the local organizations represented included the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), Catholics for Marriage Equality MN (C4ME-MN), Dignity Twin Cities, the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR), the Council of the Baptized, and the Spirit of St. Stephen's Catholic Community.

Left: Jeannie Gramick, SL, with theologian Bill Hunt.

Jeannine, co-founder in 1977 of New Ways Ministry, has for over three decades been a prophetic voice for LGBT Catholics and an astute critic of the Vatican's impoverished understanding of homosexuality and of the gifts that LGBT people offer both the church and wider society. She's also an informed and eloquent speaker and writer, and the subject of the award-winning documentary, In Good Conscience.

In May of this year, Jeannie debated Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois on marriage equality at an event organized by Robert Blair Kaiser and the Jesuit Alumni of Arizona. For a transcript of Jeannine's remarks, click here. For the National Catholic Reporter's coverage of the debate, click here.

Above: Standing at left with Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, and Kathleen Olsen, my good friend and fellow CPCSM/C4ME-MN board member – July 9, 2013.

As well as serving as New Ways Ministry's executive director, Frank is also the editor of the group's excellent blog, Bondings 2.0, which provides timely news updates, quality commentary, and spiritual/theological reflections on current Catholic LGBT issues.

Above: Darlene White, Paula Ruddy, Jeannine Gramick, and Cheryl Maloney.

Jeannine and Frank were in Minnesota to present a workshop at last weekend's DignityUSA National Convention, held at the Minneapolis Hilton. My friend and fellow C4ME-MN board member Jim Smith serves as DignityUSA's program manager, and in the lead-up to the July 4-7 convention had an informative article published in the Twin Cities' Lavender magazine, entitled "Queer and Dignified . . . and Catholic. Huh?."

When Frank first contacted me about the possibility of him and Jeannine meeting with local Catholics working on LGBT issues, he noted that their main purpose was "a sort of ‘fact-finding’" one. They were eager to learn more about what has been going on with local Catholic folks around LGBT issues, and were open to sharing with us any helpful information and insights they might have. It was, therefore, very much an evening of sharing and discussing of recent successes and ongoing challenges.

Right: Paula Ruddy, who's been described as the "matriarch of the Catholic reform movement" in the Twin Cities, and Fr. Mike Tegeder, who was the only active priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis to publicly challenge Archbishop Nienstedt's anti-marriage equality activism.

Left: CPCSM and C4ME-MN board members Brent Vanderlinden and Mary Beckfeld.

Above: With Fr. John Brandes, who in May 2012 joined with two other retired Catholic priests to speak out against the proposed 'marriage amendment.' John is also the inspiration for the character of "Father Brandon" in my semi-autobiographical Wild Reed series The Journal of James Curtis.

Above: Jeannine Gramick, Lisa Vanderlinden
and Paula Ruddy – July 9, 2013.

Above: Brent, Mary and Kathleen.

Above: Henry, Ron and Jay.

Without doubt it was a very enjoyable and inspiring evening, with many recent highlights shared and a number of strategies and hopes expressed concerning the building of a Catholic Church truly welcoming of LGBT people.

One of the things I shared as executive coordinator of CPCSM/Catholics for Marriage Equality MN was the results of the questionnaire that we had visitors complete when they stopped by our booth at the recent Twin Cities Pride festival. I'll share these results in a future post at both The Wild Reed and Sensus Fidelium, the blogsite of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN.

One final thing I'll mention about last night's gathering: Because it took place on the second anniversary of the death of CPCSM co-founder David McCaffrey, we remembered David's life and legacy during a time of prayer at the beginning of our evening together. We all noted how appropriate it was that we were gathering on this special anniversary so as to talk and strategize about local LGBT Catholic organizing. In so doing, we were continuing David's groundbreaking work and vision for a better church.

I envision and work to create a Church that is open
and responsive to the needs and gifts of all its members;
a Church that is meaningful and nurturing of all,
and one that recognizes the equal status of all.

– David J. McCaffrey
1947 – 2011

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Sister Jeannine Gramick Asks: "Who Speaks for Catholics?"
Beyond Papalism
Francis DeBernardo: "The Church is Better Because of the Presence of LGBT People"
Quote of the Day – June 26, 2013
Acknowledging, Celebrating, and Learning from Marriage Equality's 'Triumphs of Faith'
An Energizing and Spirited Weekend
Remembering David McCaffrey, One Year On


Cheryl Maloney said...

It was a beautiful evening of sharing and visiting! Thank you Michael & Tim for your hospitality and for inviting the perfect mix of like-minded souls to gather in your home, share delicious food, beverages, stories and great visions for the future. A wonderful opportunity to hear from and share time with Sr. Jeanine and Frank. Beautiful night!

Catherine said...

So many good people under one roof!

Paula Ruddy said...

Thanks, Michael. In memory of David, and in celebration of good work.

Ray Marshall said...

Definitely looks like a convention of the Retired Vietnam War Protestors Association.

Rather than changing the Church, they should concentrate on rejuvenating themselves.

Kathleen Olsen said...

It was an evening to remember. The sharing of everyone's story was powerful. Thanks, Michael!!!

Laura Hetchler Kuntz said...

Looks like a wonderful evening. Courageous, dedicated people all. Thank you for sharing.

Julie said...

Michael, thank you so much for inviting me to be part of the wonderful evening at your home with such inspiring people. There was an amazing depth of faith, compassion and commitment among local heroes and in Frank and Sr. Jeannine. You are a great host and even in your brief remarks I was reminded what an eloquent human being you are. Thank you for everything you do.

Darlene and Tom White said...

Dear Michael: Tuesday was such a special evening. Thanks so much for including us. David and Bill must be doing a lot of prancing around the Heavens!

And particular thanks to you for your gentle warrior status these last years which motivated so many of us.

Peace and gratitude.