Saturday, April 30, 2016

Saying Farewell to CPCSM

On the afternoon of Saturday, April 17, I hosted an event at my home in south Minneapolis to mark the official dissolving of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), the non-profit organization I've have led as executive coordinator since 2003.

Above: Pictured center with (from left) Bill and Deb LeMay and Lisa and Brent Vanderlinden.

From 2011 to 2013, the organization operated as Catholics for Marriage Equality - Minnesota (C4ME-MN), which played a crucial role in defeating the proposed 2012 anti-marriage equality amendment to the Minnesota constitution and securing marriage equality within the civil sphere in 2013. One of our most signifant undertaking during this time was the creation (in collaboration with filmmaker Aleshia Mueller of Reel Nomad Productions) of Catholic for Marriage Equality, a series of five video vignettes of faith, marriage and family from the perspective of LGBT Catholics and supportive family members.

Another important project of C4ME-MN was led by Jim Smith and involved over 300 Catholics coming together to record David Lohman's powerful song, "For the Children." Both a audio and video recording was made, and the final result was premiered at a special event in Loring Park in August 2012.

Since August 2014, both CPCSM and C4ME-MN have largely been inactive, although earlier this month I was quoted as the "former coordinator for Catholics for Marriage Equality MN" in Jean Hopfensperger's Star Tribune piece on Catholic reactions to Pope Francis' Amoris Laetitia.

Why have we dissolved the organization? Well, as the saying goes, everything has its season . . . and, basically, we (as in the CPCSM board) felt that the time had come for CPCSM to formally fold. Over the past five years or so it has become increasingly difficult to build and maintain the capacity to both fund and operate the non-profit organization that CPCSM was established as in 1980. We've accomplished much, and we're well aware that there is still much to do. We're confident, however, that both Dignity Twin Cities (from which CPCSM emerged 36 years ago) and the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (which CPCSM helped co-found in 2009) are more than capable of carrying forward many aspects of CPCSM's mission and work.

A history of creating environments of respect, acceptance and safety

Of course, well before CPCSM's focus on marriage equality, the organization worked to create environments of respect, acceptance and safety for LGBT persons and their families within both the Catholic Church and wider society; environments wherein the experiences, insights, and integrity of LGBT persons and their loved ones are recognized, affirmed and celebrated.

Our work has included a range of services – from the training of parish-based professionals and volunteers working with LGBT persons in the 1980s to “safe staff” training of secondary school professionals at eight of the eleven local Catholic high schools in the 1990s. CPCSM's work also included a variety of educational and consultative programs – from family support groups and parish-based educational lectures and workshops to consultations provided to a number of parishes, religious communities, and other church and community groups within the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

In 2007 we had our first book published: Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective. I had the honor of editing this collection of strategies, resources, and reflections that helps Catholic high school teachers and counselors in their interactions with students who have either “come out” as LGBT or who are struggling with questions related to sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

To date, Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective remains the only resource specifically drawn from and written for the Catholic high school context. (For reviews of this book, click here, here, and here.)

Following are some images of the April 17, 2016 "wake" for CPCSM/Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, an event that brought together folks from different times in the organization's 30+ year history.

Above: Beverly Barrett and Bill Hunt.

For many years Beverly served as CPCSM's secretary, maintaining meticulous minutes and notes.

Throughout the 1980s and '90s, Bill Hunt served as CPCSM's peritus (theological advisor), having attended the sessions of the second period of the Second Vatican Council in that same capacity in 1963. Bill holds a doctorate in theology from the Catholic University of America and taught Catholic theology at the graduate level for fifteen years. A number of his erudite articles have been published at The Progressive Catholic Voice online forum (see, for example, here, here, and here).

Above: Former CPCSM board members Craig Barrett and Mary Ellen Foster, CSJ.

Mary Ellen's involvement with CPCSM dates back to the organization's earliest days. In the early 1980s she served on the CPCSM board with her good friend Sarah O'Neill, CSJ. Sarah dedicated so much of her time and energy to CPCSM that when she died in 1985 Equal Time, a local LGBT newspaper, published a lengthy obituary, noting that with her death "the Twin Cities' lesbian and gay community [had] lost a significant and much-needed liaison with the Catholic Church."

We remembered and celebrated the life and legacy of Sarah O'Neill at our April 17 gathering, along with others from CPCSM's past, including co-founders Bill Kummer (1948-2006) and David McCaffrey (1947-2011).

The image at right is from 2004 and shows Bill Kummer pictured at far right. Also in this photograph are (from left) Ginna Webb, CSJ; Tom White; Brigid McDonald, CSJ; Martin Dohmen; Mary Lynn Murphy; and Darlene White. For many years Martin served as CPCSM's office manager. He was unable to attend the April 17 event but asked that the following anecdote be shared.

One of the things I remember the most when we were first getting the safe schools program going was when Bill, David and myself would be at the office preparing materials and be up late. David and I would think we were prepared but then Billy would come to us and say, "I think it would be better if we did this." David and I would get frustrated knowing we would have to redo something, but we also knew that Billy would be right – again. When we did get done we always managed to have pie afterwards.

Above: Mary Beckfeld, Mary Lynn Murphy and Darlene White. Along with other Catholic parents of LGBT children, Mary, Mary Lynn, and Darlene where co-founders in 2004 of Catholic Rainbow Parents.

Above: Former board members Brigid McDonald, CSJ and Alice Rice.

Above: Former CPCSM treasurer Paul Fleege with a display board I created in 2004.

Above: Mary Lynn Murphy, Rob Pieck, and Br. Michael Lee.

Above: Darlene White with her son Tim (left) and Paul Fleege.

Above: Brigid McDonald, CSJ, Cheryl Maloney, and Ruth Brooker, CSJ.

The signs in the background were created for Catholics for Marriage Equality MN's 2012 Lenten prayer vigil outside the chancery offices of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

Above: Bob DeNardo, Mike Murphy, and Tom White.

Above: My good friend and housemate Tim with Paula Ruddy, who's been described as the "matriarch of the Catholic reform movement" in the Twin Cities. She's also a very good friend of mine and a very articulate and thoughtful communicator of ideas! (See, for example, here, here, here and here.)

You may recall that Paula and I were part of a delegation from the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) that met with then-Interim Archbishop Hebda (now the actual Archbishop) of St. Paul-Minneapolis in September 2015. (For more about this meeting, click here.)

CPCSM helped co-found CCCR in 2009. It's an organization that, in a number of important ways, carries forward CPCSM's mission and work. (See, for example, here.)

Above: With Bill Hunt – Saturday, April 17, 2016.

For more on the history and accomplishments of CPCSM, see the following previous Wild Reed posts:
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)
CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 5)
CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 6)
CPCSM’s Year in Review – 2006 (includes an announcement of the January 29 death of CPCSM co-founder Bill Kummer.)
CPCSM Co-founder Responds to "Not Catholic" Assertion
Inclusive Catholics Celebrate Gay Pride (2007)
Choosing to Stay
300+ People Vigil at the Cathedral in Solidarity with LGBT Catholics
CPCSM's Year in Review – 2007
250+ People Attend Catholic LGBT Pride Prayer Service in Minneapolis
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2008)
How Times Have Changed
CPCSM's Year in Review – 2008
History Matters
Putting a Human Face on the 'T' of 'GLBT'
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2009)
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Courage
For the Record
CPCSM's Year in Review – 2009
At UST, a Rousing and Very Catholic Show of Support for Marriage Equality
LGBT Catholics Celebrate Being "Wonderfully Made"
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2010)
CPCSM's Year in Review – 2010
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2011)
Sad News (The Wild Reed's July 10, 2011 announcement of CPCSM co-founder David McCaffrey's death.)
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2012)
GSAs and the Catholic High School Setting
Doing Papa Proud
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2013)
An Inspiring Evening of Conversation and Camaraderie
Minnesota Catholics, LGBT Students, and the Ongoing Work of Creating Safe and Supportive Schools
On the First Anniversary of Marriage Equality in Minnesota, a Celebratory Look Back at the Important Role Played by Catholics
Catholics Make Their Voices Heard on LGBTQ Issues


Paula said...

Thanks, Michael, for being the heart and soul of CPCSM for these last several years. And thanks for that wonderful memorial gathering of people from the organization's different eras. Some things live forever; for us, one of them will be CPCSM.

Joseph Palacios said...

CPCSM made a significant contribution to creating a safe space for Catholics to support LGBT human rights both in society and the church. A job well done! You helped make history in Minnesota. Thanks for your persistent commitment!

Michael Airhart said...

I'm happy to see that Dignity is still alive and apparently well in the Twin Cities, along with CCCR.

McAuley Hentges said...

Thank you, Michael, and all the folks at CPCSM for the fine work you have done on behalf of LGBTQ Catholics and our families for many years.

Steve Wilson said...

God blesses you for all of your hard work, Michael. I'm glad to have been a small part of it. You changed peoples' hearts, if not the institutional church. And I'm pretty sure God is not through with you.