Friday, June 16, 2023

From Fr. Frank

Many years ago, in 1989, I began ministering to people living with AIDS by volunteering at Bonaventure House on the North side and the AIDS Pastoral Care Network. Those  were the early days of the disease that was spreading throughout the Gay community in our country; but the reality of AIDS was experienced in many communities throughout Africa and other parts of the world. AIDS is not and never was a “gay disease”, an attitude that surfaced throughout the crisis, releasing and unveiling the bigotry and homophobia the Gay community has experienced for centuries.

My work and ministry in the LGBT community during this time put a human face of compassion on those suffering and their loved ones. I saw first hand the beauty of love expressed on the faces of those faces who were diagnosed with a disease that would certainly bring death and those who loved them. I witnessed countless deaths and celebrations of life that ended in releasing balloons, watching them ascend into the heavens, carrying loved ones to the divine embrace of Christ.

My experiences during this time pierced my heart, which transformed and expanded me to see love and commitment in new ways. During this very time, a concerned parent asked me to speak with her son who was struggling with his own sexual identity and he was 15 years old. Listening to his hurt and confusion, the hatred he experienced by classmates and neighbors, was another way my heart was pierced. A 15 year old filled with depression, wanting to experience love just like every other 15 year old, but unable to do so out of fear broke my heart.

Trying to help people suffering with AIDS, listening to a 15 year old were key moments in my life and ministry. Memories of earlier times are surfacing in this time of Pride when exploring sexual identity was absolutely taboo. Even the discussion of sexual orientation was prohibited out of fear of rejection or worse. The AIDS crisis was the beginning of people seeing homosexuality and being gay in a new light. Hearts and attitudes were changed by seeing two people of the same sex deeply loving and caring for each other,  just like any other two people who love each other.

I made it a mission to welcome people in the LGBTQ community wherever I ministered. I was so lucky to be assigned to St. Teresa’s, a parish with a history of openness to the Gay community. I am filled with “pride” as our community and parish is integrated, bringing together people of different backgrounds, cultures, sexualities and theological perspectives; our identities are rooted in being disciples of Christ, an identity that unites and gathers.

Our Church’s teaching is clear: we must respect the dignity of each and every human being, no exceptions whatsoever and all forms of discrimination and exclusion are absolutely forbidden. And the Church teaches clearly that the intimate union between two people of the same sex is not a part of God’s plan. I hold the teaching of the Church and my experiences with people who are gay in tension, a tension that I simply live with. I respect and uphold the teaching of the church; I respect and uphold my experiences ministering to people who are LGBTQ.

God is love and those who abide in love abide in God and God abides in them. This verse comes from the New Testament. The Church’s teaching on human sexuality is evolving and deepening as the church listens to voices previously muted: women, married couples, people on the fringes, the poor, the excluded, the victims of clergy abuse. By listening and respecting these voices, even in disagreement, the Church is loving in action.

I stand by and with those in the LGBTQ community and hope St. Teresa’s continues to be a beacon of light and hope to all God’s People, respecting differences, healing inner wounds, living the beauty of the Catholic faith, uniting as disciples of Christ, loving as Christ loves.
Respecting.. Healing..Living..Uniting…Loving….
verbs that transform a community and parish into the Kingdom.

In Christ. Fr. Frank