by Vicki Otto, Precious Blood Companions Co-Director, LGBT Ministry Committee
Every now and then a random lyric from a song pops in my head. When I was in Kansas City in November, a song from the 1980s struck that chord. I don’t know who sang the song, but the chorus was, “The future is so bright, I have to wear shades.” Over the last several weeks we have seen and heard words of division and anger while watching the news or reading the local papers. It almost feels like there is more bad news than there is good news. Words of anger and division seem commonplace and almost normal simply because we hear them so often. So how do we as Precious Blood people maintain hope? I believe when we courageously share our faith and offer places to speak truth, those moments of hope and brightness are possible.
The LGBT Ministry Committee has been working on and developing a process to help groups in our Precious Blood family discuss what it means to be more welcoming, not only for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, but for others who also might not feel welcomed in the Church. Using a model developed by Fr. Joe Nassal, five areas are highlighted during the process: How does a community open the door to welcome others, how do we seek the lost? How can we develop an environment that fosters telling the truth? How do we create a safe space where people can speak the truth? How do we comfortably stand in the breach when division in a community occurs? We also determined that the best way to foster dialogue was to clearly state that we were not advocating for changing Church policies or defying Church policy but simply offering the forum for groups to discuss what welcoming meant for them.
In November, our Committee was invited to offer this presentation at Saint Francis Xavier Parish in St. Joseph, Missouri. Sister Diana Rawlings, A.S.C. and Companion Cathy Pankiewicz from our committee joined me for our gathering. After we gathered and shared scripture and prayer, the community was eager to discuss the different areas of the presentation and what it meant specifically for them as a community. There were many interesting conversations about how individuals can reach out to others who they might not know and how challenging it was to step out of one’s comfort zone to reach out. One of the most powerful moments came after Cathy shared her story as a parent whose daughter is lesbian. She touched many people in her own parish community when she shared the challenges she and her family faced regarding the Church. One woman remarked at the end of the presentation, “We have more rules to keep people out of the Church then we do to welcome them in. We need to change that.” There was a beautiful transgender person named Jade who was also part of the gathering for the evening. She lives in California and was visiting her family in Saint Joseph. She was baptized and received her sacraments at Saint Francis. After the presentation was done, she told me never in her wildest imagination did she believe she would ever hear the words of welcoming and hospitality being shared that evening. Hearing the words of welcome and hospitality made a difference and gave her hope.
Saint Gaspar challenged the community of his time and continues to challenge us as a Precious Blood community to look outside the gate for those who stand at the edge. We are called to be a people of hospitality, to ensure that no one is left outside. On that evening in November, the people of Saint Francis Xavier answered the challenge Saint Gaspar gave us. Our hope as a committee is that more groups will begin this dialogue. In these times when we hear of division and anger in our world, that evening filled me with hope. I look forward to more of these opportunities because I want to believe that the future can be bright.