NEW YORK (CNS) — More than 200 people from all over the United States and Canada, as well as from the United Kingdom, Italy, Colombia and Uganda, gathered June 24-25 in New York City for the first in-person Outreach LGBTQ Catholic Ministry Conference.
“These were theologians and writers; high school teachers and college professors; pastors and parish lay leaders; mothers and fathers; gay, straight, bisexual, lesbian and transgender people — all part of the same church,” said Jesuit Father James Martin.
The priest is editor at large of America magazine and a driving force behind its new website, outreach.faith, which provides news and resources for LGBTQ Catholics, their families and the people who minister with them.
The goals of the conference, held at St. Paul the Apostle Church and at the Lincoln Center campus of Fordham University, “were to build community, share best practices and worship together, and by that measure the conference was a success,” he said in comments posted on the outreach.faith website.
The conference opened with an evening keynote June 24 by Bishop John E. Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, whose overall message to LGBTQ people was: “I love you.”
In a morning keynote June 25, Father Bryan Massingale, a professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University in New York, issued a “prophetic challenge” to the church to see LGBTQ issues “as inseparable from race and color.”
Loretto Sister Jeannine Gramick, who has been engaged in LGTBQ ministry for more than 50 years and is the co-founder of New Ways Ministry, delivered the evening keynote that closed the conference. She told her listeners that substantive change in the church comes slowly.
In breakout sessions, panelists addressed such topics as LGBTQ ministry in Catholic parishes; ministry with families with LGBTQ members; employment in Catholic institutions; ministry with Transgender people; LGBTQ issues and mental health; theology and LGBTQ people; and “The Catholic Rainbow: Race, Ethnicity & Intersectionality.”
Father Martin and Paulist Father Rick Walsh concelebrated a June 25 evening Mass at St. Paul the Apostle Church for participants.
The conference’s co-sponsors were America Media and Fordham’s Center on Religion and Culture.
“Many people met others engaged in similar ministries and found they shared similar hopes and dreams. Simply coming together physically helped build a sense of community in a ministry where people can sometimes feel isolated,” said Father Martin.
Tentative plans are underway for a 2024 conference.