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Memphis bishop welcomes home gay Catholics


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Memphis bishop welcomes home gay Catholics


Reflecting on the church as home and on recent meetings with Catholics who feel unwelcome in their “home,” Memphis, Tenn., Bishop J. Terry Steib announced the beginning of a diocesan ministry to gay and lesbian Catholics.

Steib began his June 2 column, “This Far by Faith,” published in the diocesan newspaper, by reflecting on the church as home “where [God’s] family gathers to celebrate God’s unconditional love.” Then he wrote the following:

But as I have reflected on the church as home, I have become more acutely aware of the number of people -- the number of Catholics -- who are no longer comfortable in their home. In fact, some are no longer certain that the church is their home. Sometimes it is the circumstances of life that cause people to feel estranged or separated. Occasionally it is a misunderstanding of the church’s teachings that keeps people away. Often, individuals hide a deep pain that is rooted in knowing that, for whatever reason, their lives do not conform to other people’s lives; or worse, they feel that who they are is unacceptable.

Recently I met with such people. Many of them were born into Catholic families, baptized as infants and attended Catholic schools. They have embraced the faith handed on to them. Others, through the examples of friends and having felt called by God, became Catholics through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. For all of them, being Catholic is at the core of who they are. At the same time, they are people who are not sure of “their place” in their home. They are people -- wonderful, good Catholic people -- who are gay and lesbian.

Steib wrote about meeting with a group of gays and lesbians and then meeting with parents of gays and lesbians. The parents see their children’s “goodness and their giftedness, but they also see the loneliness of their gay and lesbian children as no one else sees it,” he wrote.

Reflecting on his meetings and on church as home raised questions, the bishop wrote: “How deep is our river of faith if we are not actively working to be sure that all are welcome in their own home -- the home given to each of us when we became members of God’s family through baptism? ... [W]ill we allow our hearts to grow if we simply lay aside preconceived notions of who does or does not belong?”

Jesus, the bishop noted, “loved all, lived for all, and died for all.”

Steib then announced the beginning of a diocesan ministry to gay and lesbian Catholics “to be sure that we do not leave anyone behind, to be sure that all are welcome in their own home, and to be sure that we promote genuine gratitude and reverence for the gift that each one of us is to the church.”

Paulist Fr. John Geaney, the diocesan spokesman, told NCR that the ministry is being run by a committee under the leadership of the diocese’s director of the office of worship. The committee is convening potluck suppers and discussions at the cathederal parish in Memphis.

Dennis Coday is an NCR staff writer. His e-mail address is dcoday@ncronline.org.

Related Web site

The full text of Bishop Steib’s June 2 column is available in The West Tennessee Catholic section of the diocesan Web site.



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