HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut State Rep. Beth Bye and her partner, Tracey Wilson, spoke at St. Patrick-St. Anthony parish here recently on the struggle of raising four children as a lesbian couple.
The program was part of the parish’s Gay and Lesbian Ministry of the Franciscan Community Center for Urban Ministry. The ministry states as its mission: to offer programs that assist the gay and lesbian community, and their family and friends in their spiritual journey with God. The ministry strives to respond to the needs of the gay community through spiritual, educational and social programs, along with outreach to the greater community in need of support and care. People of all faiths are welcome.
The ministry has been active for almost eight years, guided by the Gay and Lesbian Steering Committee and assisted by volunteers and participants. Its credo is “open hearts, open minds, open doors.”
Sister Ginny Sheehan, SND, who provides spiritual direction and retreats at the parish, is one of the organizers. She got involved years ago when a couple she knew asked her for help when their son revealed he was gay.
The ministry has become one of the defining programs at St. Patrick-St. Anthony, whose pastor is James Hynes, OFM.
“The Franciscans have a more open-mindedness than some of the local parishes, and are willing to take risks,” said Sister Ginny, “and this is a great risk.”
A Ministry for Healing
“This is the one place where we try to bring folks together for healing,” especially around some of the recent Church documents that seems to put gays and lesbians in a bad light, she added.
“We try to listen to them and meet them where they are. We try to connect our ministry with the entire church through homilies, prayers and petitions,” she added.
Sub-committees plan and implement all monthly programs and services supported by the ministry. Meeting once a month, the committee heartily welcomes new members to join the Steering Committee or sub-groups to help plan meetings throughout the year. The ministry feels strongly that by working and praying together, it can make a difference in the lives of people, in the Church and in the community.
Events Take Place Monthly
In addition to hearing speakers like Beth Bye, the ministry also includes preparing, serving and sharing dinner with the women of Catherine’s Place on the first Wednesday of each month. Catherine’s Place, located within the Franciscan Center for Urban Ministry, is transitional housing for women who have experienced homelessness and addiction in their lives. Fourteen women live there.
Every other week following the 5:00 p.m. Mass, the ministry has a social.
Earlier this month, the ministry held an evening Gay and Lesbian Advent Retreat on Dec. 17, focusing on the themes of Advent through the personal reflections of presenters, in prayer and song.
The group also went on a bus trip to New York City on Dec. 15, to take in the holiday sites.
The ministry identifies with the following quote from theologian and author Jack Rodgers: “I believe people who are homosexual should be given full rights of membership in the church and citizenship in the nation. I believe this is the only way to heal the wounds of the church and the nation.”
Photo above shows the interior of St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church