Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 1, 2004
Group ministers to those with same-sex attraction
It takes Courage to live chaste lifestyle
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Are you or a loved one experiencing homosexual attractions and looking for answers? The Edmonton Archdiocese has just set up an apostolate to minister to people who are same-sex attracted and their loved ones.
Courage, as the apostolate is called, has been endorsed by the Pontifical Council for the Family and its main purpose is to promote a chaste lifestyle among same-sex attracted Catholics, said John MacDonald, coordinator of family life and health care for the Edmonton Archdiocese.
With full support from Archbishop Thomas Collins, MacDonald is currently promoting the organization and inviting people to come together. "We don't have any members (yet) because it's a difficult thing to draw people at least initially; people are suspicious."
Courage is open to "just regular people who happen to be same-sex attracted, men and women, as well as their parents and friends," he said.
"We are not going out and trying to aggressively convert these people. What we are doing is offer support and encouragement for people who wish to follow the Church's teaching as it stands."
Side by side with Courage is Encourage, an affiliate support group for friends and relatives of men and women with homosexual feelings. This support group works and prays to develop a Catholic outreach to men and women who struggle with these feelings.
The purpose of Courage is to promote a chaste lifestyle among homosexual Catholics, MacDonald said.
"In other words, we want to help them manage their sexuality in such a manner that is healthy and positive for them. We want to encourage them to use correctly their creative sexual energy; it is something we want to support and encourage and people need this in a society that's so out of touch with healthy sexuality."
Courage will offer members "the support and understanding and certainly the pastoral care from priests and spiritual directors they need to help them with difficult issues and through difficult times," MacDonald said.
In addition to individual counselling, Courage chapters often conduct their sessions with the assistance of the 12-step format developed by Alcoholic Anonymous, explains a pamphlet from Encourage.
Most members of Courage in the United States and around the world have spiritual directors, according to MacDonald. "That's a very important element of support and encouragement. Maybe they can go and talk for an hour at a time about their spiritual struggles and their difficulties and they will get good spiritual counselling and some good spiritual direction."
Courage is "very Catholic" in the context that it "encourages people to live a very solid Catholic Christian life," MacDonald said.
"These people walk as closely with God as any people I've come in contact with because they recognize they need that connection on a daily basis to be able to be who they truly want to be."
MacDonald's familiarity with Courage comes mainly through his attending a four-day Courage conference in St. Paul, Minn., last August. Archbishop Collins sent him there to explore the possibility of setting up the organization in Edmonton. Some 250 delegates from Courage's 90 chapters in the U.S., and 10 countries attended the conference.
"Many (gay) people come to Courage after years in gay relationships that they ultimately concluded have been very destructive to them as persons and to the people they have been involved with," MacDonald said. "They evolve to Courage through default perhaps because they recognize that the other side has left them with much pain and much sorrow in broken relationships and all sorts of things."
Courage was founded in 1980 by Cardinal Terence Cooke, the late archbishop of New York, and continues to be sponsored by the Archdiocese of New York. The apostolate's next conference is in Chicago in August and the Edmonton Archdiocese is hoping to have one priest attend.
"As far as their loving capacity and their capacity to care, (gay people) are very good people," said MacDonald, a father of one who knows several homosexual people and has been influenced by some of them in his life.
"They are just like everybody else out there. They are not strange. They are struggling with an issue and wherever there is pain and struggle, the Church is there. It needs to be or we are in the wrong business."
For more information on Courage call MacDonald at 469-2323.
Letter to the Editor - 03/22/04