Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 19, 2007
Gay and Catholic, Michael found safe harbour at Courage
Homosexuality and faith are reconciled within Catholic support groups
By ALICIA AMBROSIO
"I felt like I was being made to fit into someone else's pigeonhole."
Although the Courage apostolate has been criticized by secular gay rights groups and, even other, purportedly Catholic gay-ministries, Michael said, "I see a lot more condemnation outside the Church than I do inside the Church."
"I felt like I was being made to fit into someone else's pigeonhole. Just because I had a same-sex attraction I had to call myself gay and live accordingly."
Through Courage, Michael said he realized that the Church's position was really to "love the sinner, not the sin." For the first time he felt like "I'm not in this alone."
"It also gave me the courage to look inside myself and examine issues I had not dealt with. That helped me find balance in my life."
The Courage apostolate reaches out not only to men and women with a same-sex attraction but also to their family members and loved ones. Encourage is the parallel support group for family and friends of same-sex attracted Catholics.
Ann found out about Encourage a year and a half ago when her son revealed that he had a same-sex attraction. She knew there was a Courage group active in the archdiocese and contacted John MacDonald.
He told Ann about the Encourage apostolate, even though at the time there was not an active Encourage group in the archdiocese.
Ann said she took it upon herself to investigate the Courage and Encourage apostolate active in the United States and attended the few gatherings that were organized in Edmonton.
"You want to love and support the person (with a same-sex attraction) and maintain the teaching of the Church at the same time."
"I was able to share with others who were going through the same thing, how I was dealing with it and how it was affecting the family," she said.
Through Encourage Ann said she was able to find resources to help her deal with the situation, including the prayers of others who understood what she was going through.
"It helped to know there were others in the same situation," she said.
What made Ann feel comfortable within the Encourage group was the confidentiality in the group. The focus is on member's emotions and coping, not on the details of their lives. As well, "it's totally in keeping with the teaching of the Catholic Church," she said.
Ann said Encourage helps "you want to love and support the person (with a same-sex attraction) and maintain the teaching of the Church at the same time."
"It's hard to love and accept the person (with the same sex attraction) and stand for what you believe at the same time. Often that person rejects you because you stand with what you believe and all you can do is love them and pray for them."
Although the situation is challenging, Ann said she has found that it draws people closer to God and forces one to grow in their faith and their understanding of the Church's teaching.
Encourage will begin regular monthly meetings this month. The first meeting will be held Nov. 17.
Courage is already up and running in the archdiocese and meets on a weekly basis.
For more information on either Courage or Encourage, contact the Office of Pastoral Care and Life Initiatives at 469-1010.
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