Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 5, 2009
Guimond named chaplain for local Courage groups
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - The purpose of a support group, Courage, is to promote a chaste lifestyle among Catholics with same-sex attractions. A similar group, Encourage, offers support for their families.
Father Ray Guimond has recently been appointed chaplain of the two support groups. While neither group is well-known to most people, he is trying to give them a higher profile. The Courage group has about five members and meets every week at St. Joseph's Basilica, and Encourage meets every month at St. Anthony's Church.
"They share their experiences, their victories and even their failures. The spiritual element is also brought out," said Guimond, noting that they pray together and have retreats as well.
Cardinal Terence Cooke, the late archbishop of New York, founded Courage in 1980. In 2004, Archbishop Thomas Collins began promoting the organization in Edmonton. The support group offers individual counselling and is based on the 12-step format developed by Alcoholics Anonymous.
The goal is not to aggressively convert them from the homosexual lifestyle but to offer support and encouragement for those who wish to follow the Church's teachings on chastity. For some, Guimond said, there is the hope that they will be able to change their attractions.
"Basically it is supporting them for wanting to become chaste. Another element that's very important is that they feel rejected by the Church.
"Some of them believe the Church rejects those who have these kinds of attractions - and it's not true. One of the things that the group does to help them is tell them that the Church embraces them but does not condone anything that goes against chastity.
"The Church is there to help them achieve chastity, in spite of these attractions."
The struggle with sexuality is a common struggle for everybody, regardless of sexual orientation, said Guimond.
"It's no different except one morning they wake up and they find out that they have these attractions. It's something terrible for them. They might think there is something abnormal about it.
"Our society is trying to say it's normal and it's OK to act out on their feelings, their attractions. But the Church, of course, says 'no.' So the group helps them to achieve chastity, and not only that, but to get the support of the Church," said Guimond.
He went to a Courage conference in Philadelphia attended by about 200 people, mostly men and women with same-sex attractions, and their parents.
He discovered that once the Church embraced people with homosexual feelings, they became very attached to the Church. They learned that the Church was there to help, not condemn.
"They went beyond just going to church on Sunday. They practise devotions, they say the rosary, they go to Confession regularly and they go to adoration.
"They embrace the Church when the Church embraces them. That's the purpose of the Church. As Jesus said, 'I didn't come for those who are well. I come for those who are sick.'"
There is a parallel between the parable of the Good Samaritan and the situation people with homosexual feelings face, said Guimond. The priest and the Levites of the Old Testament passed by, not wanting to go near the wounded man. The Good Samaritan brought him into the inn, which is an image of the Church.
"In a way, Courage and Encourage are to bring people into the Church so that they can be safe and find hope. That's what I hear when I participate in the groups, saying that in the Church they find hope - not necessarily the hope of changing their attractions - but being able to live with it," said Guimond.
For more information about meeting dates and times, contact John MacDonald at the Edmonton Archdiocese's pastoral care and life initiatives office at 780-469-1010 ext. 249 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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