By Chuck Small

             Those who attended the inaugural OutRaleigh festival, a celebration of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, not only were able to see how the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi welcomes them but also could hear that message of welcome firsthand from our pastor, Fr. Mark Reamer.

            Father Mark was among more than a half dozen leaders of the Raleigh faith community who stood onstage to offer OutRaleigh participants a warm welcome May 14 on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh. Among the other faith communities represented were Temple Beth Or, Pullen Baptist Church, Umstead Park United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh and Community United Church of Christ. Because of time constraints, Father Mark was one of only three faith community leaders to address the festival.

            Participants heard a clear statement that St. Francis is a faith community that welcomes everyone. Father Mark quoted the parish mission statement that “we are one family living in community confronted, challenged and comforted by the Word of God, reaching out to all persons and their families.”  He elaborated on the word “all,” that it excludes no one.  Indeed, all are invited to believe and belong and build up the kingdom of God.

            Referencing Catholic church teaching, Father Mark described the U.S. bishops’ pastoral statement “Always Our Children” and explained the program of the same name that St. Francis GLBT Ministry has developed for GLBT people and their families.

The Catholic Church’s pastoral message is one of acceptance of self within the divinely revealed truth about the dignity and destiny of human persons, Father Mark said.

            He concluded by reminding those present: You are always Gods children!

            Participants had the opportunity to learn firsthand about St. Francis GLBT Ministry by coming to a table set up at the festival. About 10 parishioners staffed the ministry table at various points in the day, providing copies of the ministrys 2011-12 calendar, information about the Always Our Children program, and a save-the-date flyer for the Oct. 14-16 retreat at St. Francis Springs in Stoneville, NC.

            OutRaleigh is the first of several outreach efforts the ministry makes each year to the Triangle’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. In August, the ministry will have a table at the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival at Durham’s Carolina Theatre. And the last weekend in September, the ministry will have a table at N.C. Pride on the East Campus of Duke University. This year will mark the 10th year that the ministry has been the sole Catholic parish presence at Pride.