Ministry Mission statement
In accordance with our parish mission statement, we reach out to provide spiritual nourishment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families and friends. We seek to affirm the intrinsic value and self-worth of all people and to welcome them into full participation in the faith community. All LGBT people are welcome.
We also welcome friends and family of LGBT people and anyone who might be questioning what it means to be a supportive Catholic for LGBT parishioners. Whatever your religious tradition, please know you are welcome to pray and worship with us.
Saturday Vigil 5:30 pm and Sunday 7:30, 9:30, 11:30 and 5:30 pm
Where we are located – 11401 Leesville Road Raleigh, NC 2761
News and Notes about Past Events
Click on the tabs for more information
- We had 9 sessions of Always God’s Children (we don’t meet on the first Sunday if it is a holiday weekend).
- On Martin Luther King weekend in January, we cooked and served food to over 200 homeless people at the
Oak City Outreach Center in Raleigh.
- In February, we hosted a transgender speaker from the LGBT Center who educated all of our AGC facilitators
and Ministry leadership on the many challenges and issues facing transgender individuals.
- In March and April, we had our six Friday evening Lenten Small Christian Community dinners and discussions.
- Memorial Day weekend in May saw our annual Ministry Picnic at Umstead Park, always a popular event.
- Throughout the year, we had 4 Newcomers’ Dinners.
- In May, we staffed our booth at the annual OUTRaleigh event, which drew 35,000 people to downtown Raleigh.
- In August, we had an information booth at the annual Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Durham.
- We had a large turnout for a book discussion of Fr. Martin’s book “Building a Bridge.”
- Chuck Small, one of our members, had a review of Fr. Martin’s book published in the “News & Observer.”
- In August, we cooked and served dinner for our parish teens and their parents and families at the conclusion of their week -long community outreach.
- In September, we hosted Fr. Martin VIA Skype for a parish wide presentation and Q&A about his book.
Many commented that it was one of the best events our Ministry has ever done.
- October saw our annual Retreat, held this year at St. Francis Springs.
- During Advent, we had daily readings and reflections through an online blog.
- Finally, in December we had our annual Christmas party with over 40 in attendance, a record.MORE TO COME IN 2018!
“Building a Bridge” to LGBT people is the work of the entire Church, Martin says
By Chuck Small
Last summer, the publication of James Martin’s “Building a Bridge” sparked much conversation within and outside the Catholic Church. The Jesuit priest and popular author (“Jesus,” “Seven Last Words”) developed the book as an examination of how, as its subtitle says, “the Catholic Church and the LGBT community can enter into a relationship of respect, compassion and sensitivity.” So why release a “revised and expanded” version less than a year later?
Martin deftly answers this in an introduction to the new edition, in which he notes, “The first realization … was that ministry to LGBT Catholics is ministry not just to LGBT people but, increasingly, to the entire church.”
He talked of hearing from relatives, neighbors, friends, co-workers and so on. All wanted to discuss this relationship so close to their hearts: the connection between their faith and their loved ones who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or otherwise part of the broad spectrums of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The initial publication of “Building a Bridge” was slight but significant, developed from an address he gave in 2016 to New Ways Ministry, an organization that ministers to LGBT Catholics, family and friends. Its strength came not in uncharted theological territory but in the simplicity and common-sense approach of its message, as well as the fact that the message received some support from an institutional audience, including bishops in the Chicago and Newark, N.J., archdioceses.
But Martin’s initial message also faced strong resistance from critics, including a now infamous rescinding last September from Theological College, a seminary affiliated with the Catholic University of America, of a speech Martin was to have given on Jesus. Although he does not directly address these actions in the revised version of “Building a Bridge,” Martin does more clearly dive into what he sees as the fearful motivations underlying the reactions.
In addition to being a priest and author, Martin is an editor at large of America magazine, a leading Catholic publication. If the first version of “Building a Bridge” often read like a homily, this new version has more of a journalistic tone. Statistics on anti-gay bullying are included from the educator network GLSEN; Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago is quoted on the importance of respectful use of accurate terminology; and Martin shares six anecdotes from people who have spoken with him since the first edition and asks how their experiences might inspire others.
By making these revisions, Martin subtly shifts and significantly expands the audience for “Building a Bridge” from LGBT Catholics and church leaders (ordained and lay) to the entire People of God. This is a conversation we all must have with one another.
Martin reflects on how the often-fractured dialogue between the leaders of the Church and the LGBT community reflects a greater rift in society: “In these times, the church should be a sign of unity. Frankly, in all times. Yet many people see the church as contributing to division, as some Christian leaders and their congregations mark off boundaries of ‘us’ and ‘them.’ ”
What Martin aims to do is turn down the heat. To do so, he turns to a key phrase from the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” – that LGBT people “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.” Martin asks what it means to do so, both for the church and for the LGBT (and ally) community, and with a pastoral mix of supportive prodding and provocative questioning, encourages all parties to approach relationships with open minds, ears and hearts.
The revised version of the book makes clear Martin’s belief that – while both the magisterial church and the LGBT community need to build the bridge – the bulk of the work of dialogue and reconciliation falls on the Church because its leaders have too often “made LGBT Catholics feel marginalized, not the other way around.” The book now does include the entire portion of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that explicitly references homosexuality (a key criticism of the first edition). Still, Martin puts this citation in the chapter on the church’s sensitivity to LGBT Catholics, and he does so for a reason.
“Building a Bridge” works best as a nudge toward a larger, much needed dialogue, not only within the Catholic Church but also in other faith traditions and society overall. To that end, the latter section with biblical passages for reflection and meditation will prove valuable for both individual use and small-group conversations.
One of the key parts of the initial printing was the “Imprimi Potest” (an official designation stating the work is found free of doctrinal error and can be printed) and book-jacket blurbs of support from two American bishops and a cardinal overseeing the Vatican’s division for laity, family and life. When I reviewed the first edition, I wrote, “It’s important not to overstate these signs – after all, John J. McNeill’s groundbreaking 1976 work ‘The Church and the Homosexual’ also initially earned an Imprimi Potest before the Vatican yanked it a year later.”
The Imprimi Potest, significantly, is still there. But also present in this edition are acknowledgments from Martin that weren’t a part of the first edition, of pioneers in Catholic LGBT ministry like McNeill as well as the Rev. Robert Nugent, who co-founded New Ways Ministry with Sister Jeannine Gramick. (Martin did cite Gramick as a key influence in both editions.) Martin, who has weathered his share of nasty personal attacks in the months since the initial publishing of “Building a Bridge,” notes that McNeill, Gramick and Nugent all “suffered in different ways as a result of their ministries.”
The revised “Building a Bridge” shows the magnitude and complexity of the challenge the People of God face in entering a relationship of respect, compassion and sensitivity. But it retains the hopeful optimism of the initial version, strengthened by the acknowledgment that others have come before us, and heartened by the questions that prompt us to discern how to build a better pathway for the generations ahead.
Chuck Small helped form the LGBT Ministry at the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi in 1999 and is coordinator of its Always God’s Children program, a monthly support group for LGBT Catholics, family and friends.
“Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity”
By James Martin, SJ
HarperCollins, 190 pages
November 4th - Always God's Children Meeting - 3:15 to 5pm
AGC meetings provide fellowship and involves lively respectful discussions to help to broaden perspectives.
Participants feel welcomed and uplifted.
There are always positive comments about how helpful it is to talk, which validates that there is support and one’s voice will be heard.
Our ministry wants gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to know they are loved and their gifts are valued.
They are welcome in our community and we support them in their daily lives.
The program provides a confidential setting in which GLBT people and their parents, families and friends support one another by sharing their concerns and experiences in a safe, confidential, Catholic setting.
Please join us to share your experience and to support others in their journey.
3:15 to 5:00 p.m.
on the first Sunday of each month (except for holiday weekends)
in Room 403 of Anthony Hall
at St. Francis of Assisi Church, 11401 Leesville Road, Raleigh, NC.
Meeting Dates – Mark your calendar’s
- December 2nd – 3:15 to 5:00pm in room 403 Anthony Hall
Newcomers Dinner - Mass at 5:30, Dinner at 6:30
All are welcome!
We start our evening gathering at the 5:30 pm Mass afterwards
we will all go to the Backyard Burgers located at Leesville Road and Strickland Road for dinner.
All are welcome to come and we look forward to having you join us.
Future Events – Mark your calendars
- More dates to come
November 18th - Ministry/Calendar Meeting - 3-5pm
LGBT Ministry Meetings 3 – 5 pm
at SFA, in the Conference Room (Anthony Hall)
Future Meetings – Mark your calendars
- December 16th – 3-5 pm
Dec 2, 9, 16 and 23 - Advent Small Christian Community at SFA
Mark your calendars
Advent Small Christian Community
Dec 2, 9, 16, and 23, 2018
SFA, Anthony Hall room 406
December 16th - Ministry/Calendar Meeting - 3-5pm
LGBT Ministry Meetings 3 – 5 pm
at SFA, in the Conference Room (Anthony Hall)
Future Meetings – Mark your calendars
- More dates to come
Holiday Party - Date (TBA)
Holiday Party – Date (TBA)
Please check back regularly as – Events may change.
For more information please contact
Chris O’Neill – 919-210-5319
Jane Paris – 919-847-7431
LGBT Ministry Information
Always God Children
We invite you to join our group meeting at 3:15 p.m. on the first Sunday of each month
(except for holiday weekends) in Room 403 of Anthony Hall at
St. Francis of Assisi, 11401 Leesville Road, Raleigh, NC.
Please join us to share your experience and support others in their journey.
Our History at St. Francis of Assisi
To find the roots of St. Francis of Assisi’s gay and lesbian ministry, look to a June 30, 1999, seminar at Immaculate Conception parish in Durham. That day, the New Ways Ministry seminar “Building Bridges” focused on how parishes could connect with the gay and lesbian community. With the support of then-Bishop F. Joseph Gossman, the Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province welcomed the daylong seminar. Six St. Francis parishioners at that meeting decided there was enough interest to develop a parish ministry and created a contact sheet for future mailings.
The ministry first met Aug. 20, 1999, at the home of Cathy Dondlinger and Jane Paris. For several months, locations of business meetings rotated as a steering team grew to include about 10 SFA parishioners, working with then-director of evangelization Peggy Dunbeck Monti. The group did a lot of brainstorming on individual formation, team-building and communications before working on any programming.
The next building block came in late May 2000 when Chris Kitts joined the St. Francis staff and became the ministry’s staff liaison. Chris built an extensive blind-carbon-copy e-mail list for folks throughout the area interested in the ministry’s work and offerings.
(Upon Chris’ departure in 2005, the ministry moved in the parish’s organizational chart from evangelization to family life. Since then, Jeff Holman, Gladys Whitehouse and Jason Lillis have been staff liaisons to the ministry.)
Franciscan friar David Convertino became presenter for the ministry’s first program, a prayer service and presentation Feb. 9 and 10, 2001. The Friday evening program for gays and lesbians was “With Open Hands”; the Saturday morning program for relatives and friends was “With Open Hearts.” A few dozen folks attended each.
Over the years, the ministry added regular activities to the parish’s calendar. Beginning in January 2006, it began to offer Reclaim, a six-week series for LGBT Catholics pioneered by St. Bernadette’s parish in Severn, Md. Jane Paris and Chuck Small facilitated the series. Participants in the first Reclaim group decided to develop an LGBT small Christian community to keep the sense of fellowship going. Out of the Tomb is a weekly series of reflections and small-group sharing during Lent. Beginning in 2010, Reclaim alternated with a new continuing-education series, Reaffirm, designed to address general questions about the Catholic faith.
Although the ministry had reached out intermittently to parents, families and friends of LGBT Catholics, parent Joe Pietrus joined the ministry steering team in 2009 and became the driving force behind the development of “Always Our Children,” a monthly support group for LGBT Catholics, families and friends. The group held its first meeting in December 2010 and meets monthly on the first Sunday of the month, excluding holiday weekends.
Retreats have been a vital part of ministry programming since 2002, when more than 15 participants took part in “Reclaiming the Promise,” with presenter Sister Barbara Regan, at Summit Retreat Center in Brown Summit, near Greensboro. Since 2005, the retreats have been an annual event. In addition, the ministry regularly develops programming and promotes it within and outside the St. Francis community. Franciscan Brother Ed Coughlin led a ministry-sponsored workshop on “right relationships” in February 2002. The ministry offered a “Night of Dialogue” for relatives and friends of gays and lesbians in October 2003. Helen King of Durham, coordinator for the Parents Reconciling Network, spoke at a parents gathering in January 2004. Jeff Holman presented a talk on “The Bible and Homosexuality: What Does It Really Say?” in spring 2004. In the summer of 2006, Franciscan Brother Scott Brookbank and Rabbi Raachel Jurovics of Temple Beth-Or led a ministry discussion after the showing of “Trembling Before G-d,” a film about Orthodox gay and lesbian Jews. On Sept. 11, 2007, the ministry sponsored the showing of “Saint of 9/11,” a documentary about the life of Franciscan Fr. Mychal Judge, who died on Sept. 11, 2001. In 2008, the ministry sponsored a showing of Daniel Karslake’s documentary “For the Bible Tells Me So.” From 2003-2005 and again in 2008-2010, the ministry has sponsored annual days of reflection. In 2011, the ministry worked on a presentation as part of the community’s Stations of the Cross Lenten series.
As the ministry has grown, it has also offered social opportunities. During Lent, the ministry has sponsored dessert socials and, more recently, has been a sponsor of the parish’s Friday-night soup suppers. Bowling nights, camping and hiking trips, trips to bingo fundraisers, game nights and holiday parties have helped to build community.
In 2005, the ministry began to reach out to other groups in the St. Francis community to encourage dialogue about its mission. Such conversations have extended outside the parish. In fall 2005, Jane Paris and Rev. Mark Reamer took part in a Meredith College panel discussion about Christianity and homosexuality; in fall 2006, Jane and Chuck met with students and older adults at N.C. State University’s Doggett Center to discuss the Catholic Church and homosexuality. Albert Ervin led a similar discussion in fall 2007 at N.C. State.
In the LGBT community, the ministry has had a booth at N.C. Pride at Duke University each year since 2002, and since 2004, it has had a display at the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival at Durham’s Carolina Theatre. In 2011, responding to an invitation to the ministry from the LGBT Center of Raleigh, the Rev. Mark Reamer was one of a half-dozen clergy who welcomed participants to the inaugural OutRaleigh festival in downtown Raleigh.
The ministry teams up regularly with St. Francis’ AIDS care team to raise money for AIDS education, care and prevention. The two groups have teamed up for the annual AIDSWalk since 2001 and the “Evening With Friends” fund-raiser since 2002.
In addition, the ministry has built relationships with other ministries across the country that reach out to LGBT Catholics, families and friends.
The ministry made its debut on the parish Web site in 2003. Frank Cotton developed a ministry-specific Web site in 2007. As of 2012, about 20 SFA parishioners are regularly involved as members of the gay and lesbian ministry’s steering team.
Interested in Volunteering - Contact Ministry Coordinator
The following coordinators are available to you if you are interested in volunteering
for our GLBT community at St. Francis.
Please contact the appropriate coordinator to GET INVOLVED.
Spiritual and Faith Growth – Chris O’Neill (email@example.com)
Outreach – Tim Hackett – (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Social – Pending
Communications – Randy Morris – (email@example.com)
Treasury – Joe Pietrus – (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Meeting Facilitator – Jack Finley – (email@example.com)
AGC Coordinator – Chuck Small (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Coleman, G. D. (1996). Homosexuality: Catholic Teaching and Pastoral Practice. New York: Paulist Press. 224 pp.
Empereur, J. L. (1998). Spiritual Direction and the Gay Person. New York: Continuum. 180 pp.
Intended for spiritual directors and counselors who work with gay people, this book presents a practical approach
to homosexuality and religious life.
Griffen, C. W., Wirth, M. J., & Wirth, A. G. (1997). Beyond Acceptance – Parents of Lesbians & Gays Talk About Their Experiences.
New York: St. Martin’s Griffin. 256 pp.
Harvey, J. F. (2007). Homosexuality and the Catholic Church: Clear Answers to Difficult Questions.
West Chester, Pa.: Ascension Press. 236 pp.
Rev. John Harvey is founder and director of the Courage and Encourage support groups.
Liuzzi, P.J. (2001). With Listening Hearts: Understanding the Voices of Lesbian and Gay Catholics. New York: Paulist Press. 120 pp.
Peddicord, R. (1996). Gay & Lesbian Rights, A Question: Sexual Ethics or Social Justice? Lanham, Md.: Sheed & Ward. 209 pp.
Shinnick, M. (1998). This Remarkable Gift: Being Gay and Catholic. Sydney: Allen & Unwin Academic. 194 pp.
For more information about this ministry, call
Chuck Small at (919) 859-4889.