Gay-Lesbian Outreach Moves to Masses

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Author: Ed Cohen

The administration hasn’t changed its opposition to recognizing an independent group for gay and lesbian students, but Campus Ministry engaged in some pastoral détente fall semester.

As Masses in the Basilica and the residence halls the last weekend in October, volunteers passed out a card with a rainbow-colored ribbon and pin attached. On the front was a prayer expressing thankfulness for life’s diversity and asking divine help to be more inclusive of gays and lesbians in the Notre Dame community. “I will stand with Christ, in community, with all my brothers and sisters” was the refrain of a pledge on the back.

The initiative originated with a couple of members of the campus’s unrecognized gay/lesbian student group, OUTreachND, who approached Campus Ministry. The students hoped to extend to campus the kind of events that are part of national gay/lesbian Solidarity Sunday, observed in some parishes the last weekend in September.

Campus Ministry’s leaders said they favored something original and tailored to Notre Dame. Father Richard Warner, CSC, director of Campus Ministry and counselor to the president, first cleared the idea with Notre Dame’s officers and the local bishop. A committee that included Father Tom Doyle, CSC, ’89, ‘96M.A., rector of Keough Hall, then composed the pledge and prayer, the latter adapted from a prayer published by Pax Christi, the international Catholic peace movement.

Doyle said he publicized the card pass-out, done on a football weekend, in advance “so we didn’t catch anybody by surprise.” He said responses ranged from a mother attending Mass in the Basilica with her husband who broke into tears – “She said they had a son who was gay and that it’s so good to know that the Catholic Church and Notre Dame extend words of welcome to people who are gay or lesbian” – to some who said the effort was confusing the faithful.

“Overall, it was about 90 percent positive, 10 percent negative,” he said.

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