Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Nun speaks about ministering to gay, lesbian community

Sister Jeannine Gramick was ordered by the Vatican to stop ministering to gay and lesbian Catholics, but the outspoken nun didn't listen.

Despite threats of excommunication, she continued to support gays and lesbians who felt ostracized, and to advocate for change, Gramick said during a talk Sunday at the Boulder Public Library.

"What God calls us to do is to be true to who we are," Garmick said. "We're never going to be happy unless we're true to who we are deep inside."

The free program, organized by Boulder Pride, PFLAG Boulder County and Bent Lens Cinema, was a response to a controversial decision earlier this year by a Boulder Catholic school to no longer allow the children of a lesbian couple to attend.

Boulder's Sacred Heart of Jesus parish school told the couple that their children, one in kindergarten and one in preschool, couldn't re-enroll.

Many Sacred Heart parents spoke out against the church's decision, which was upheld by Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.

"The community is still needing to heal," said Carrie Van Heyst, a Sacred Heart parent who protested the decision. "We saw (the talk) as an opportunity to do that."

Before Gramick's talk, the audience watched "In Good Conscience," a documentary on her work. Gramick, a sister of Loretto who lives in Washington, D.C., is described as a "most unlikely rebel."

She was investigated by the office of Cardinal Joseph Alois Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, and ordered by the Vatican in 1999 to shut down her ministry to the gay and lesbian community.

"It's 10 years later and I'm still in this ministry," she said. "People have power over us only if we give them that power."

When asked why she's continued with the Catholic faith, she said it's the best way to push for change on the church's official views.

"I do love the church, and I don't want to be embarrassed by it," she said.

Though the stance of top church leaders on homosexuality hasn't softened, she said, many more Catholics now embrace lesbian and gay parishioners.

"There's been tremendous change in the grassroots church, the true church," she said.

Kimberly Rose, who lives Longmont, said Gramick's talk resonated with her - a lesbian who's Catholic and hoping for a reconciliation with the church.

"It's great what she's doing," Rose said.

SIC: DCCom

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