By Sister Julie N. Brown
“You created every part of me, knitting me in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)
Recently I wrote my story for the book Love Tenderly: Sacred Stories of Lesbian and Queer Religious, whichincludes pieces by 23 sisters who identify as lesbian or queer. Since the book was published in early January of this year, there has been an outpouring of support and gratitude from persons and places I never expected.
I totally believe that God called me, a non-binary, hard-of-hearing person, to follow the path of being a religious Sister of Mercy. How can one not listen to that call, to put one’s full trust and faith in going on that journey? And how can one not be authentic to oneself when doing so?
I grew up hard of hearing, the result of a childhood infection, and being from a very small town, I always felt different. I fought to blend in and to fit in with my friends and society. When I told my family and friends that I was entering religious life, there was much disbelief, as they felt I was called to be a mother and raise a family, like them. I was considered “too radical” and “not saintly enough.”
As I said earlier, how can one not listen to the call, tiny and quiet as it was for me?
How does one reconcile being queer and still remain faithful within the Catholic Church and its current teachings regarding LGBTQ+ issues and people? I consider my “church” to be my community, where we share our faith together and support one another. Church is much bigger than the institutional patriarchal Catholic Church that I grew up believing in. That doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with current rulings, but I stay in religious life because I believe there is where I belong.
I chose to write my story because after 40 years as a Sister of Mercy, I am “proud” to be who I am, and I want those who feel alone with their own identities to know they are not alone. I’m tired of being alone with my secrets and knowing that God created me and called me to this time and place. I am now able to share and journey with others on this path we call life.