Proud and Prophetic in a Mercy Context

June 7, 2021

By Sister Janet Rozzano

The title for this blog came to me as I struggled to find a good focus for my reflection. As I often do, I turned to the dictionary for starters. One definition of pride is “delight or elation arising from some act, possession or relationship.” For the word proud, I found “very pleased, exultant,” and “having proper self-respect.” So, who or what am I proud of as a lesbian Sister of Mercy?

As we celebrate Pride Month 2021, I’m proud that I am able to be open about my sexual identity within and beyond my Community. I’m delighted that so many people with whom I’ve shared my story have been affirming and supportive of me. I’ve been elated when, in spite of my personal reticence, I’ve been able to support other lesbian and gay folks, or to help educate others about the experience of being lesbian or gay in a not-always-welcoming world.

Early on in my own journey of coming out, however, I realized that I was also being called to tap into the prophetic aspect of our vocation, called to see, say and do something about injustice, about the discrepancy between what is and what God’s Word calls us to. My firsthand experience of being part of the marginalized LGBTQ+ community heightened the urgency of this call.

Two events stand out in my mind regarding this call and its demands.

The first public gay and lesbian event I attended was the national convention of DignityUSA in 1983. Then-Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen had welcomed the organization to celebrate Mass at the cathedral, and because he would be away while we were there, he videotaped a short welcome speech. He was later reprimanded for allowing us to use the space.

In 1988, the local Dignity chapter in San Francisco was denied permission to continue celebrating its weekly Sunday Mass in a Catholic church. Since I had been part of this Sunday community for several years, I chose to walk with them from the church where we had been having our Sunday Masses to the cathedral in San Francisco, outside of which we held a prayer service. How well I remember the song we sang that night, by queer folk and protest singer Holly Near:

We are a gentle, angry people and we are singing, singing for our lives…
We are a justice-seeking people and we are singing, singing for our lives…
We are young and old together and we are singing, singing for our lives…
We are a land of many colors and we are singing, singing for our lives …
We are gay and straight together, and we are singing, singing for our lives…
We are a gentle, loving people and we are singing, singing for our lives…

— Holly Near, “Singing for Our Lives”

In the years that have followed, I’ve continued to respond in various ways to this mission of “loyal opposition”—speaking out, writing letters, educating others, walking in protest.

How do I do that in a spirit of Mercy? As simple as it sounds, Catherine’s Suscipe has always been a strong anchor for me. Most important for me is the sentence, “Take from my heart all painful anxiety.” Fear is often my first reaction in situations of conflict or public protest, and Catherine’s words calm and reassure me. I also find grounding in her desire to surrender herself entirely to God’s loving Providence. After all our discernment about how to address a particular injustice, in the end that is what we must do. Catherine herself sheds light on this when she says: “We must act as though success depended on our own exertions, but pray as though success depended on God.”

It is in joining deep prayer and contemplation with a sensitive reading of the signs of the times that Catherine met the needs of her time. I think she would see our welcome of, understanding of and work for justice in the LGBTQ+ community as a very real need of our time. If she chose a Scripture to encourage our work in this area, I can imagine her suggesting the prophet Micah’s words: “…Act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with our God.”

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  1. Maureen King

    Thank you Janet. Your words are holy and motivational. Blessings my Sister.


  2. Karen Scheer, RSM

    Janet – Thank you for your witness of God’s radical inclusiveness. Your fully living of who God created you to be and standing in solidarity with those who are marginalized, makes real the words we profess as Sisters of Mercy- “living with integrity of word and deed”.


  3. Sr. Mary Fellin

    Thanks for your honesty. I pray for our LGBTQIA community. It hurts me to know that I have members of my family that are not accepted in our Church. May your work continue to be blessed.”We are all created equal”.


  4. Sr. Marie McIntyre rsm

    Thank you, Sr. Janet Razzanne, for speaking out as an LGBTH yourself and working and supporting so many people living with being different, therefore stigmatised by others who claim to be normal.
    I loved how you saw our foundress as an inspiration and support in such situations of being different and yet having the courage to be yourself openly.
    You are a true Sister of Mercy for so many who live in anxiety and fear because of a different experience of your sexual identity, love Marie


  5. Eileen Brady

    Thank you again, Janet, for sharing your living out of Mercy. Much appreciated.


  6. Marge Banach

    Dear Sister Janet,

    I am perplexed why there should exist in any church, a particular Mass weekly for a particular set of people. It truly boggles my mind. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and we listen to the same readings at Mass! What is the point in the Church allowing separation from the Body? I think it is right that all people join together in worship and Strongly disagree that there should be Masses designated for a group of people and especially based on a sexual preference! To me, that is anti-Gospel, anti-Christian. We are all called to love one another so separating yourself to be with like minded people doesn’t appear very loving.


  7. Michelle Salois

    Thank you for your love and courage


  8. Natalie Rossi

    Janet,
    Thank you for your compelling words. I know it is not easy to be on your journey. You are blessed for being there for others who find this path difficult
    Peace


  9. Mary Daly RSM

    Thank you, Janet, for your incites and for your courage and convictions.


  10. Mary Daly RSM

    Thank you, Janet for your insights!


  11. Jeanne Christensen, RSM

    Janet, you are such a blessing and gift to all of us, but especially to me! Beautiful reflection. 💕


  12. Deborah Watson

    What a beautiful, powerrful and very personal reflection! Thank you, Janet.


  13. Kathy King

    I Love your story!! Thanks for sharing 💙


  14. Carolyn Shalhoub, Mercy Associate

    So well and honestly said! Your witness will not go unnoticed, both in and beyond the Mercy community. It was only a few years ago (and I am 74!) that I could feel PRIDE as you described it.


  15. Joyce Kahle

    Thank you for sharing this part of your story, Janet. I relate so much to your call to speak out for justice and stand with all our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers in the struggle for justice and equality. Holly Near’s song is one of my favorites, also. You are a gift, not only to the RSM’s but to all of us. Blessings on your blog, too.


  16. Kristine Wagner

    Thank you Sister Janet for sharing your story. Beautiful and courageous. Micah’s words: Act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with our God” are heartfelt for me.


  17. Judy Cannon RSM

    Thank you, Janet, for your prophetic words in a church that has some previous statements that are not inclusive.


  18. Tina Geiger

    Thank you, Janet, for this reflection. I love that line from the suscipe which emboldens me in my Mercy journey often.


  19. Esther McEgan

    God bless you Janet! Thank you for representing our Mercy Community so beautifully.

    Proud of you!
    Esther


  20. Sr. Richard Mary Burke

    Janet.

    I am humbled by your reflection and deeply grateful for the sisterhood in Mercy that we share.

    Blessings,
    Richard Mary


  21. Eileen McDonnell,RSM

    Thank you,Janet. Your beautiful and candid sharing let’s the “mercy-ness” of you shine! Shine on,dear ,Janet,shine on!


  22. Mary Jo Baldus

    Oh, yes, Holly Near and her music has always been a favorite for me. Thanks for your words and your sharing of your story. Keep the music going!


  23. Tim Lynch

    Sister Janet, from the grateful heart of this Deacon to you: Thank you for your courage, compassion, and spirit of mercy! I’ve shared your beautiful words with several people who really needed to hear them. Please know, you provided such comfort, validation, and love to people feeling broken and disenfranchised. In the words of Catherine McAuley, your actions are “a shining lamp, giving light to all around us.” God bless you!


  24. Mike Poulin

    Thank you for this blessing, Sister Janet.


  25. Sister Cathy Solan, RSM

    Thank you for your willingness to share your journey.


  26. Kathy Wade, Mercy Associate

    Thank you for sharing your story and your wisdom. It is long overdue.


  27. Mary E. Hunt

    Thank you, Janet. You are a beautiful incarnation of Mercy.
    Mary E. Hunt


  28. Cathleen Cahill, RSM

    I appreciate all you have written, Janet. Thank you. There is a Rumi poem, Zero Circle, that ends with the line, “We shall be a mighty kindness.” I think you are that.


  29. Refugio Godinez

    Thank you. God continue to Bless You.


  30. Carren Herring

    You ho girl,; I’m with you


  31. Tory Lamore

    To what injustice are you referring? And why, as a celibate sister, is sexuality relevant?


  32. Celeste Marie Nuttman, RSM

    Janet, thank you for your generous and long term merciful actions of loving inclusivity and illumination of what living the Gospel means!
    Just reading you reflection was a blessing.


  33. Kay

    Thank you, Janet. We are all Sisters of Mercy united in love and mission. We are all humans worthy of respect and dignity. God calls us all. Thank you for your openness.


  34. Denise Bennett, Mercy Associate

    Sr. Janet, I loved your quote you chose from Micah to sum up how we must live. One of my favorite teachers in college, a daughter of the Holy Spirit, called each of us, “Child of God!” Isn’t that who we are ??
    God loves each of us unconditionally.
    That is the model of how we must treat each other without judgement, assumptions, and censorship.
    Thank you for your willingness to share your story and to advocate for justice for all. God bless you in your ministry.


  35. Sister Louise Foisy

    I read your blog with appreciation and respect. Blessings on your continuing work for justice.