Seeking Understanding Through Accompaniment

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This blog reflection is part of an ongoing series, Pride with Mercy, that began during Pride Month 2019. These reflections grew out of the Sisters of Mercy’s Chapter 2017 Declaration challenging each of us to respond to those who suffer from oppressive systems and to “become better educated and to participate in engaged dialogue on issues of gender identity and sexual orientation.” We encourage you to forward these posts to someone who might need to read them. Together, may we grow in our tolerance, acceptance and understanding, and extend a hand of welcome to the LGBTQ+ community.

By Sister Christine Seghetti

In this Pride month of June, we will meet: A Catholic high school senior, a Catholic high school faculty member (maybe more than one?), the director of the local LGBTQ center, a Lutheran pastor and me. Both the pastor and I are allies of the center, providing spiritual accompaniment to people who use its resources; I have done this ministry with them for the last year. The anticipation of this meeting takes my breath away and makes my heart beat faster!

Just five months ago, this student e-mailed the LGBTQ center director; for ease of reference, and so as not to assign a gender pronoun, I will call this student “Chris.” Chris was not “out,” was feeling stressed and was seeking support. The director forwarded the e-mail to the Lutheran pastor and me, asking if we could be present with her to meet with Chris. Soon we did.

Chris, although not out, is friends with students identifying as LGBTQ at the Catholic school and says, “I cannot live in fear and hide forever.”

“I do not agree with the catechism, I believe that others have the right to if they so choose,” Chris went on. “There is a need to encourage discussion in an open-minded fashion when discussing the topic in theology class or in general.”

This young person was open, feeling deeply and desiring to be understood and respected. Chris realized high school was coming to an end yet still hoped that things could change for future students.

The following week, I met with a counselor at the Catholic high school to reflect what I had heard from this student, to ask if there was awareness among the faculty of the concerns of LGBTQ students and to inquire about what could be done going forward. To my surprise, the counselor wanted to talk with colleagues and plan a meeting with the LGBTQ Center director.

Then, the pandemic happened.

As time went on, I was concerned that Chris would graduate and that those well-articulated hopes and concerns would fade with my memory. So I asked Chris to document our conversation in writing, in case the planned meeting did not happen until much later. Chris did so and also included a reflection from a 2019 graduate. Chris expressed a desire be present at the meeting, if possible.

I believe that, with loving, compassionate support, this intelligent, courageous, caring, faith-filled young person will have a better understanding of self-identity when college begins this fall.

It is the season of Pentecost and we will meet in the middle of this month. I know the Spirit has brought us to this point. We will dialogue, and where we are led next, I have no idea!