Reaching out to the margins


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

CORALVILLE — Catholics identifying as LGBTQ had an opportunity to talk about their sense of belonging in the Catholic Church during a gathering Jan. 7, the Epiphany of the Lord, at St. Thomas More Parish. The impetus for the gathering, a collaborative effort of the Diocese of Davenport and St. Thomas More Parish, is the diocese’s yearlong focus on welcoming and belonging.

“The gathering emerged organically from the needs of the people of our diocese,” explained diocesan Evangelization Director Patrick Schmadeke, who facilitated the conversation at St. Thomas More. “Our diocesan focus on welcoming and belonging this year comes from listening sessions for the Synod. During these sessions, around 300 comments were received about the Church failing to welcome LGBTQ persons. People in the diocese shared clear need for the Church to accompany LGBTQ people.”

Fifteen people participated in the gathering, including couples and individuals who identify as LGBTQ, other interested people and diocesan staff. The Catholic Messenger also was present to listen and learn and agreed not to share specific details about the conversation. 

Fr. Adam

St. Thomas More’s pastor, Father Chuck Adam, opened the gathering in prayer, which included the second reading from the feast day, a reflection on the Epiphany and a prayer from Pope Francis’ encyclical “Fratelli Tutti.”  The opening lines of the prayer: “Lord, Father of our human family, you created all human beings equal in dignity: pour forth into our hearts a fraternal spirit and inspire in us a dream of renewed encounter, dialogue, justice and peace.”

Deacon Frank Agnoli, diocesan director of Liturgy and of Deacon Formation, provided a synopsis of the formation of the diocesan gender committee, its work and its production of Guidelines for Pastoral Accompaniment of Gender and Sexual Minorities. He spoke on behalf of his wife, Marianne Agnoli, who chairs the gender committee but was unable to attend the gathering due to a family emergency. She is the diocesan coordinator for Marriage and Family Life.

Schmadeke invited the participants to share what brought them to the gathering, to recall when they have felt at home in the Church and when they have not felt a sense of belonging. He also asked for their suggestions about what local faith communities could do.


“The participants seemed grateful for the space to share faith and community,” Schmadeke said. “They seemed open to sharing their story and the ways faith has brought healing and joy into their lives … I was grateful to encounter people as they shared stories of pain, hope and healing. I am inspired by God working in their lives.”

“My take away is that we have many courageous, resilient members of the Church who happen to identify as LGBTQ,” Father Adam said. “They have talents and gifts that our Church needs and it’s so important that we do a better job of welcoming them and helping them belong.”

“I have been so heartened by Pope Francis’ encouragement of the inclusion and welcoming of LGBTQ Catholics in the Church,” said St. Thomas More parishioner Mary Lu Callahan. “How many gifts has the Church missed out on when folks felt they were not welcome or had to be invisible?”

Fr. Kuntz

Diocesan Administrator Father Ken Kuntz attended the gathering “to represent the diocese in terms of sharing the Church’s love for everyone who may feel rejected or lonely or hurt in any way. Father Chuck and St. Thomas More are to be commended for reaching out to those who are on the margins. I was impressed with the attendees who were committed to their Catholic faith.”

The next steps regarding future conversations “need to be discerned in light of local needs and the Gospel,” Schmadeke said. “How can our Church be the Good Samarian to LGBTQ persons left on the side of the road?”

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