In the final weekend of July, three current young adult members of Dignity/Washington (Michaela, Keith, and Martín) joined a group of about twenty other LGBTQ young adults from around the country for a retreat in Chicago with the theme “Telling Our Story, Creating a Home.”
The retreat was led by Judy Brown of the Hesed Project. Judy — a long-time parish faith formation leader and retreat facilitator — was fun, energetic and a great storyteller herself, and she led the group through personal and small-group reflection time to help tell our own stories.
The storytelling concept was based on the premise that there is too much violence in the world, and that violence comes from fear, and that people fear what they don’t know. So if we tell our stories and become known, we can help dispel fear, reduce violence, and make a more peaceful world.
Throughout Saturday, the retreatants told their stories in their small groups and then workshopped them with others to tell it in any creative way they wanted in preparation for an evening of storytelling to the whole group. Members of Dignity/Chicago brought dinner and shared the meal with the young adults and guests then shared an evening listening to the prepared stories of about 10 young adults. Each story was powerful and heartfelt — some devastating, painful, or humorous — but all were very real and honest about the struggles of coming out as LGBTQ to themselves, with their families, and in their faith communities. It was a powerful witness to the real struggles that so many in our community find ourselves and to the courage and perseverance to continue to live and to love among a society and a church that too often does not want to accept or see us and our full human dignity. It was also a blessing and affirmation to our community to know that so many of us have found a wonderful home with Dignity.
A young adult tells his story.
Young adults with members of Dignity/Chicago enjoying dinner together.
A special focus throughout the weekend was learning and brainstorming how we can be more inclusive and attentive to the trans* individuals among us. We learned and discussed the unique struggles and challenges that trans* people go through and many simple things we can do with our spaces, our language, and our activism.
The weekend ended on Sunday morning with a discussion with DignityUSA board members and leaders Mark Matson and Bob Butts to hear from young adults about our vision and hopes for the future of DignityUSA — how the society and world is changing, and how the organization must as well. Many ideas were shared and be sure this will be an ongoing conversation in the months and years to come.
Many thanks to the several chapters, including Dignity/Washington, and DignityUSA who helped sponsor the retreat — as well as the several individuals from Dignity/Washington who donated on their own to help send young adults from our chapter to the retreat. It was truly a spirit-filled weekend that helped bring young adults from across the country together in loving fellowship and closer to Dignity as we build the next generation of DignityUSA.
Young adults with Dignity/Chicago guests.