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“As President of Dignity Washington I want to send a heartfelt THANK YOU to all in our Dignity Community who helped make Bill Line’s memorial service and mass such a warm, welcoming and meaningful experience. As you read the attached testimonials, our service helped a lot of people not only in our community begin healing but also Bill’s colleagues from the National Park Service, Bill’s water aerobics class at the YMCA, residents of Bill’s condo building and other friends who attended our November 2nd mass. We had over 160 people in attendance. I especially would like to thank Fr. Joseph Palacios, Liturgy Committee and the Dignity Choir. You all were amazing by sharing your homiletic, organizational and musical talents. I also want to thank Rick Lynch at the Dignity Center who fielded many, many calls from people in Bill’s life asking for information and needing consolation – Rick you never cease to amaze me!
- This beautiful fall tree I spied as I was walking back to work from the memorial service for Bill at the National Park Service Headquarters at Haines Point. Bill loved the national parks so much this tree truly symbolized the dedication and colorfulness of Bill’s career with NPS.
- This email is from Theresa, a friend of Bill’s. I read part of this at church, but this is the full text.
- This is Susan Spain’s lovely poem she shared with us at the Memorial Mass.”
-Daniel Barutta, President, Dignity/Washington
Tables of Six are scheduled for Saturdays, October 6 and 13, each hosted by a different Dignity/Washington member who provides the venue and randomly-selected guests supply the rest. It’s an easy way to get to know other, and maybe new, community members. Guests sign up in the Social Hall after Sunday Mass or by contacting Tom McMahon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Help the Homeless Walkathon, sponsored by Fannie Mae, and to benefit DC’s Rachael’s Woman’s Center, will be held on Sunday, October 7, after the Dignity Mass. This is an annual Dignity/Washington event and this is the first year that registration can be done online at www.hthwalks.org (click get involved, register to walk, participant in a community walk, click Washington, DC, from the list of beneficiaries select Rachael’s #DC070, hit Go, click on a community walk, then D/W and register).
2012 AIDS Walk on Saturday, October 27 will see Dignity/Washington and Dignity/Northern Virginia participate as one team once again this year. Registration is online at www.aidswalkwashington.org (use Discount Code, enter DIG2012).
– by Tom Bower and John Fegan, Events Co-Chairmen
Dignity/Washington is celebrating its fortieth anniversary this year. We are among four Chapters celebrating in 2012 forty years of bringing good news and renewed life to the Catholic Church and LGBT community. Our plans include several events throughout the year. We welcome individuals from other Chapters who might wish to join us. Our theme will be to embrace our history, honor our present activities, and look forward to our future.
Right now we are creating a brochure and a banner to be used throughout the year. The design for the banner will be revealed at our St. Joseph’s Day dinner on 10 March. Since our first Mass as a Dignity Chapter was held on Pentecost in 1972, we will be commemorating this milestone on May 27, Pentecost Sunday, with a special liturgy. Then, on the weekend of June 9-10, we are participating in DC’s Pride events as a Community Partner. We’ll have a float and large contingent in the Saturday parade and a booth at the Sunday festival. Please check the D/W website for more details as the year proceeds.
On Saturday evening, December 1, we will be having a gala dinner celebration at a panoramic dining room on The George Washington University. This will be a home coming of sorts as the chapter had its first regular meetings at the Newman Center on the GWU campus. There will be a Mass, cocktail reception and silent auction, and then we’ll gather for dinner and entertainment.
John Fegan and Tom Bower are co-chairing these events with much help from other Chapter members. Please contact John at (202) 291-2277 or at email@example.com or contact Tom at (202) 986-0917 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
We hope to see as many of you as possible at these events.
Below is the testimony of Dignity/Washington President Allen Rose given before the Maryland House of Delegates joint-committee hearings on the Civil Marriage Protection Ac (Friday, Feb. 10, 2012).
My name is Allen Rose. I am the president of Dignity/Washington. 25% of our members live in Maryland. We are a community of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Catholics, our families and friends. Dignity/Washington serves the spiritual and religious needs of LGBT Catholics in a manner that affirms God’s love for LGBT people, by providing a variety of activities, including a Gay-affirming Catholic Mass every Sunday.
I am here today to testify on behalf of the 45 Dignity/Washington members who are citizens of Maryland who are currently unable to marry the person they love. Some of our members have been in committed relationships for 15 or 20 years, and see in this legislation the opportunity to receive the same rights, benefits and recognition of their relationship that their parents, married siblings and married friends in opposite-sex relationships were easily granted when they decided to marry. I look forward to the day when any of these 45 citizens who so choose, will be able to marry the person of their choice just like any other loving couple. Our members in Maryland live in Takoma Park, Baltimore, the Eastern Shore and many other places around the state.
Since I am here representing a community of LGBT Catholics, I want to speak in support of civil marriage equality from a Catholic Perspective. We are disappointed that the Catholic bishops of Maryland are opposed to this legislation, We know they do not speak for all of the Roman Catholics in Maryland. As a matter of fact, on this issue, they do not even speak for most of the Catholics in Maryland. More Catholics support marriage equality than oppose it.
For an ordained Catholics to speak in favor of this legislation carries professional risks. Therefore, it is generally up to those of us who have no ordained standing within the Church, but who claim our Catholicism by virtue of our baptism, and who draw strength and support from Catholic traditions and practices, to do our best to attempt to represent those many Catholics who support marriage equality. A large majority of American and Maryland Catholics now see marriage equality as an issue of social justice.
Since I have been speaking as a Catholic in support of civil marriage equality, I have been talking freely about religion and religious belief. This bill, however, is about civil marriage, not religious marriage. This bill has strong provisions that protect religions, so that clergy are not required to marry same gender couples. We at Dignity/Washington agree with, and strongly support this provision of the bill. This provision further protects private church ceremonies and practices.
Part of our mission at Dignity/Washington is to speak truth to power by giving prophetic witness to the truth that we are all born in the image and likeness of a loving God, and that Gay men and Lesbians are a natural part of God’s plan for humanity. We preach this message to our own church’s leaders and to society at large.
Dignity/Washington urges the members of these committees, and all of your colleagues in the House of Delegates, to support The Civil Marriage Protection Act of 2012. It is right and just.
On Friday, February 10th, the Maryland House of Delegates is holding a hearing in Annapolis on The Civil Marriage Protection Act of 2012. Testimony will be heard in two shifts: 9am-2pm and 2pm-7pm. Our Chapter President, Allen Rose, will be in attendance from 9:00 on, to testify on behalf of Dignity/Washington. Other interested Dignity Members (and our Catholic families) are invited and encouraged to join Allen in attending and testifying at this hearing tomorrow.
Want to testify? Can you, and if possible with Catholic family members – as a family, join Dignity/Washington and testify with us at the hearing? If so, please email our friends at Catholics for Equality immediately at email@example.com. Make sure you let them know you’re with Dignity/Washington!
Show your support. We also need to fill the audience with pro-equality Catholics. Whether you hope to testify or not, if you can attend the hearing, we need you there. Please let Marylanders for Marriage Equality know you’re planning on attending.
Anti-equality Catholic groups like the National Organization for Marriage and the Maryland Catholic Conference are sure to be there, attempting to scare legislators into voting against loving and committed families. It is crucial that our voices are there to assure our policy makers that Maryland Catholics support fairness and equality, including civil marriage equality. This is one of the most important times we as Catholics can make a difference on this issue.
The Maryland coordinated campaign for marriage equality is especially hoping pro-equality African American Catholics who live in Maryland will come forward to testify. If that is you, or anyone you know, please do what you can to help.
See you in Annapolis!
Following nominations by the community and final selection by a vote of its Board this year’s Dignity/Washington Community Service Awards were presented at the 39th Anniversary Dinner held on October 29, 2011. These awards are recognitions of the community’s gratitude to someone who has shown an outstanding level of service in volunteering or meeting a need within the community over the past year. The following members were recognized: Mark Clark, Tim MacGeorge, Jeanette Oliver and Matthew Scheeser.
Mark Clark has been a long time active member of Dignity/Washington who has done more than his share of work to keep the community functioning and has also gone into the larger Washington and national arenas to bring our message to light.
He has led the Dignity/Washington book club, has worked to keep Brother Help Thyself the important charitable arm of the area-wide Leather/Levi community that it is, has been a moderating and vocal member of the Dignity USA board, and was co-chair of the 2011 Dignity USA National Convention. His great knowledge of the leaders of the progressive wing of the Church and LGBT movement helped to make the program of the convention a success and his wise management ideas made it a model for how future conventions will function. (Tom Bower of the Dignity/Washington Board made these remarks and presented Mark’s award.)
Tim MacGeorge is certainly no stranger to Dignity/Washington. Since joining in the mid-2000s, Tim has played many active roles in front of and behind the scene for Dignity/Washington as well as for the local and national community.
He enjoys writing and blogging, including one he maintains and where he states: “This blog is simply my occasional postings surrounding this fundamental perspective of how I see—or try to see—others, myself, and this world in which we live.”
His articles challenge the various stances of the Catholic Church and society particularly related to LGBT issues. He is a talented writer who clearly articulates what are the real issues rather than the distractions.
Tim is a Dignity/Washington presider and consistently delivers thought-provoking homilies on a wide range of issues. He often serves as the second priest for the healing sacrament on the first Sunday of the month. In addition, he is involved in administrative aspects of our community by serving on various committees including the National Convention this summer and attending our first meeting with Hilltop Consultants leading up to Dignity/Washington’s Strategic Plan.
And in his spare time Tim serves as Dignity/Washington’s new Webmaster. (DignityWashington Board member Peter Edwards made these remarks and presented Tim’s award.)
Jeanette Oliver has been part of Dignity/Washington for the past twelve years. As a straight woman she represents the community’s diversity. In addition, as one who is at Mass each week of the year with the one exception when she is on vacation for a few weeks each October, she exemplifies dedication to the community’s mission. Each Sunday she is the first to arrive and opens the church door an hour and a half early so that people can start readying the church for Mass. She attends five Masses each weekend and considers Dignity/Washington’s Mass her favorite. AND for 12 years (which is about 1/3 of Dignity/Washington’s history as a community) she has directed the choir, leading all in singing beautiful music together. (Jeanette’s award was presented by Dignity/Washington Board member, Dan Barutta, who made these remarks.)
Matt Scheeser started his affiliation with Dignity/Washington through that most insidious form of indoctrination: the choir. Over time, thinking of himself as merely a singer, he was lulled into a false sense of complacency and his activities within Dignity/Washington began to grow: he became an alternate accompanist, subbed for the Music Director on occasion, then started in as a lector and a Eucharistic minister. Then, as his transformation became complete, he ran for the Board and served as a Director, heading up a revamp of the website and acting as webmaster for a time. He served the community wholeheartedly for several years and, receiving another call, eventually moved on leaving behind a grateful people. This award is presented to Matt Scheeser for his kind and generous service to the Dignity/Washington community. (Remarks by Chris Hinkle; Matt’s award will be presented at a later date.)
The President’s Award is given by the Chapter President on one person or group who has provided the President an outstanding level of support in furthering or expanding the mission of the Dignity/Washington community. This year’s award was presented to the 2011 Dignity USA Convention Planning Committee by current president Allen Rose.
The John Willig Award is named after an early president of the chapter under whose leadership the Masses were begun. John was also the chapter’s first AIDS death in 1985. The Award is traditionally given to one community member (or group) who has served the Dignity/Washington community over a long period of time or has made a deep impact upon its growth. This year’s award was presented to Ray Panas. Ray has been a member of Dignity/Washington for almost ten years. He not only stepped onto the Board in his first year of membership but also agreed to serve as Vice-President. There was a brief break in service while he worked on his doctorate, but he soon came back on the Board and became President in 2007. He served as President for three terms. Of his many accomplishments he is proudest of his support of the No Place Like Home fund-raising campaign which helped place the community on a solid financial footing and contributed to paying off the mortgage on the Dignity Center. He was a driving force in bringing the Dignity USA Convention to Washington in July 2011. He leads by example and is a gentle nudger along the way. He continues to devote time and energy as a Eucharistic Minister and to many other small service roles. (Ray’s award was presented by Dignity/Washington Board Vice-President, Jake Hudson.)
The Veronica and Gerald Colfer Award honoree is Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. Created in 2002 this award is named after the Chapter’s beloved “Mom and Dad.” It is presented to a non-Dignity/Washington individual or group in recognition of special service to our community. Plans for the presentation of this award to the Governor are pending.
In late September 2009, I was still actively discerning a possible vocation to the priesthood, in early formation with the Congregation of Holy Cross, and defending the faith on what seemed like a nightly basis. The adversary was none other than my best friend, who happened to be a self-described “agnostic Jew,” who did not believe in the Catholic Church and who continually questioned my faith. And the biggest issue debated was the Church’s teaching on same-sex marriage. “How do you know? How do you really know God exists?” was always the question when the conversation reached a stalemate. “Because I have a gift of faith from God, which allows me to believe without needing proof,” was always my simple response. Fast-forward through fourteen months, countless conversations over the validity of scripture, tradition, and more often the catechism to December 2010 and now sit the same two students debating once again, the gift of faith – and possibly even conversion. “Be not afraid. Open wide the doors to Christ” was the line I used, quoting of course Blessed Pope John Paul the Great in his address to the young people of the world at the very first World Youth Day event in Rome.
Then it hit me, finally a way to show faith: a way to make faith tangible to a skeptic, and possibly find a vocation along the way. “Do you want to go to World Youth Day in Madrid?” Before I finished the question it was clear we were going to World Youth Day and the planning started immediately.
Being quite active at the Newman Catholic Student Center at The George Washington University, I posed the question to our Chaplain about the Newman Center possibly helping our efforts to get to Madrid with a monetary donation. To our surprise, he proposed a different idea: if we led a trip for the Newman Center and opened the pilgrimage up to other students at GW, the Newman Center would pay for half of every pilgrim’s total cost. Gladly accepting, we kicked our preparations into high speed for a group of eleven students and three adults.
As our preparations were drawing to a close, fundraising had begun, flights were booked and hotel reservations made. This was also the election time for GW’s Allied in Pride, its LGBT Student Organization that advocated for same-sex marriage equality among other LGBT issues. Having already served on the executive board for Allied, Blake placed his bid to become the organization’s president, and I its vice-president. After much scrutiny from the LGBT students and their concern that my views of faith and marriage equality didn’t line up with what they wanted in a student leader, it turned out that Blake was elected president, while I was not elected to the board.
As it turned out the students were not the only ones concerned with my views of faith and marriage equality. The following morning after the election results were made public, both Blake and I received a message from the Newman Center Chaplain asking us to arrange an urgent meeting with him and the other World Youth Day planning committee members.
Concerned with the fact that “a personal struggle of homosexual tendencies has now become a public conflict of interest” would jeopardize the authentic Catholic experience of the pilgrimage, we were given the choice of “choosing a life in the Church and in Jesus Christ or a life lived in the flesh and lustful desire.” At stake was the World Youth Day trip that we had spent so much time and energy planning, or our dignity as two out young men who vowed to be true to ourselves. And so the decision was made to sacrifice the trip with the Newman Center and instead try to raise the rest of the money needed and salvage our chances of getting to Madrid.
We approached the newly named interim-director of the GW LGBT Resource Center, Timothy Kane, for guidance and any advice in what could be done. First, there was the option to find legal council, go the press and reveal the injustice but both Blake and I felt as though that would be inappropriate. We simply wanted to make a pilgrimage of faith, and wanted no political strings attached. Sitting on the table of the Resource Center coffee table was a pamphlet for the upcoming 2011 Dignity/USA’s national convention that was to be held here in Washington, D.C. with the words “for LGBT Catholics” on the front. When I asked Timothy what Dignity/USA was, hope was rekindled. Immediately Timothy started work in making contact with Dignity/Washington Board members, Tom Bower and Allen Rose, to arrange a time to meet with the Dignity/Washington Board of Directors to see if they would be able to help.
Both Tom and Allen became integral partners on behalf of the Dignity/ Washington community in helping us reach Madrid for World Youth Day. After making an appeal to the congregation after Masses, the Dignity/Washington community made a free-will donation of $2,075.00 towards our trip – and once again God was laughing at us for ever doubting in Him. But the community did not stop at a monetary donation; it offered prayers and other resources such as legal council and/or media outlets should we decide to pursue either of those options. Such was the compassion given to us from the Dignity/Washington community, a community that both Blake and I are now a part of. It seemed that God himself had laid the path to bring us to this community with the full knowledge of what was going to happen, and once again, He was laughing.
With the blessing and prayers from the Dignity/Washington community we started our pilgrimage in Rome where we were able to offer prayers for our new friends in a total of nine churches, including Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Basilica of Saint Maria Maggiore and the Church of the Holy Name of Mary. We pushed on to Paris where we got our first taste of World Youth Day when we encountered a Brazilian group at the Basilica of Sacré Coeur singing and dancing to the simple song “Jesus Christo, Alleluia.” Notre Dame, the Church of Saint Étienne, and the Church of Saint Augustine were other notable stops before we pressed onward to Lourdes.
However, our journey to Madrid was not going to be easy, as that leg of our trip got under way. The train company that had booked our tickets for the pilgrimage booked the tickets from Lourdes to Madrid for a day in mid-September. We made the decision to travel to Lourdes and deal with the ticket issue there. We arrived late at night to a town where the only hotel accommodations available were in a very small, run-down inn where none of the staff spoke English. My one-year study of French was enough to book us one room for the night so we at least had a place to sleep. On a spur-of-the-moment decision we walked down to the Grotto. We waited in the line to walk past the Tabernacle and altar and prayed for a way out of Lourdes. We bottled our Holy Water and returned back to the hotel.
The following day was spent mostly on the phone with the train company – and after finally getting the agents to acknowledge that it was their mistake, the best solution they could give was a refund for the tickets. When we asked to book new tickets for the correct day, they told us that every train was full, with absolutely no tickets available. It was time to get creative and the afternoon was spent looking for groups carrying American flags to see if there was any extra room on their bus. We met with three groups from Philadelphia, Chicago, and Texas and after high hopes were ultimately turned away due to “liability issues.”
The morning came and we decided to leave Lourdes headed for Irun, Spain, and hoped that we could find a way onto a train to Madrid once we reached the border. As we arrived in Irun, it was clear that all trains were going to be booked by the number of pilgrims that were waiting on the platforms. As we approached the ticket window, we were greeted with a sign that read “closed for siesta.” The only other option was to make our way to the bus window. We found ourselves behind a large group of pilgrims also seeking a way to Madrid. After watching them be turned away, we found ourselves once again with little hope. Direct routes to Madrid were booked and once again the doubt set in. Just then, the woman at the ticket counter asked us how many pilgrims were in our party because there were just two tickets left to get to Madrid with a layover in Bilbao. Three trains and two buses later, we were in Madrid and God was laughing.
Upon arriving to Madrid we were met with immediate graces. A host couple with seven children had an elaborate dinner set and waiting us. Santiago and Ana, with their children Ana, Marta, Teresa, Jaime, Javier, Ines, and Juan became our family. Now we had seven little brothers and sisters who started treating us rather quickly as if we were their big brothers. The little ones hugged, pinched, bit, and punched us always with a smile on their face and a laugh at the “ows!” we let out.
When we reached downtown Madrid, we saw so much that we had ever seen before. We witnessed thousands of people waving flags, carrying crucifixes, praying on street corners, singing and dancing in church yards and praying rosaries in multiple languages. Finally, after so much stress and worry, we were in Madrid and experiencing faith!
As the Holy Father drove by the screaming crowds, we were within arms’ reach to the Papamobile and I thought to myself, “because I have the gift of faith from God which allows me to believe without needing proof.” It was fitting that the 2011 Madrid World Youth Day was the World Youth Day that we attended because the theme for the entire celebration was taken from scripture: “Rooted and Built Up in Jesus Christ. Firm in the Faith.” The message of being firm in the faith and shepherds of faith in the sense of being witnesses for others was echoed in the Holy Father’s homily at his closing Mass. Yet both of us knew that we were leaving Madrid with questions answered and new questions to ask.
For myself, my vocation to the married and family life was affirmed by the joy I felt of being part of such an amazing family and seeing the happiness both Santiago and Ana receive from their children. I know that God will always provide when you seek Him out – even if the path is unclear to you at times. I know that Divine Providence led me to the Dignity/Washington community where I no longer have to choose between my faith and my sexual orientation.
As for Blake, for every question that was answered three more have come up. A deeper sense of spirituality and acceptance of the idea that faith could be a gift have since calmed his need for definitive proof of God’s existence while he still discerns his own beliefs regarding faith.
Since arriving back to the GW campus the World Youth Day spirit has not left us – I have become the student coordinator for the GW Office of Religious Life and am in the process of forming a Dignity/George Washington University chapter to provide LGBT Catholics on campus the chance to practice their faith without fear of judgment. In addition, I have since become more involved in Dignity/Washington by getting involved in the Liturgies as an acolyte.
We are eternally grateful for all of the members of the Dignity/Washington community and their generosity and hospitality. Where the path may lead, so long as we follow the Holy Spirit, we will continue to be rooted and built up in Jesus Christ. Firm in the faith. To God be the Glory.
-by Damian Legacy with Blake Bergen
Dignity/Washington members and students at The George Washington University