Our son informed us twenty years ago, during his first year at university, that he is gay. Since then, our love, admiration and respect for him have grown immeasurably, and we have learned of the beauty of diversity. He has brought us many blessings.
But we remember the shock and pain that we experienced at the beginning of our journey. Much of this was because, as lifelong dedicated Catholics, we feared that our son, who had been deeply involved in the religious activities of his Catholic high school, would be forever alienated from his church.
We felt alone, told very few relatives and friends, and were uncomfortable in our parish activities. Sermons and petitions at the church further added to our hurt and sense of alienation.
It was a great relief and comfort to us when we discovered another couple with a gay son in our parish. Soon afterwards, they and we attended a Day of Reconciliation for parents of gay sons and lesbian daughters at Manresa, the Jesuit retreat centre in Pickering, sponsored by a group called Fortunate Families, whose purpose is to help parents to realize their good fortune in having a homosexual child. The concept arose from the account of many early First Nations groups who believe that certain individuals possess two spirits, masculine and feminine, and as a result have special powers. They are often used as mediators between male and female community members as well as between the physical and spiritual worlds. A family who possessed such a child was considered to be fortunate.
At the day of reflection, we were touched by the anguish and confusion felt by parents of homosexual children, largely because of the church’s position on the subject. As we were several years into our journey, we felt that we might be able to help those who are just beginning theirs.
We have found Fortunate Families to be a wonderful source of information and encouragement. They may be contacted online at http://www.fortunatefamilies.com/, by phone 585-698-6100 or mail at Fortunate Families, Box 18082, Rochester, NY 14618 – 0082. Their excellent book, Fortunate Families, by Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata is published by Trafford Publishing. An annual Day of Reflection is held every summer in the Toronto area and is a truly worthwhile experience.
A recent offshoot of Fortunate Families is Listening Parents, a group of parent volunteers who lend an ear to other parents struggling with questions about their child’s sexual orientation; who just want “someone to talk to.” You can communicate with a Listening Parent by phone or email in the strictest confidence. Go to http://www.fortunatefamilies.com/, then on the gray bar find “Fortunate Families Network.” Click this to reveal a drop-down menu. Click on “Listening Parents” or phone 585-698-6100, and you will find a list of Listening Parents, with a bit of background on each, from which you may choose a parent you wish to contact.
Even though there has been little or no change in official church teaching on homosexuality during the last twenty years, we have found an encouraging growth in understanding and acceptance among the laity and many priests and religious; as well as a desire for more open discussion and a realization of the injustice of much of the church’s official position. We have high hopes for the next twenty.