History

1992

March Eight religious and lay ministers (including Casey & Mary Ellen Lopata, parents of a gay son) from Rochester, NY attend the New Ways Ministry Symposium, “Homosexuality and the Church: the State of the Question.” Inspired and committed to “do something” the group begins meeting regularly and eventually becomes Catholic Gay and Lesbian Family Ministry (CGLFM).

November CGLFM facilitates a meeting of Rochester Bishop Matthew Clark and gay and lesbian Catholics and their family members to discuss the 1992 Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith letter, “Responding to Legislative Proposals on Discrimination Against Homosexuals.”

1994

July National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian & Gay Ministries (NACDLGM) (Now: Catholic Association of Lesbian and Gay Ministries -CALGM) is founded at a meeting of representatives from thirteen dioceses. The Lopatas are among the twenty-eight founding members. In 1995 Mary Ellen is elected to the first board of directors, serves on the executive committee from 1997-2003 and as president 2001-2. Since 1998,Casey has served on the Pastoral Resources Committee

October The first national retreat for Catholic parents, sponsored by New Ways Ministry and facilitated by Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent, is held in Stamford, CT. The Lopatas attend and become charter members of the Catholic Parents Network which emerges from this meeting.

December The first issue of the CGLFM Newsletter is published by Casey Lopata.

1995-1996

The Lopatas are consulters to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Marriage and the Family on Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children –AND—Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers, issued in September 1997.

1996

September CGLFM and the Diocese of Rochester formalize their relationship, stating that CGLFM does ministry with gay and lesbian Catholics and their families on behalf of the Diocese.

1997

March CGLFM and the Diocese of Rochester celebrate a Mass with Gay and Lesbian People, Families and Friends, with Bishop Matthew Clark as presider and homilist. Over 1300 people attend.

1998

September The Lopata’s chair the annual NACDLGM conference. Held in Rochester, the theme is “Imaging Justice.”

2001

July Seeds of Hope: Compassionate Ministry with Gay and Lesbian Catholics and Their Families—A practical resource manual published. Edited by Casey Lopata.

2002

August More Seeds: A supplement to Seeds of Hope published. Edited by Casey Lopata.

2003

October Fortunate Families: Catholic Families with Lesbian Daughters and Gay Sons, by Mary Ellen Lopata with Casey Lopata, published. (Trafford Publishing)

2004

April The Lopata’s leave CGLFM and start Fortunate Families to focus on ministry with parents of lesbian daughters and gay sons on a national level.

December Fortunate Families becomes a not-for-profit corporation.

2005

January Fortunate Families adopts by-laws and elects its first board of directors: Mary Ellen Lopata (President), Tom Ferrarese (Secretary/Treasurer), James Buckheit, Jean Kearse, Casey Lopata, William Pickett, and Rosalie Muschal-Reinhardt.

April The Lopata’s receive New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award “For compassionate ministry, personal witness, and national leadership to promote justice for lesbian/gay Catholics, their parents, and families.”

May Fortunate Families, Inc. files 501(c) (3) application.

2006

February Received 501(c)(3) exempt ruling from IRS.

April Tom Ferrarese resigns from Board of Directors, Ann Franczyk is elected to complete his term (through June 2008) and William Pickett is elected Secretary/Treasurer for remainder of the business year.

June Rosalie Muschal Reinhardt resigns from Board of Directors, Linda Karle Nelson is elected to complete her term (through June 2007); James Buckheit, Jean Kearse, and Thomas Nelson are elected to three-year terms; for the 2006-07 Business year Mary Ellen Lopata is elected President, and William Pickett is elected Secretary/Treasurer.

July Parents Voice Project launches a survey of Catholic parents of LGBT Daughters and Sons.

2007

March Fortunate Families Board of Directors attends New Ways Ministry Symposium in Minneapolis. They facilitate a listening session for parents to tell their stories to Bishop (Ret.) Joseph Sullivan of Brooklyn, and Archbishop (Ret.) Francis Hurley of Anchorage. July Parents Voice Project launches a survey of Catholic parents of LGBT Daughters and Sons (Hot link to Survey)

June Bill Pickett leaves the Board of Directors at the end of his term. Jerry Furlong of Omaha, Nebraska elected to Board of Directors.

September Parents Voice Project Survey Report of Catholic Parents is sent to all U.S. Bishops.

2008

January   First part of the eight-part educational series “Let’s Talk about Homosexuality” is released on Fortunate Families website.

November  Our ministry is awarded a grant from the School Sisters of Notre Dame to help fund educational forums on LGBT journeys in faith. A major article featuring the story of Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata, and the work of Fortunate Families, appears in the National Catholic Reporter.  Start-up activities for the introduction of the Listening Parents Network shift into high gear.

 2009

January   Fortunate Families introduces nationwide its Listening Parents Network, a group of Catholic moms and dads of LGBT children who volunteer to field phone calls and  e-mail messages from other Catholic parents who may be struggling and “just need someone to talk with”  in a safe and confidential way.  Names and contact information for 49 Listening Parents are listed on the Fortunate Families website.

April   Fortunate Families celebrates its 5th anniversary!  Under the Lopatas’ direction and inspiration, the ministry has grown in five years from a handful of interested locals to a network of some 2,500 parents, family members and allies, found in 50 states and several other countries.

September   The Listening Parents Network is nearly doubled in size to number 94 parents (in 66 households) – now present in 26 states, three Canadian provinces and 50 dioceses.  Mary Ellen Lopata steps away from the board president job she had held since the ministry’s founding in 2004.

 2010

April   The Listening Parents Network expands again – now numbering 123 parents in 90 households in 28 states, three Canadian provinces and 61 dioceses.

June   The board expands membership to add Latino/a representation.  Also, Linda Karle Nelson is elected board president, replacing co-founder Mary Ellen Lopata who remains on the board.

September   Fortunate Families joins with Call To Action, Dignity USA and New Ways Ministry to form Equally Blessed.

October   “Joining Hands-Reaching Out,” the first parents’ conference sponsored by Fortunate Families, is held in the North Chicago suburb of Techny.  More than 50 parents and allies from 15 states and Ontario, Canada, attend a program highlighted by nationally prominent speakers.

 2011

March   As an Equally Blessed partner, we co-sponsor the first-ever Congressional Briefing that presented positive Catholic perspectives on LGBT equality to federal legislators and their staffs.

July   The Listening Parents Network now has 135 parents in 28 states, 64 dioceses – and even Nicaragua.  Parents fluent in Spanish join the Network for the first time.  Spanish translations of some materials are placed on the website.

September   Board member Deb Word is invited to tell her story at the first of four conferences entitled More Than a Monologue: Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church

 2012

January   The Listening Parents Network now totals 143 parents, including five who have transgender children.

June   A survey is taken of all Fortunate Families’ newsletter subscribers.  Ninety-six percent of 449 responders rate the newsletter either very good or good.

September   Letters are sent to more than 400 Catholic campus ministers. Casey Lopata develops Fortunate Families’ “Talking Points for Catholic Parents with LGBT Daughters and Sons.”

November   Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata are joined by their gay son Jim as presenters on the DignityUSA webinar series Queer Catholic Faith.

December   Fortunate Families is awarded a $25,000 grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation to “support programs networking Catholic parents with LGBT children.”  Since the ministry’s founding in 2004, complimentary subscription to the newsletter has grown to more than 3,300 subscribers. Over these years, Casey Lopata has been solely responsible for developing editorial content for 80 newsletters

 2013

January   Newsletter is published for the first time under its new name Voices for Justice.  The creation of “Stakeholder Action Teams” is announced as a new initiative to identify individuals willing to assist us through personal involvement and/or financial support.

April   628 campus ministries have been added to the newsletter distribution list.  The first of five “Parent Gatherings,” is held in Pleasanton, CA.

June    Deb Word of Memphis, TN, a director since 2009, is elected board president.  Co-founders Casey and Mary Ellen Lopata announce they will retire from the board in June, 2014.

July   Publication of the newsletter is reduced to six issues per year.  In Minnesota and Michigan, Listening Parents join in public advocacy for marriage equality.

September   A new every-other-month electronic communication The Families Forum is introduced.

October  The third Parents Gathering of the year is held in Flagler Beach, FL

November The fourth and fifth Parents Gatherings of the year are held in Detroit, MI and Atlanta, GA.  The contract with ADG was approved for a 1 Jan 2014 start.

 2014

Feb Fortunate Families is included in the Equally Blessed Arcus two-year grant proposal for $15,000 each year which can be used to help fund management by ADG. Lisa Covington was welcomed as the newest member of the BOD.

March Myrna Ohmann reported that the recent gathering in Minnesota was very successful. Eighteen parents participated

May Retirement party for Lopatas held in Rochester

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