Recently, we asked all of our Listening Parents to share their experiences and the work they are doing in their communities. Below are some of the responses we received.
Mother of a gay son
"I am very active in PFLAG Cleveland, currently serving as membership chair. Although PFLAG provides support for parents, families, friends and LGBTQ people with regards to many topics, frequently our support group meetings focus on religion. Many Catholic families share their stories of frustration with the Catholic hierarchy and the church's position on marriage equality. I often refer families to the Fortunate Families website so that they know there are Catholics who support them and who are actively working within the church for change."
Mary & Joe Byers
Parents of gay sons
"My husband, Joe, and I always wear rainbow fish pins. As you may know, for many reasons, the fish was a symbol of faith used by first century Christians. One of these explanations is that our ancestors in faith made an acrostic from the Greek word for fish, ichthys, which is Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter, i.e. Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. Using the symbol of a fish enabled them to identify meeting places or distinguish friend from foe without endangering their lives. The rainbow, of course, is associated with support of LGBT persons. We have found that wearing our pins is often a conversation starter. People tell us they like our pins, ask us what they mean, or wonder where they can get one. If the situation is appropriate, one of us will tell the inquirer that we are Catholic parents of seven children, three of whom are gay men. We will sometimes be asked for further information about Fortunate Families and at other times give our pins to the persons we’re talking to. Occasionally the stranger will be surprised to know there are Catholic parents like us who are so supportive of our gay children."
If you’re interested in acquiring a rainbow fish pin so that you can be part of this ministry, you can call Joe and Mary Byers at 610.565.2335.
Mother of a gay son
"Presently I am listed as a Listening Parent in Fullerton, CA. I have not been able to be active in PFLAG or in outreach since 2012 due to family commitments. In this period that I have been still listed as a Listening Parent, a few individuals contacted me and I met with some of them to listen and share what I know about Fortunate Families and Catholic support groups in the local area. Since there has been no contact by any individual for about a year and since I am unable to do anything in PFLAG or outreach, I am considering being removed from the Listening Parents list."
After our Listening Parents cooridinator and Board member, Mary Beth Garascia, spoke with Doris about the importance of the Listening Parents network, Doris responded with the following:
"I can stay on. With the direction the Trump administration is going, the work of Fortunate Families in the church may become more important. Keep up your good work and watch how Bishop McElroy of San Diego handles things, he is a Pope Francis bishop."
Linda Karle & Tom Nelson
Mother of a gay son & father of a gay son
Farmington Hills, MI
"Tom and I have worked with our local Fortunate Families Detroit group for three years. Our most recent big event which was attended by 30 people was our third annual Day of Reflection held in November, 2016. This was a half day workshop focusing on education on transgender issues. Our speakers were Rick Joseph, Michigan Teacher of the Year who spoke about the recently approved State Guidelines for a Safe Environment for LGBT Students and Peter Tchoryk, father of an 8 yr old transgender son. Fr. Vic Clore also spoke with us about the evolving relationship of the Church and the LGBT community. The day began with a prayer service and concluded with a supper of homemade soup, bread and many delicious desserts. More recently, in January, we held our first meeting of the year which was attended by 29 people. Our speakers were a married gay couple who were originally from Costa Rica, moved to the US and were married two years ago. They shared their story of life as Catholics in Costa Rica and the challenges they faced as immigrants to this country. We plan to meet again in early April and again in June and September.
We also chair a PFLAG chapter in Manistee, MI.. A recent project is working to educate the school community about the new Guidelines for LGBT Students in Michigan schools. This involves partnering with the GSA at the high school and seeking out counselors in the middle and high schools who could be helpful in establishing these guidelines in the local schools."
Mother of a gay son
"I have never received a call from someone looking to speak with a Listening Parent. However, I am a PFLAG chapter leader and constantly refer Catholic parents to Fortunate Families as a good resource for them."
Thank you to all of our Listening Parents for providing an invaluable service to the many Fortunate Families out there!