Those Who Serve

The Board of Directors and Associate Board Members are tremendously generous people who share their energy, talent, expertise, vision and outstanding leadership. I have the honor of working with them to implement our vision.

I am indebted to a wonderful team of Advisors to the Executive Director who have graciously accepted my invitation to serve alongside me. Each of these generous people shares their wealth of expertise, knowledge and faith with Fortunate Families.

Together we will discern and trust in the Spirit of God to lead Fortunate Families forward.

JR Zerkowski
Executive Director

Executive Director

Stanley Francis “JR” Zerkowski

JR is Fortunate Families’ first executive director.

He travels throughout the United States speaking about LGBTQ+ intentional welcome and LGBTQ+ Ministry within the Catholic Church including such topics as “Prudence and Possibilities,” “Do Whatever He Tells You,” “Orthodoxy Means Living Our Social Teaching,” “What Is the Reason For Our Hope?” and “Fratellu Tutti: dialogue, not simply talking” as he accompanies those discerning or beginning Catholic LGBTQ+ Ministry. He leads Days of Discernment and Visioning, Days of Reflection, and leads retreats for parishes, colleges, high schools, teachers, campus ministers and ministries, presbyterates, parish staffs, and communities of consecrated women and men.

A resident of Lexington, Kentucky, he is the founder of Lexington UNITED Interfaith Encounters and Lexington UNITED Interfaith Dialogues. He designed and facilitated Lexington’s 1st Pride Interfaith Service at the Historic Lyric Theater to cap Lexington Pride Month and the Lexington Pride Festival, bringing together more than 26 interfaith leaders: Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Muslims, as well as civic and community leaders, including Lexington’s mayor, police chief and fire chief.

In 2016 in the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, he founded the first LGBTQ+ Ministry at Historic Saint Paul Church which was the foundation for the Diocese of Lexington LGBT Outreach Commission, created by Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv. in 2021, which is part of the diocesan structure under the Peace & Justice Ministry. He also founded “Together on the Journey,” an LGBTQ+ Family, Friends, and Allies Ministry, now Fortunate Families Lexington.  He was instrumental in beginning two LGBTQ+ support groups at Lexington Catholic High School and other Catholic LGBT Ministry Sites throughout the United States.

His monthly faith-based article appears in LinQ, the Pride Community Services Organization of the Bluegrass LGBTQ+ magazine. He has been a contributor to many publications including Pastoral Liturgy Magazine, Liturgy Training Publications and Villanova Magazine.

He completed his undergraduate and first graduate degree program in Human Resource Development and Administration at Barry University, Miami, FL, and completed the REAPS program through Sacred Heart University earning a certificate in Spiritual Direction. After earning a masters degree in Church Management and Administration from Villanova University School of Business, he was awarded the highest honor a graduate student can attain at Villanova University: the Bartley Medallion. He is a member of the honor societies of Phi Kappa Phi and Beta Gamma Sigma.

He has received five Mayoral Proclamations for his interfaith and LGBTQ+ work; named a Commonwealth Ambassador by the Kentucky Secretary of State, awarded the honorary commission of Kentucky Colonel in 2013, received the Spirit of Lexington Award in 2015,  and, in 2017, received the Lexington Fairness’ Jonathan Barker Leadership Award given  in part because he “has taken the words of Pope Francis to heart and has worked to build bridges between the LGBT and faith communities.” In 2019 he received the George H. W. Bush Points of Light Award for his work building bridges for both the LGBTQ+ community and the interfaith community in Lexington, KY, and received  the Temple Adath Israel Jethro Award for his work building bridges within the Lexington community. In February 2020 he received the Stone Catcher of the Year Award from the Kentucky Partnership for Families and Children, Inc.

He is a past member of the Board of Directors of Lexington Fairness and a current member of the Executive Board of the Kentucky Council of Churches; Diocese of Lexington Stewardship Advisory;  Black Faith Leaders of Lexington and Vicinty Subcommittee on Law Enforcement. He is past Vice President and a current member of the Board of Trustees of the Newman Foundation, Inc., and Chair of the Newman Foundation Distinguished Speakers. Appointed by Bishop Ronald W. Gainer, he served for several years on the Opportunities For Life Advisory Council in the Diocese of Lexington, KY.  In 2021 he was appointed to the Mayor’s Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index Workgroup for the city of Lexington, KY, and the Mayor’s Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index Law Enforcement Subgroup.  He is a member of the Tyler Clementi Foundation Faith Committee, serves on the CASA of Lexington (Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children) Volunteer Recruitment Advisory Committee, and is a member of the Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition Steering Committee. He is chair of the LGBT Outreach Commission for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, and director of  LGBTQ+ Ministry Lexington. He is a 4th degree Knight of Columbus.

In February 2022 his first book was published  – COMING OUT and COMING HOME, a Catholic gay man’s journey from marginalization to ministry, with a few miracles along the way. It can be ordered here: www.butlerbooks.com/coming-out-and-coming-home.html

Please email JR directly to schedule speaking engagements, Days of Discernment and Visioning, educational/development events, etc.

JR can be contacted at jrfflex@gmail.com 

 

 

Stanley Francis “JR” Zerkowski
Director Ejecutivo de Fortunate Families, es residente de Lexington, Kentucky. Es el fundador de Lexington UNITED Interfaith Encounters y Lexington UNITED Interfaith Dialogues. Diseñó y facilitó el Primer Servicio Interreligioso de Pride de Lexington en el Historic Lyric Theatre para culminar el Mes del Pride de Lexington y el Festival de Pride de Lexington, que reunió a más de 23 líderes interreligiosos: budistas, cristianos, judíos, musulmanes, así como líderes cívicos y comunitarios, incluidos el alcalde de Lexington, jefe de policía y jefe de bomberos.

En la Diócesis de Lexington, Kentucky, cofundó y dirige el Ministerio Católico LGBTQ + Lexington – “Juntos en el Puente”, y fundó “Juntos en la Jornada”, un Ministerio LGBTQ + de Familia, Amigos y Aliados, que ahora es Fortunate Families Lexington.

Su artículo mensual basado en la fe aparece en LinQ, la organización de servicios comunitarios de Pride en la revista Bluegrass LGBTQ +. Ha colaborado con la revista Pastoral Liturgy Magazine, Liturgy Training Publications. Completó su pregrado y primer programa de posgrado en Desarrollo y Administración de Recursos Humanos en la Universidad de Barry, Miami, FL. Luego recibió una maestría en Gobierno y Administración de la Iglesia de la Escuela de Negocios de la Universidad de Villanova, recibió el más alto honor que un estudiante graduado puede obtener en la Universidad de Villanova: el Medallón de Bartley. Es miembro de las sociedades de honor de Phi Kappa Phi y Beta Gamma Sigma. Ha recibido cuatro Proclamaciones de Mayoral por sus iniciativas interreligiosas y LGBTQ + y el Premio Lexington Mayoral Good Neighbor; fue nombrado Embajador de la Commonwealth por el Secretario de Estado de Kentucky; y, en 2017, recibió el Lexington Fairness Jonathan Barker Leadership Award otorgado en parte porque “ha tomado muy en serio las palabras del Papa Francisco y ha trabajado para construir puentes entre las comunidades LGBT y de fe”. En 2019 recibió el George HW Bush Premio Points of Light por su trabajo en la construcción de puentes tanto para la comunidad LGBTQ + como para la comunidad interreligiosa en Lexington, KY; recibió del Rabino David Wirtschafter el Premio Temple Adath Israel Jethro por su trabajo construyendo puentes dentro de la comunidad de Lexington. Es miembro de la Mesa Directiva de Lexington Fairness, la Mesa Ejecutiva del Consejo de Iglesias de Kentucky y la Mesa de Síndicos de la Fundación Newman. En noviembre de 2019 fue elegido vicepresidente de la Mesa de Fideicomisarios de Newman Foundation Inc. Es un Caballero de Colón- Cuarto Grado.
Viaja por los Estados Unidos hablando sobre el Ministerio LGBTQ + y facilitando Días de Discernimiento y Visión, estableciendo Sitios Ministeriales en los que las comunidades religiosas pueden responder intencionalmente a la exhortación del Catecismo para tratar a las hermanas y hermanos LGBTQ + con “respeto, sensibilidad y compasión” y ckorear bienvenida intencional y acompañamiento celebrando la dignidad de hermanas y hermanos con demasiada frecuencia en las periferias.

Ecclesial Advisors

The Most Reverend John E. Stowe, OFM Conv.
Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky

Bishop John was born April 15, 1966 in Amherst, OH. He attended grade school at St. Anthony of Padua Parish, staffed by the Conventual Franciscan Friars, and Lorain Catholic High School. After a year of community college, Bishop John joined the formation program for the Conventual Franciscan Province of Our Lady of Consolation at St. Bonaventure Friary in St. Louis, MO.

Bishop John was born April 15, 1966 in Amherst, OH. He attended grade school at St. Anthony of Padua Parish, staffed by the Conventual Franciscan Friars, and Lorain Catholic High School. After a year of community college, Bishop John joined the formation program for the Conventual Franciscan Province of Our Lady of Consolation at St. Bonaventure Friary in St. Louis, MO. During the time of his candidacy he began studies in philosophy and history at St. Louis University and completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in each in 1990, after an interruption for his novitiate. He subsequently earned a Masters in Divinity and a Licentiate in Church History from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, CA.

Bishop John made his solemn vows on August 1, 1992, and was ordained to the priesthood on September 16, 1995.

Bishop John served in Texas as a pastor, Moderator of the Curia, and as Chancellor for the Diocese of El Paso. In 2010, he was elected Vicar Provincial of the Province of Our Lady of Consolation and became Pastor and Rector of the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, OH.

On March 12, 2015, Pope Francis named him the third Bishop of Lexington. He was ordained as the third Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lexington on May 5, 2015.

Board of Directors

Ed Buechel, Kentucky
President

Ed received his undergraduate degree from Xavier University in Cincinnati and his law degree from the University of Kentucky.

Ed received his undergraduate degree from Xavier University in Cincinnati and his law degree from the University of Kentucky. He practices law in Northern Kentucky. Ed and his wife Kathy live in Edgewood, Ky. Ed and Kathy each have a gay son, and they are very proud of both of them. Ed also has a daughter and son-in-law, and Ed and Kathy have one grandson. Ed has participated in numerous parish activities and is involved in a number of community organizations. He serves as the first lay Chair of St. Charles Care Center, Inc. Ed and Kathy host Catholics Embracing the LGBT Community, a support group for parents of LGBT individuals in Northern Kentucky.

Cathy Hoffmann, Indiana
Treasurer

Cathy is a lifelong resident of southern Indiana. Cathy and her husband, Chris, have been married for 28 years and have two grown sons, one straight and one gay.

Cathy is a lifelong resident of southern Indiana. Cathy and her husband, Chris, have been married for 28 years and have two grown sons, one straight and one gay.
Cathy received her Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting at the University of Southern Indiana in 1988 and is a Certified Public Accountant. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Indiana CPA Society. Currently, Cathy serves as the Controller the YMCA of Southwestern Indiana. Her prior professional career includes 16 years with Karen L Schenk and Associates LLC, providing accounting and tax services to individuals, small businesses, trust and estates, and not-for-profits. She also spent 10 years with Deaconess Hospital in various roles in the finance and personnel services departments.

Cathy was raised catholic and has been a member of St Wendel Catholic Church since 1993 and has served on the building committee, finance committee and as a CCD teacher. She also served as a speech and debate coach and on the PTO of St Wendel Catholic School. Cathy was a YWCA Live Y'ers mentor in Evansville, Indiana for several years.

Penny Smith-Bogert, New York
Secretary

Penny Smith-Bogert is a retired speech/language pathologist, a devoted yoga practitioner and the mother of a 34-year-old daughter and a 29-year-old gay son. 

Penny Smith-Bogert lives near Albany, New York with her beloved Jack Russell Terrier, Jackie. She is a retired speech/language pathologist, a devoted yoga practitioner and the mother of a 34-year-old daughter and a 29-year-old gay son.

She participates in various local LGBT+ events and volunteers for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. Penny is a very active member of her parish, and has served as a Eucharistic Minister, Faith Formation Teacher, Confirmation Team Facilitator and Chaperone to the National Catholic Youth Conference. She currently sings alto in her church's music ministry group and considers herself blessed to be part of such vibrant secular and religious communities.

Fr. Mario Serrano, OFM Conv.,Texas

Friar Mario currently serves as University Minister at St. Joseph University Parish, a Conventual Franciscan Parish in Terre Haute, IN.

Friar Mario, has been a Conventual Franciscan Friar since 2003 and was ordained a priest in 2016.  He currently serves as University Minister at St. Joseph University Parish, a Conventual Franciscan Parish in Terre Haute, IN. He is a first generation Mexican-American; the first in his family to pursue higher education and the only to have a graduate degree. Prior to his present assignment, he served as Director of University Ministry and Adjunct Faculty in the Theology Department at Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU). Friar Mario holds a B.A. from Catholic University of America and a Masters of Divinity from Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX.  Since 2012, he has been the Spiritual Companion for the ACTS HOPE ministry which offers retreats to all members of the Body of Christ who are in need of spiritual healings, especially those who may not otherwise be able to attend a "mainstream/ traditional" retreat and who may require special healthcare services.

Jason Steidl, New York

Jason Steidl lives in Bronx, New York and received his BA in government and theology from Georgetown University, his Master of Theological Studies from the University of Notre Dame, and his PhD in theology from Fordham University.

Jason Steidl lives in Bronx, New York where he is a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at Fordham University. He received his BA in government and theology from Georgetown University, his Master of Theological Studies from the University of Notre Dame, and his PhD in theology from Fordham University. His research focuses on the relationship between the peripheries and center of the US Catholic Church. How do communities on the margins create and sustain dialogue with the hierarchy? What resources are available in Catholic tradition for those struggling against systematic social and ecclesial sin? As a gay Catholic, he puts this theology into practice as a member of the ministry team for Out at St. Paul, the LGBTQ ministry of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Manhattan. Outside of his research, teaching, and ministry, he enjoys spending time at the New York Botanical Gardens, shopping at thrift stores, and singing Sacred Harp, an a cappella shape-note tradition.  

Deacon Steve Hester, Rhode Island

Steve is blessed with a wonderful wife and two teenage daughters, all of whom keep him in line, especially regarding social justice, fairness, and equality.

Deacon Steve and his family have recently returned to the Bluegrass State after spending the past four years in Rhode Island. Steve has returned to Historic Saint Paul Catholic Church as Pastoral Associate and is looking forward to continuing the parish mission of reaching out to the marginalized. The message of Jesus is one of Love and Mercy for all God’s creatures, and the role of a minister is to further that message, always. Dcn. Steve has the loving support of his family in spreading this message.

Our ministries always seem to find us, even on Block Island, and the family’s time in New England was marked by fighting for LGBTQ inclusion and acceptance in the local high school. Facing stiff resistance, the Hester girls formed their school’s first-ever GSA, and helped the larger community celebrate its first-ever Pride events. Steve reported on the fight for equality and justice in the local newspaper and preached inclusion from the pulpit, and his wife Laura helped organize the island’s first support group for families, friends, and allies. She also consistently leads the family’s charge into the battle for equality, fairness, and social justice.

Betty Dirr, Ohio

Betty lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband, Mike. They have 2 children, a 32-year-old son and a 30-year-old lesbian daughter. 

Jan lives in Cold Spring, KY with her husband of 45 years, Joe.  They have 3 children; two of whom are gay, and three grandchildren and one grandchild on the way.

Jan attended Catholic schools all through grade school and high school, and has degrees in Elementary Education and Music.  She was on the faculty of St. Joseph School and directed the children’s choir for the last 30 years.  She retired in 2016.

She is presently volunteering in and around her parish in various groups and choirs, and teaching piano in an after school inner city program.  She is active as a listening parent in the LGBTQ+  group at her St. Joseph, Cold Spring parish, and only in recent years has ventured into other cities to support the LGBTQ+ community.  She feels honored to be part of the Fortunate Families’ “Family”n and is grateful everyday for the opportunity to work with such a loving group of people.

Janice Schwegmann, Kentucky

Jan lives in Cold Spring, KY with her husband of 45 years, Joe. They have 3 children; two of whom are gay, and three grandchildren and one grandchild on the way.

Jan lives in Cold Spring, KY with her husband of 45 years, Joe.  They have 3 children; two of whom are gay, and three grandchildren and one grandchild on the way.  

Jan attended Catholic schools all through grade school and high school, and has degrees in Elementary Education and Music.  She was on the faculty of St. Joseph School and directed the children’s choir for the last 30 years.  She retired in 2016.  

She is presently volunteering in and around her parish in various groups and choirs, and teaching piano in an after school inner city program.  She is active as a listening parent in the LGBTQ+  group at her St. Joseph, Cold Spring parish, and only in recent years has ventured into other cities to support the LGBTQ+ community.  She feels honored to be part of the Fortunate Families’ “Family”n and is grateful everyday for the opportunity to work with such a loving group of people.  

Christine Zuba, New Jersey

Christine lives in Blackwood, New Jersey, near Philadelphia. She received her BS in Electrical Engineering from Penn State University, and an MBA from Rutgers University.

Christine Zuba lives in Blackwood, New Jersey, near Philadelphia.  She received her BS in Electrical Engineering from Penn State University, and an MBA from Rutgers University.  Christine is employed as a television and radio broadcast equipment sales manager to both regional and national networks. Christine is a member of the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) and the Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers (AFCCE).

A lifelong Catholic born and raised in northeastern Pennsylvania, Christine has lived in southern New Jersey for over 30 years.   Christine has two grown children, a daughter and son.. 

Christine has been a longtime parishioner of Saints Peter and Paul Church in Turnersville.  As a Transgender Catholic she serves as a facilitator of her parish LGBTQ ministry, Together in Prayer.  Christine is also a Eucharistic Minister, and a member of the hospitality committee.  Christine also participates in other ministries such as Out Catholics of Philadelphia, One In the Spirit (Marlton, NJ), and in the NJ-PA Consortium of Welcoming Parishes, a group of similar ministries across New Jersey and Pennsylvania. 

Fr. Francis Gargani, C. Ss. R.

Francis Gargani has been a parish priest for ten years, in Saratoga Springs, NY and Pittsburgh, PA, after post-graduate studies in Worship at Catholic University, Francis was campus minister at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA for seven years.

Francis Gargani is a priest of the Redemptorist Religious Community ordained in 1971. A parish priest for ten years, in Saratoga Springs, NY and Pittsburgh, PA, after post-graduate studies in Worship at Catholic University, Francis was campus minister at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA for seven years.

Retreat ministry followed at the former Redemptorist Retreat Center in Esopus, NY for nine years, with further post-graduate studies in Spirituality and Spiritual Direction at Fordham University, NY.

After nine more years of ministry focused on social justice, residing in the south Bronx, Francis became superior of the Redemptorist headquarters in Brooklyn, NY also for nine years.

He now resides in Washington, DC, at the new location of the Redemptorist Provincial House, launching into a ministry of evangelization in collaboration with two other Redemptorists.

Francis is past President of “Pax Christi Metro New York,” the international Catholic Voice of Peace, past Board Member of the “Interfaith Assembly on Housing and Homelessness of New York,” past Board Member of the New York Chapter of the “National Pastoral Musicians,” colleague in Iona College of New Rochelle, NY’s “Institute of Spirituality,” colleague of the Inter-faith Seminary of New York, “One Spirit,” recipient of their 2019 “Service to Humanity Award, and original Board Member of “Cave Canem,” North America’s only Black Poets Society. Francis has been Catholic Chaplain at Chautauqua for two previous summers, presenting programs on Thomas Merton and a Just War in the Nuclear Age.

In 2017 he was the pilgrimage leader of the LGBTQ Community to the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Newark, NJ, and facilitated having the LGBTQ community formally welcomed by Redemptorist Joseph Cardinal Tobin.

See Story: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/13/nyregion/catholic-church-gays-mass-newark-cathedral.html

Dr. Melinda Moore

Melinda Moore is a Licensed Psychologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Eastern Kentucky University. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from The Catholic University of America.

Melinda Moore is a Licensed Psychologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Eastern Kentucky University.

She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from The Catholic University of America, where she trained in the Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality (CAMS) and conducted research on CAMS. She regularly trains clinicians in CAMS, as well as advocates on behalf of suicide prevention in her role as chair of the Kentucky Suicide Prevention Group, Inc., a statewide suicide prevention nonprofit.

She has conducted military suicide bereavement research at the University of Kentucky and suicide treatment research at the Robley Rex Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Louisville. Her interest in Posttraumatic Growth emerged from her own experience with suicide and the changes that experience created within her allowing for her current career path and personal interests and relationships.

Ministries

Bradley A. Leger, Louisiana
Evangelization Chair

Brad is an educator, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, liturgical musician and international development consultant. The foundation of his work embraces the tenets of equity, access and opportunity for all.

Brad is an educator, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, liturgical musician and international development consultant. He has experience with diversity and equity efforts on the university level and has worked with a number of boards and organizations that facilitate community, leadership and economic development. He holds degrees in education and pastoral studies and a certificate in social justice. The foundation of his work embraces the tenets of equity, access and opportunity for all.

Evangelization Ministry Mission Statement

Fortunate Families, a Catholic Family, Friends & Allies Ministry, supports LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers by facilitating respectful conversation with bishops, pastors and Church leadership, through sharing personal stories and by working to establish intentional Catholic LGBTQ+ Ministry Sites in dioceses, parishes, educational institutions, and communities.

Through accompaniment and bridge-building we seek to celebrate and safeguard the dignity of LGBTQ+ children of God.

Christine Zuba, New Jersey
Transgender Ministry

Christine lives in Blackwood, New Jersey, near Philadelphia. She received her BS in Electrical Engineering from Penn State University, and an MBA from Rutgers University.

Fortunate Families Transgender Ministry Mission Statement

The Transgender Ministry of Fortunate Families affirms, accompanies, and supports transgender and non-binary persons of all ages by facilitating respectful conversation between parents, families, pastors, religious and Church leadership.

Church teaching continually develops in response to doctrinal developments, pastoral needs, and the encounter with new scientific and philosophical insights. Pope John Paul II's Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, acknowledges that, “profound understanding of man does not come from theology alone, without the contributions of many branches of knowledge to which theology itself refers”.  Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti, instructs us, “to be committed to living and teaching the value of respect for others, a love capable of welcoming differences, and the priority of the dignity of every human being”.

The Transgender Ministry encourages Church leadership and all people of God to listen to and to understand the personal stories of transgender and non-binary persons, educates and advocates for the health, safety, dignity, and spiritual well-being, for them and their families.

Betty Dirr, Ohio
Co-Chair, Education Ministry

Betty lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband, Mike. They have 2 children, a 32-year-old son and a 30-year-old lesbian daughter.

Fortunate Families Education Ministry Mission Statement

The Fortunate Families Education Ministry serves Catholic LGBTQ+ persons, their parents, families, teachers, and friends who are seeking a better understanding of issues related to the intersection of religious faith with sexuality and gender and/or to become a better ally for the LGBTQ+ people in their lives. We do this through:

  • - Listening attentively to understand questions and concerns, acknowledging and respecting differences and lived experience
  • - Sharing our stories
  • - Guiding seekers to credible sources of information from the biological, medical and psycho-social sciences
  • - Lifting up the voices of those within the Catholic Church who are working to build bridges with the LGBTQ+ community
  • - Collaborating with the other Fortunate Families Ministries

Janice Schwegmann, Kentucky
Co-Chair, Education Ministry

Jan lives in Cold Spring, KY with her husband of 45 years, Joe. They have 3 children; two of whom are gay, and three grandchildren and one grandchild on the way.

Jan lives in Cold Spring, KY with her husband of 45 years, Joe.  They have 3 children; two of whom are gay, and three grandchildren and one grandchild on the way.  

Jan attended Catholic schools all through grade school and high school, and has degrees in Elementary Education and Music.  She was on the faculty of St. Joseph School and directed the children’s choir for the last 30 years.  She retired in 2016.  

She is presently volunteering in and around her parish in various groups and choirs, and teaching piano in an after school inner city program.  She is active as a listening parent in the LGBTQ+  group at her St. Joseph, Cold Spring parish, and only in recent years has ventured into other cities to support the LGBTQ+ community.  She feels honored to be part of the Fortunate Families’ “Family”n and is grateful everyday for the opportunity to work with such a loving group of people.  

Theological Advisors

Andy Buechel, Covington, KY

Andy Buechel holds a PhD in Theological Studies from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He has also attended the University of Dayton and Notre Dame, and has taught theology courses at Xavier University and the University of Dayton.

Andy Buechel holds a PhD in Theological Studies from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He has also attended the University of Dayton and Notre Dame, and has taught theology courses at Xavier University and the University of Dayton. He's currently training to be a high school social studies teacher in Ohio.

Arthur Fitzmaurice, Ph.D.

Arthur has served in ministry with LGBTQ Catholics for over a decade. He appears in the Ignatian News Network’s series on pastoral care of LGBT Catholics called “Who Are We to Judge?” and has contributed to Catholic and lay media including America Magazine and National Catholic Reporter.

Arthur Fitzmaurice, Ph.D. (Twitter: @lgbtcatholic) has served in ministry with LGBTQ Catholics for over a decade. He appears in the Ignatian News Network’s series on pastoral care of LGBT Catholics called "Who Are We to Judge?" and has contributed to Catholic and lay media including America Magazine and National Catholic Reporter. Arthur speaks to diverse audiences including bishops, catechists, parents, and youth on such topics as how to be church to LGBTQ Catholics, what it means to accept LGBTQ youth in Catholic schools, and what are Church teachings on homosexuality. Arthur has helped parents and LGBTQ Catholics begin their own diocesan and parish outreach ministries as well.

Arthur's leadership positions have included Resource Director of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry (CALGM) and Chair of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Catholic Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Persons. He received the Archdiocese’s Lumen Christi and Cardinal’s Young Adult in Ministry Award. Arthur studied at the Jesuit School of Theology, Harvard Divinity School, Caltech, and MIT. He currently works on addressing the global HIV/AIDS epidemic as a Senior Health Scientist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Fr. Mario Serrano, OFM Conv.,Texas

Friar Mario currently serves as University Minister at St. Joseph University Parish, a Conventual Franciscan Parish in Terre Haute, IN.

Friar Mario, has been a Conventual Franciscan Friar since 2003 and was ordained a priest in 2016.  He currently serves as University Minister at St. Joseph University Parish, a Conventual Franciscan Parish in Terre Haute, IN. He is a first generation Mexican-American; the first in his family to pursue higher education and the only to have a graduate degree. Prior to his present assignment, he served as Director of University Ministry and Adjunct Faculty in the Theology Department at Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU). Friar Mario holds a B.A. from Catholic University of America and a Masters of Divinity from Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX.  Since 2012, he has been the Spiritual Companion for the ACTS HOPE ministry which offers retreats to all members of the Body of Christ who are in need of spiritual healings, especially those who may not otherwise be able to attend a "mainstream/ traditional" retreat and who may require special healthcare services.

Young Adult Advisors

Allie Brizzi, Cincinnatti, OH

Allie is a graduate of the University of Dayton – both undergrad and graduate school. She is a Lay Marianist within the Cana Community.

Allie is a graduate of the University of Dayton – both undergrad and graduate school. She is a Lay Marianist within the Cana Community. She is a Theology teacher and Spiritual Life Leader at Roger Bacon High School in Cincinnatti, OH. She stays active by playing soccer, camping, and traveling to visit family. Allie also loves to read!

Jacob Alexander Henson, San Antonio, TX

Jacob is a native of San Antonio, TX and currently a senior pursuing his Bachelor of Arts in Theology and International Relations at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio.

Howdy, my name is Jacob Henson, y’all! I am 22 years of age, a native of San Antonio, TX and currently a senior pursuing my Bachelor of Arts in Theology and International Relations at St. Mary's University in San Antonio. Being that I’m tall and a friendly guy (at least from what people say) some people refer to me as a gentle giant. I'm 6’4”, well really 6’3 and something of an inch but I just round up on my driver’s license; but hey it counts!

Outside of my academics I have two jobs that make me happy to be a part of. I am one of the five mail carriers who delivers mail for St. Mary's University, since the fall of 2016, and as of October 2017 I have been working in the bakery of H-E-B, a grocery company in Texas. If I’m not working, then I enjoy having conversations with people, especially ones with laughter and analysis. For example, I frequently like to contemplate how everyday events have a purpose in our lives. StrengthsFinder categorizes this as the connectedness strength, which is one of my top five strengths I refer back to in times of reflection and conflict. My other top four strengths are WOO (Winning Others Over), Input, Responsibility, and Leaner.

Aside from work and school I enjoy crafting, painting, making music on my computer, and hanging out with my friends and boyfriend. I came out to my family throughout the 2016 year and to myself and my friends in 2015. I’m happy to be a part of Fortunate Families and am proud to help shed light on rational and just perspectives concerning LGBT+ topics.

Nicholas Ralston, Lexington, KY

Nick is a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University with a degree in Psychology. His professional life has him working in Human Resources for a national company. 

Nick is a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University with a degree in Psychology. His professional life has him working in Human Resources for a national company. He serves as the Parish Council Secretary at St. Paul Catholic Church; he gained support of parishioners and staff when he ran for Parish Council as an openly gay man. He also serves his parish as a sacristan. In high school, Nick was a Catechist for 2nd and 4th grade CCD at St. John’s Catholic Church in the Diocese of Lexington. He is also a founding member of the Catholic LGBTQ Ministry "Together on the Bridge" and a founding member of the ministry team of LGBT Catholic Family, Friends & Alies, "Together on the Journey," in Lexington.

Stewardship Advisors

Alyssa Adreani, Walpole, MA

Alyssa is a native of the Boston area and lives in Walpole with her husband and ​young son​. She c​urrently serves as an Interfaith Chaplain and Manager of the Department of Spiritual Care at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.

Alyssa is a native of the Boston area and lives in Walpole with her husband and
​young son​. After several years in Development with the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Alyssa returned to graduate school at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry ​to pursue her calling to hospital chaplaincy. ​Board certified by the Association of Professional Chaplains, she c​urrently serves as an Interfaith Chaplain and Manager of the Department of Spiritual Care at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.

​Alyssa's ongoing spiritual formation has been influenced by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, a longtime meditation practice, and several years of working with inmates in the MA Department of Corrections.

​Alyssa and her family attend St. Ignatius Church in Chestnut Hill and the United Church in Walpole.​

Stephen A. Heitz, Louisville, KY

Stephen is a cradle Catholic born and raised in Cincinnati, OH. He is the 7th of 8 siblings and attended Roger Bacon High School, a ministry of the Franciscan Friars.

Stephen is a cradle Catholic born and raised in Cincinnati, OH. He is the 7th of 8 siblings and attended Roger Bacon High School, a ministry of the Franciscan Friars.

Stephen moved to Louisville and attended Bellarmine University, receiving a BA in Economics with minors in Math and Business. One little known fact about Stephen is that he took several theology courses which cracked the door open to a mature and compassionate faith experience consistent with Franciscan values.

Stephen is married to his wife Stephanie, an educator in the Catholic High School system. Together, they have three children, one of whom is a foster child they intend to adopt. Professionally, Stephen is a partner in an investment consulting firm.

There are many literary bits that drive Stephen’s interest in serving Fortunate Families. The most telling comes from an excerpt of a piece of prose by Thomas Merton in his book Raids on the Unspeakable. The piece “The Time of the end is the time of No Room.” Merton interprets Luke’s nativity narrative as Christ’s solidarity with those others who do not belong.

“… into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it – because he is out of place in it, and yet must be in it – his place is with those others who do not belong, who are rejected because they are regarded as weak; and with those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, and are tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world. He is mysteriously present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst. For them, there is no escape even in imagination…”

Christ was born out of this world; you and I and Fortunate Families serve, in my imagination, as that “nativity for those whom the world has no room.”

David Moore, Lexington, KY

David, a lifelong resident of central Kentucky, holds a BS degree in Accounting from the University of Kentucky. He retired in December 2017 from Central Bank & Trust Co., after working there for just over 43 years.

David, a lifelong resident of central Kentucky, holds a BS degree in Accounting from the University of Kentucky.  He retired in December 2017 from Central Bank & Trust Co., after working there for just over 43 years.  Throughout his career, David served on several volunteer boards, including as Chair of the Woodford County (KY) Board of Education and as treasurer of the Headley-Whitney Museum.  He and his wife have been married since 1975, and they have two sons, two grandsons, and two dogs.  David can most often be found on his road bike, pedaling around the countryside, or in his kayak, flatwater paddling any number of creeks, rivers, or lakes.

Leslee Moore, Lexington, KY

Leslee is a native of upstate New York who has resided in central Kentucky for most of her life. Although now retired, she has had a variety of work experiences, including serving as the executive assistant to the president and CEO of the United States Equestrian Federation.

Leslee is a native of upstate New York who has resided in central Kentucky for most of her life.  Although now retired, she has had a variety of work experiences, including serving as the executive assistant to the president and CEO of the United States Equestrian Federation and as office manager for a sport horse training facility in Virginia and  Florida.  She and her husband have been married since 1975, and they have two sons, two grandsons, and two dogs.  A longtime activist for social justice, Leslee enjoys making hats, scarves, and sandwiches for the guests at Lexington’s Catholic Action Center and is active in several ministries at Holy Spirit Parish/Newman Center, in the Diocese of Lexington, and within the Loretto Community. 

Honorary Members of the Board of Directors

Fr. James Martin, SJ

Fr. Martin is an American Jesuit priest, writer, and editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine America. In 2017, Pope Francis appointed Father Martin as a consultant to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications.

Fr. Martin is an American Jesuit priest, writer, and editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine America. In 2017, Pope Francis appointed Father Martin as a consultant to the Vatican's Secretariat for Communications. He is a New York Times Best Selling author and frequent commentator on the life and teachings of Jesus, and on Ignatian—inspired by the life and teachings of Saint Ignatius of Loyola—spirituality. Father Martin's outreach to the LGBT community has drawn a strong backlash from conservative Catholics. He is the author of Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.

Sister Luisa Derouen, OP

Sr. Luisa Derouen is a Dominican Sister of Peace and has been ministering among transgender people and their families nationally for 22 years.

Sr. Luisa Derouen is a Dominican Sister of Peace and has been ministering among transgender people and their families nationally for 22 years. She has a BA in Religious Studies from Loyola University in New Orleans, LA, and an MA in Liturgical Theology from the University of Notre Dame, IN.

She completed her internship in spiritual direction from the Ignatius Jesuit Center in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

She has been a speaker and writer on transgender spiritual issues, as well as facilitating many transgender panels. It has been the greatest privilege of her life to know hundreds of transgender people and give witness to the sacredness of their lives.

She has gifted her legacy and ministry to Fortunate Families and our Transgender Ministry upon her retirement January 1, 2022.

Our Founders

Casey & Mary Ellen Lopata

Casey and Mary Ellen are the parents of four children, including a son who came out to them as gay at age 19. They have worked in ministry with gay and lesbian Catholics and their families since 1992. The Lopatas are founding members of the Catholic Gay and Lesbian Family Ministry (CGLFM) and the Catholic Association of Lesbian and Gay Ministries (CALGM) and charter members of the Catholic Parents Network.

Casey and Mary Ellen Lopata are the parents of four children, including a son who came out to them as gay at age 19. They have worked in ministry with gay and lesbian Catholics and their families since 1992. The Lopatas are founding members of the Catholic Gay and Lesbian Family Ministry (CGLFM) and the Catholic Association of Lesbian and Gay Ministries (CALGM) and charter members of the Catholic Parents Network.

In 2003, the book Fortunate Families, written by Mary Ellen Lopata with Casey Lopata, was published. The book shares the stories of, and offers guidance to, Catholic parents of gay and lesbian children, and outlines what these families want and need from their Church. The following year, they founded the organization Fortunate Families to focus on ministry with parents on a national level, retiring from the board in 2014 after guiding and growing the organization through its first decade. They continue to serve on the organization’s Advisory Council.

Mary Ellen holds a master’s degree in liberal studies with a focus on homosexuality and the family. Casey has a master of divinity degree from St. Bernard’s Institute in Rochester, N.Y.

In Memoriam

Michael J. Iafrate

Michael was a theologian and songwriter from West Virginia and a doctoral candidate at the University of St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto. He was also a singer-songwriter and old time musician, and his most recent album, “Christian Burial,” was released in 2017.

Michael J. Iafrate was a theologian and songwriter from West Virginia and a doctoral candidate at the University of St. Michael's College, University of Toronto. He served as Co-Coordinator of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia (CCA) and was the lead author of CCA’s people's pastoral letter "The Telling Takes Us Home: Taking Our Place in the Stories that Shape Us." His writing has appeared in National Catholic Reporter and Religion Dispatches, various journals, and the collections Secular Music and Sacred Theology (2013) and Music, Theology, and Justice (2017). He was also a singer-songwriter and old time musician, and his most recent album, "Christian Burial," was released in 2017. Prior to his untimely death in May 2021, he served as a Theological Advisor to Fortunate Families.