Belonging - A Gay-Straight Alliance
Belonging provides support, prayer, outreach, education, and open dialogue to create a welcoming environment at St. Thomas Aquinas for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) people of faith, their families, and allies. The official teaching of the Catholic church is clear: All people are created in the image and likeness of God and have great worth and dignity. The experience of some has been that the Church, meaning the people, have not always accepted, welcomed, and embraced people of all sexual orientations.
How did Belonging start?
Belonging originated at St. Thomas Aquinas during the spring of 2002 under the guidance of Fr. Everett Hemann, pastor. Fr. Ev led some educational seminars to explore and explain the Church's teachings concerning homosexuality. At those meetings, it was realized that St. Thomas could do more to reach out to LGBT persons of faith and to open our doors to all.
A core group of volunteers has worked to expand on those first few meetings and to ensure that LGBT persons are not forgotten in our parish and are, indeed, made to feel welcome within our parish community. In addition to LGBT persons, we welcome allies, friends, family members, and non-Catholics to all of our events.
What is the purpose of Belonging?
The purpose of Belonging has been and will continue to be increasing support for LGBT persons and their families through education and personal relationships. Belonging seeks to create a space for LGBT people, their families, and allies, so they may feel welcomed at St. Thomas Aquinas. We act as a point of entry to St. Thomas Aquinas and the Catholic Church for LGBT people and, thus, provide a way to bring in new and returning people, their skills and talents, to the parish and Church.
What are some examples of Belonging's work?
In fall of 2010, Belonging was renewed through the guidance of assistant pastor Fr. Jack McClure. At that time a number of individuals interested in welcoming all to St. Thomas gathered to listen to concerns of LGBT persons who did not feel welcome at St. Thomas. These individuals have helped launch a new Belonging. It is our intention to continue to listen to concerns and to serve as a point of contact for persons seeking education, resources, counseling, and support.
We currently are expanding our collection of books and DVDs in the library, participating in PFLAG, cosponsoring lectures, and maintaining a list of persons willing to share their experiences with LGBT persons or families.
How does Belonging fit in at St. Thomas?
Belonging is a committee under the social justice committee of STA. As stated in the STA Mission Statement, the people of St. Thomas are gathered in the Holy Spirit, a diverse and vibrant community. Belonging wants to help St. Thomas Aquinas achieve its Mission by reaching out to LGBT people, their families, and allies. We will work to welcome, invite, include, serve, and support these members of our parish community
How can I talk to someone about this topic, or how can I get involved?
If you would like to connect with Belonging please contact committee chairs, Don or Mary Ellen Wishart, email@example.com or 515-292-4059.
"Belonging is the table that welcomed me to sit down and enjoy the nourishment of the Catholic faith. There are other tables in our church, but Belonging is the one at which I've been able to be myself and state who I am. Belonging, and the people in it, are helping me to become whole, to live my Christian faith, and to fulfill God's calling."
"St. Thomas' support of Belonging has renewed my faith in and love for the Catholic Church."
"Belonging has provided me with a way to give back to the Catholic Church and to make myself available to other LGBT persons."
Letters from LGBT Catholics, families, and allies can be found under "From My Experience"