WATERritual on March 26

The Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) invites you and your networks to join them for their upcoming monthly program “Pray with Us to Welcome Spring Renewal” on Zoom, Tuesday, March 26, at 7:30pm with Diann Neu and the WATER Community. You are invited to come and pray with them as they welcome spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Click here to register for the program.

The Story of WATER

More than four decades ago, two courageous women saw a need and took a risk that has shaped the feminist religious movement. Mary E Hunt and Diann L Neu gathered thirteen women from various faith backgrounds and created a place where women’s religious needs could be met and women’s creativity nurtured. WATER was born.

WATER is a non-profit educational center and public charity in Silver Spring, MD, that focuses on feminist work in religion. Since its founding in 1983, WATER has built a growing network of scholars, ministers, and activists around the world who are committed to engaging theological training and scholarship in the service of social change. They promote empowerment, justice, peace, and systemic change.

WATER transforms religious structures by strengthening women as religious agents and encouraging them to work for inclusive religious communities and an egalitarian future. They have a global impact, an international reach. They promote eco-feminist work and are collaborative and participative as they work in alliance with justice networks worldwide.
For more than forty years, WATER, thanks to supporters and funding partners, has demonstrated the financial stability and simple living necessary to create and sustain efficient and high-quality services for people in need. They operate on the principle of non-discrimination regarding race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, ability, and national origin.

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“Fiducia Supplicans” — Small, Important Step to LGBTQ+ Visibility

For Franciscan Fr Daniel Horan, Fiducia Supplicans, the Vatican’s declaration allowing blessings of same-gender couples, is a small, but important step towards LGBTQ+ visibility in the church.

Fr Horan, a theologian and columnist for the National Catholic Reporter, acknowledges that “most people have embraced the positive and rather matter-of-fact declaration” about blessings for “irregular” couples. He lauds it:

“Though the gesture may be small, the publication of Fiducia Supplicans signals an important departure from the status quo of erasure and dehumanization. Perhaps this declaration will be enough of a recognition, of seeing and beholding of LGBTQ+ persons that over time the broader faith community (of which LGBTQ+ Catholics are equally a part) can open itself up to learn more about and from them.

That many LGBTQ+ folks feel seen now and recognized by leaders in their faith community is a very good thing. Perhaps it will be the beginning of something more, but in the meantime it is at least a small acknowledgement of full dignity, value and humanity of LGBTQ+ people.”

Fr Horan divides the critics of Fiducia Supplicans into “two general buckets.” In the first are critics of the document who fear that permission for such blessings will cause confusion about whether same-gender couples can marry, and these include bishops from Africa and Eastern Europe. The second bucket, however, is the critics Fr Horan views as more dangerous for they fear even the simple recognition that LGBTQ+ people exist:

“…[I]t appears that there are those who are angry that LGBTQ+ persons are acknowledged as existing in the world at all. This homophobic frustration is most commonly found on social media and anonymous internet comments, but others have been more public with their displeasure.

Some have appeared to double down on the most incendiary and pastorally insensitive (not to mention theologically dubious) language that has appeared in Catholic documents on LGBTQ+ persons and ministry over the years.”

For Fr Horan, precisely makes Fiducia Supplicans is significant, and also suspect in the eyes of some critics, is that it acknowledges the humanity of LGBTQ+ individuals.
To read the full article, go to here.

~~ Sarah Cassidy (she/her) and Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, February 8, 2024

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DignityUSA’s Virtual Gathering — Saturday, March 16

Join DignityUSA’s Virtual Gathering, Saturday, March 16. The time to register is growing short.

Our Lenten-themed gathering focuses on the Divine assurance “I shall be their God and they shall be my people.” In addition to rich prayer experiences and Jason Steidl Jack’s keynote address, you can choose from among five workshops. Households can choose the same or different workshop sessions, as long as you are on different devices for that section of the Gathering. Instructions will be sent to all registrants.

Here are the workshops we’ll be offering:

  • Reflecting on Gender Identity: Catholic Theological PerspectivesElizabeth Block, PhD and Maddie Marlett
  • Parenting as LGBTQIA+ Catholics: Our Journeys and Dignity’s Role — Chris Alberti and Jon Meek
  • Preserving Our History: Why What Happens at the Local Level Matters and How to Ensure it is DocumentedDoris Malkmus
  • Aging with Dignity: How Dignity Communities Are Responding — Members of Dignity communities caring for aging members
  • Experiences of LGBTQIA+ Catholics in Central Europe: Hierarchy Struggling with Synod Aims and Offering “Healing” Instead of Blessing — Miro Mata’kva

All are welcome! There is a sliding fee scale and scholarships are available. Contact info@dignityusa.org for more information about scholarships or register here.

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Getting to Know Rory Hytrek

In the second article in a series, Jim Lindsay interviews another Dignity Washington Member for you to get to know better. This time, the person is Rory Hytrek who had served on the Board of Directors and is more visibly seen as an acolyte during Mass. So, for this interview-style article, the first question is…

Can you tell us a bit about your youth, your family, where you grew up?

I’m an Air Force Military BratTM — so I’m used to moving to different states every couple of years, which means I’ve gotten to grow up all throughout the U.S. I’ve been very lucky, and really enjoyed the nomadic life, although it’s been nice to settle down in D.C. My mom and dad now live in San Antonio, TX, and my little brother and his wife are in Southern California. They are expecting their first child! (The psychic damage that comes from knowing your baby brother is going to be a dad, and he’s going to be a really good one, is unparalleled.)

We lived in Colorado, Northern California, Wyoming, Maryland, Southern California — and on my own I’ve lived in the Czech Republic, Cambodia, and throughout Northern VA – although our annual pilgrimages ‘home’ are always to Oregon, where my parents grew up but where I never lived.

My family is mixed Irish Catholic and German/Norwegian Lutheran, although I grew up Catholic, and attended Catechism lessons and even some Catholic elementary school.

Do you care to share your coming out story (assuming you have one!)?

When I was about 12 and still thought I was a girl, I came out to my family as a lesbian — I’d been dating (or the middle school equivalent — holding hands after school! And occasionally smooching!) a girl in my grade, and all my friends were sure it would be a non-issue, so I might as well just tell my family. I got the response that we “just didn’t believe in such a thing,” which came as a shock. I was so sure that my parents would be supportive that I hadn’t even prepared for the possibility they wouldn’t be. I spent most of middle and high school back in the closet when I was home, although I led much of a double-life and was a leader of an LGBT student club at school.

It was in college that I realized that I wasn’t a girl after all. I moved to the Czech Republic not long after and used the opportunity to try out my new name and pronouns in a clean break. I loved it, and coming home to D.C., I started my life as Rory. I’ve been “out” as Rory since 2014, and on hormones since 2016. I’ve been lucky, as my friends have been the strongest support and closest family that I have, and my fiancé is the kindest and most fiercely protective soul over my right to exist exactly as I am. As it is for many of us, “coming out” doesn’t happen just once, or to everyone at the same time. Now, however, I can say that I am a proud transgender man, and I love the life I’ve built for myself with my own hands and the support of my God and my loved ones.

How have you reconciled your being gay/trans and the teaching of the Church on matters of LGBT+ persons?

For me, being queer and being Catholic was actually my least stressful reconciliation. While I knew what the larger Church thought of me, I’d also had the role model experience of my friend “N.”, who was Confirmed a year before I was. He had his own crisis of faith, managed it, and helped me manage mine as well. He was only 13, and I was 12, and I can’t be more grateful to him, as he did more for my faith than any adult in my life. I was also lucky to have a strong relationship with God when I was a child, one that little me never gave humans the power to shake.

Theological arguments for queer joy and belonging in the church are so important for our continual fight for human rights—but when it comes down to myself, individual arguments sometimes feel superfluous. I know God loves me. What else is there?

How did you come to join Dignity Washington and how long have you been a member?

I was introduced to Dignity Washington by the leader of the LGBT Center at George Washington University, where I was an undergrad. He sent me to meet two other students at Mass. My first Dignity Mass was in 2010. I admit I have been an official member for perhaps only 9 years out of those 13 — for standard “being broke in undergrad” reasons — but I’ve been at DW for over a decade now.

What do you most appreciate about Dignity Washington?

The community at Dignity Washington helps me feel connected in so many ways: to the D.C. queer community, to a version of Catholicism that loves and values me, and to a group of adults who really care for my well-being and still act as role-models while I’m trying to navigate all the ups and downs of growing up.

What are your hopes for the future of Dignity Washington?

I hope that the next generation of queer Catholics who needs a home finds it, and I think that Dignity Washington can be that home — or even just a friendly stop along the journey. I hope that we are proof to the world that Catholicism is still about Love, that it can still be the spiritual home to all that it has always promised, but that the hierarchy has not always delivered.

Is there anything else you’d like the community to know about you?

There is a lot still for us to explore as a community on the fringes of gender, social class, and what is considered normal or palatable — and how all those things tie into who is seen as deserving of a place at the table. Our liberation is bound up in the liberation of all our siblings, even those whose experiences we do not understand. And, best of all, I think that our community is full of goodwill, deep empathy, and relentless determination to have those conversations.

~~ Jim Lindsay and Rory Hytrek

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Pope Francis Denounces Gender Ideology

Dateline: 01 March 2024 — Addressing participants in the international Symposium “Man-Woman: Image of God,” Pope Francis described so-called gender ideology as the “ugliest danger” of our time, because it cancels out the differences that define humanity.

Pope Francis, on Friday, again spoke out against gender theory describing it as an “ugly ideology of our time” that erases all distinctions between men and women. To cancel this difference “is to erase humanity. Man and woman, instead, exist in a fruitful ‘tension’,” he said.

The remarks came as he opened his address to participants in the international Symposium “Man-Woman: Image of God. Towards an Anthropology of Vocations” held in the Vatican on March 1-2.

In the prepared text, the Pope reflected on the theme of the Congress which is aimed at highlighting the anthropological dimension of every vocation.

Indeed, he remarked, “the life of the human being is a vocation” with a relational character: “I exist and live in relation to who generated me, to the reality that transcends me, to others and to the world around me, in which I am called to embrace a specific and personal mission with joy and responsibility.”

This fundamental anthropological truth is sometimes overlooked in today’s cultural context, where human beings tend to be reduced to their mere material and primary needs. Yet, Pope Francis said, they are more than this. Created by God — in His image — man and woman “carry within themselves a desire for eternity and happiness that God himself has planted in their hearts and that they are called to fulfil through a specific vocation.”

Our being in the world is not a mere fruit of chance, but we are part of a design of love and are invited to go out of ourselves and realize it, for ourselves and for others,” the Pope said.

We are called to happiness, to the fullness of life, to something great to which God has destined us.”

Recalling Cardinal Saint John Henry Newman’s “Meditations and Prayers,” Pope Francis further remarked that not only have we all been entrusted with a mission, but “each and every one of us is a mission.”

The Pope therefore welcomed the symposium and the studies conducted on this topic because, he said, “they spread awareness of the vocation to which every human being is called by God,” and they are also useful to reflect on today’s challenges, on the ongoing anthropological crisis, and on the need to promote human and Christian vocations.

Move forward with the courage to discern and risk seeking God’s will.”

~~ Lisa Zengarini, Vatican News (edited by Peter Edwards)

For more information, please read Robert Shine’s March 2, 2024, article “Pope Francis Refers to ‘Gender Ideology’ as the ‘Worst Danger’ Today” at New Ways Ministry here.

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St Joseph’s Day Dinner: What and Why

The Church traditionally dedicates the month of March to the special veneration of St Joseph. “He was chosen by the eternal Father as the trustworthy guardian and protector of his greatest treasures, namely, his divine Son and Mary, Joseph’s wife,” says St Bernardine of Siena. “He carried out this vocation with complete fidelity until at last God called him, saying ‘Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.’” For his leadership of the Holy Family, St Joseph has been declared the protector and patron of the universal Catholic Church.

For decades, Dignity Washington has celebrated St Joseph with a dinner that is truly a community affair requiring many hands to make it happen. This article explains a little about why we celebrate St Joseph and what we do in a community-wide fellowship.

Last Advent season, Dignity Washington’s Liturgy Committee based its Faith Sharing session on Journeying with Joseph in Matthew’s Gospel. March 19th is the Feast of Saint Joseph, as in “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” and it is an Italian holiday as the model of fatherhood, his qualities of protector, provider, and nurturer run all through what is said of him.

Why do we celebrate this festival? Primarily in fulfillment of a vow. Many centuries ago in Sicily, a horrible drought occurred. No rains came; no crops grew; many people starved. The people prayed to God and asked St Joseph to join them through his own intercessions. After thirteen days, the rains came, the crops grew (especially fava beans), and they were saved. They had promised Joseph a festival in his honor and all these centuries later, they and their heirs still keep that promise.

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Synod Listening Session

In preparation for the second Assembly of the Synod on Synodality, set for October 2024, the Vatican is again inviting input from the universal church and beyond. DignityUSA will hold Listening Sessions focused on the current questions of how we have responded to the work of the Synod to date, how our church can operate in more synodal ways, and our own experiences being part of a Catholic organization that has operated in a synodal model for decades.

The same questions and process will be used during each session. We hope one works for your schedule. If not, we will develop a mechanism for you to submit your thoughts online. The questions to consider will be sent out in advance of the sessions.

We will have one more session: Saturday, March 2, 2:00–3:30pm ET.

Register now to receive the Zoom link and reminders here.

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DignityUSA Executive Director Briefs Dignity Washington

Following the after-Mass Social on Sunday, February 25, Dignity Washington was blessed to have Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA share stories of her recent trip to Rome and a meeting with Pope Francis this past October. Marianne addressed approximately 30 people in the social hall and painted a picture of their various experiences.

The Synod On Synodality (last October) and follow-on meetings (set for October 2024) were the main topics. Marianne shared the preparations of her time in Rome along with Sam Albano, the DignityUSA Board Secretary; their multiple meetings with Synod delegates, media, and others in the Vatican; and her sit-down, face-to-face meeting with Pope Francis — a definite hallmark in DignityUSA’s history. The meeting with the Pope is significant because he knew who they were and the groups they represented!

Marianne also mentioned that 13 Dignity communities will have celebrated their 50th Anniversaries by the end of this year. Coming up this year are: Detroit (May), Minneapolis (in the fall), and Pittsburgh (TBD). The reach of Dignity goes beyond our boarder, with our sister groups in England, France, and Australia, who DignityUSA helped organize, also are celebrating 50 years of service to LGBTQIA Catholics!!!

To read more about Marianne’s visit with Pope Francis, go

To learn more about DignityUSA, go here.

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Dignity Member, Tim Meagher, Releases Book

Dignity Washington member, Tim Meagher, a retired Associate Professor at Catholic University who also oversaw the Irish Archives there, has written several books including The Columbia Guide to Irish American History. His latest book on the Irish in America, titled Becoming Irish American: The Making of a People from Roanoke to JFK was published in January, 2024. Tim begins this story centuries before when settlers from Britain, Northern Europe, and Normandy came to Ireland and intermingled with the native Gaelic peoples. This mixing over time helps to explain why John F Kennedy’s last name is Irish but his middle name, Fitzgerald, was derived from English settlers originally from Normandy.

Yale University Press, the book’s publisher, provided this summary:

“As millions of Irish immigrants and their descendants created community in the United States over the centuries, they neither remained Irish nor simply became American. Instead, they created a culture and defined an identity that was unique to their circumstances, a new people that they would continually reinvent: Irish Americans.

Historian Timothy J Meagher traces the Irish American experience from the first Irishman to step ashore at Roanoke in 1585 to John F Kennedy’s election as president in 1960.

As he chronicles how Irish American culture evolved, Meagher looks at how various groups adapted and thrived―Protestants and Catholics, immigrants and American born, those located in different geographic corners of the country. He describes how Irish Americans made a living, where they worshiped, and when they married, and how Irish American politicians found particular success, from ward bosses on the streets of New York, Boston, and Chicago to the presidency.

In this sweeping history, Meagher reveals how the Irish American identity was forged, how it has transformed, and how it has held lasting influence on American culture.”

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Lent 2024

On February 14th, Ash Wednesday, the 2024 Lenten Season began. On that day our scriptures reminded us, as they do every year, of the three spiritual practices of this season: Praying, Fasting, and Almsgiving. For forty days and forty nights, God asks each of us to — not only live and breathe these practices — but to also deeply reflect on our relationship with self and with God. Put simply … Lent is God’s way of inviting you on a 40-day spiritual retreat.

Yes, I mean a retreat! The spiritual practices of praying, fasting and almsgiving are tools to help you along the way. You can follow the traditional Catholic practices or you can be creative. Explore new forms of prayer and spiritual practices. Think about fasting as a discipline or learning about discipline. Being disciplined is the awareness of your need to lean on God for help. Almsgiving is exciting beyond giving money and food and asks us to freely give of ourselves as God freely gives to us. Reflect on the gifts God has given you. Whatever way you choose to express these practices, do them because it gives you joy, and because it brings you closer to God.

As you embark on your Lenten retreat, always remember that you are not alone on this journey to Easter. God is with you along with your Dignity Community, family, and friends. God’s grace and peace!

Here are few links to Lenten Resources:

Message of Pope Francis for Lent 2024
Through the Desert God Leads us to Freedom
View Pope Francis’ message here.

Ignatius Solidarity Network
Lenten 2024: It’s Time to Reflect
Daily Lenten Reflections
Register to receive free daily reflections here.

Lenten Reflection Series
This free reflection series takes place each Wednesday, February 21 through March 27, from 8–9pm ET. This Zoom series will include a presentation and group discussion on the week’s scripture reading. Register here.

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