Dignity/Chicago concluded its 40th-anniversary year with a panel of past and present members sharing their personal stories at Broadway United Methodist Church Oct. 21.
Dr. Thomas O'Brien, director of DePaul University's Center for Interreligious Engagement, moderated the panel of six members, which included Lois McGovern, representing the '70s; Michael Hogan and previous Dignity/Chicago Board President Kevin Buckley portraying the '80s; Linda Kelly and Ald. James Cappleman, a past Dignity/Chicago board president, recalling the '90s; and past Dignity/Chicago Board President Blane Roberts talking about the 2000s.
Each have different backgrounds and shared personal stories of religious faith, his and her journeys and the various changes they experienced within church and society, and shared thoughts on what they expect in the future. Attendees were also able to participate in a Q&A at the end of the event.
Since DignityUSA began in 1969, and with Dignity/Chicago being one of its oldest chapters, the organization enforces the mission "to work for respect and justice for all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the Catholic Church and the world through education, advocacy and support," according to its website.
Dignity/Chicago President Chris Pett has been involved with the organization for approximately 20 years and explains in this 40th anniversary year, the group felt it was important to reclaim their history with authentic voices of LGBT Catholics. The panel, he said, consisted of active leaders and participants of Dignity/Chicago who could account for each of the decades.
Explaining the increase in diversity and the Catholic population demographics shifting, Pett says the group is going to need to continue to speak with multiple voices to have people know who they are, their purpose, how they function and to continue to create safety that provides a spiritual home that people are seeking.
"The future is what we're still exploring and understanding, but we got to know where we came from in order to know what our future is about," said Pett. "It was very powerful. I just think we are, as Christians, we are people of the story. To me, what was so important was to hear that again after 40 years we still maintain our identity, we still consider ourselves to be authentic voices of LGBT Catholics who reach out and want to create a spiritual home for people in general, but especially for LGBT Catholics. As I would put it, to be the church Jesus intended us to be and to not let the hierarchal church define who we are or tell us if we're catholic or not because we have a right to exist. We do exist, we have existed and we'll continue to exist."
More information about DignityUSA can be found at www.dignityusa.org .