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Gratitude, Anticipation, and Hope

By Lourdes Rodriguez-Nogues, DignityUSA President

I sit to write this on Thanksgiving weekend, on the edge of Advent, and in anticipation of Christmas. What a rich time. My heart is thankful and pregnant with hopeful anticipation of what is to come.

As a nation we have just gone through a time where classism, sexism, racism, and homophobia appeared to be themes of political ads, political pundits, and even political candidates. Polarization and personal attacks became headlines of the day. It was scary and disappointing to say the least. At the end of the day, however, fairness and equality won: The people of this country said NO to all forms of discrimination, in favor of continuing to build a society where more are included.

My heart is so full of gratitude for the choices we have made as a country. For us as a LGBT community, the gains have been unprecedented. That four states have chosen to be on the side of marriage equality is pretty amazing. Let us be reminded that it was the stand taken by people of faith that made a difference. Two Catholic governors, in Maryland and in Washington, led the fight and stood up for equality, not in spite of their Catholic faith, but precisely because of it. Catholics of all sexual orientations in Maine and Minnesota, rooted in their faith and commitment to their Gospel values, stood up and rejected the bishops’ mandate to oppose gay marriage. Our Catholic allies deserve our gratitude and our respect. Our own Program Manager, Jim Smith, deserves a lot of recognition for his masterful coalition building in Minnesota, and for making DignityUSA a recognized ally in this work for equality.

As we approach the end of the year, it is important to recognize how busy DignityUSA has been in many areas of our movement. We have taken some important steps this year to continue to strengthen our local communities and future leaders of Dignity. Our Webminister, Logan Bear, helped eight chapters rebuild their websites, something that helps those Dignity communities grow and solidify their ministries and outreach. We also sponsored two gatherings this year, one of twenty four young adult leaders who met with us in Newark in July, and the other a Catholic lesbian retreat in May. These two gatherings were exciting, inspirational, and community-building for all involved. They provided us with an opportunity to strengthen the commitment of two groups that DignityUSA needs in order to continue our work of justice in the church.

We also made several accomplishments in the area of external relationships and alliance building. DignityUSA, with the leadership of our Executive Director, Marianne Duddy-Burke, continues to be an important member of Equally Blessed, a coalition of progressive Catholic organizations dedicated specifically to LGBT issues. One of the coalition’s very important tasks this year was to expose the outrageous financial contributions of the Knights of Columbus to oppose all efforts in favor of marriage equality. While this task is not finished, we have already received wide coverage and attention for our work so far.

DignityUSA is a valued and recognized partner in many issues affecting the LGBT community, such as marriage equality and Nun Justice. As a strong group of believers, we served in coalitions in favor of gay marriage. We have provided strong leadership and participation in Nun Justice, and we continue to be asked to participate as movers and shakers in national activities. This year I was asked to speak at a Congressional hearing in DC aimed at growing positive attitudes in the Latino community towards LGBT persons and issues.

Lastly, under the initiative of Jim Smith, the webinar series Queer Catholic Faith continues to develop conversations with LGBT Catholics on important issues of our faith and our sexuality. If you have not yet had the opportunity to participate, keep your ears open to the announcement of the continuation of that series, and do not miss it!

All of this and more continues to be possible because we have a very skilled professional staff that is not only excellent at what they do, but also feel passionate for the work of Dignity. I am very thankful to them and for them. We also count on many volunteers, on the Board, and on all of our communities and chapters who give so much of their treasure and their talent. Thank you to all of you; you make it all possible. As the New Year approaches, I am filled with anticipation of all that is yet to come. The DignityUSA Board has been working, with the invaluable help of Chris Pett, on a new strategic plan to take us through the next 5 years of our work. We are thankful to all of you who participated in our last membership meeting and gave us feedback, as well as all of you who answered this summer’s survey. All of this information has been taken into consideration as we move into the adoption of the next strategic plan. It is our intent to make a presentation of DignityUSA’s strategic priorities at our membership meeting in Minneapolis in July 2013. Plan to be there! As we approach Christmas, let us anticipate it with hopeful hearts. May our hearts be filled with the joy that comes from knowing that God became human so that we all could learn how to build a world of inclusion and justice, where all children of God know in the depth of their hearts how much and how well they are loved. May that true spirit of this Christmas season bring you, your families, and your communities, true joy.