A Catholic Church that welcomes and affirms all God's children, including gender and sexually diverse individuals.
Catholic parents fostering mutual understanding, spiritual renewal, and inclusion of all gender and sexually diverse individuals and their families through dialogue, hospitality, education, and support.
In 2015 we expanded our original name, “Fortunate Families Atlanta”, to extend our geographical identity, as we have a number of members from outside the Atlanta area. We also wanted to emphasize the spiritual dimension of our group. We exist because of our love not just for our precious LGBT family members but also because of our Catholic faith. This is a group that is fortunate to be blessed with both loves, and that is what we celebrate!
In our short time as an organization, our meetings have been attended by over 100 people from dozens of parishes throughout the Atlanta Archdiocese and beyond. These deeply committed Catholics are all immensely involved in their parishes. The following is a partial list of the ministries in which this group is involved:
|Eucharistic Ministers (at least 10)||CRHP (many participants)|
|Deacons||Amigos for Christ|
|RCIA sponsors and catechists||Christ Child Society|
|Parish council members||CCD instructors|
|Cursillo (including rectora and rector)||President of Women's Guild|
|Ushers||Knights of Columbus|
|Lunch program for the homeless||Bible study and centering prayer group members|
Fortunate & Faithful Families, formerly Fortunate Families Atlanta, began with a retreat for parents with LGBT children held at Ignatius House on November 10, 2013. Twenty-four parents from twelve different parishes attended. The presenters were Father John Adamski (Catholic Church teaching on homosexuality), Conal Charles (My Story as a young Catholic gay man and what I wish parents understood), and Deb Word, President of Fortunate Families (Where do we go from here as Catholic parents who love our LGBT children?). The day was filled with prayer, sharing, discussion and love, ending with Mass and dinner.
Following the initial retreat, the group has continued to meet quarterly at Ignatius House, with new attendees each time, some from as far as Blairsville in North Georgia or from Alabama. The persons actively involved in this ministry are committed Catholics, all of whom are very involved within their parishes. But everyone also dearly loves their children, straight or gay, and hopes to work within the Church for greater love and acceptance for all.
On September 3, 2014, representatives from the group met with Archbishop Wilton Gregory to encourage greater acceptance within the Atlanta Archdiocese. Archbishop Gregory listened to stories, hopes and desires with great compassion and understanding. He was very supportive of the group and pledged to write about the meeting in the Georgia Bulletin in October, as well as preside at Mass at the Fortunate & Faithful Families retreat in November. With the Archbishop’s blessing, we hope to be able to expand our ministry and outreach, as well as bring an education component to parishes.
Fortunate & Faithful Families strives to spread love and understanding among all within the Catholic Church. Future plans also include outreach endeavors, such as involvement with Lost-n-Found, a shelter for homeless LGBT youth. With the grace and guidance of God, this journey that is “all about love” will continue.
How truly blessed was our retreat day this year! Fifty parents, grandparents, siblings and LGBT persons gathered at Ignatius House to pray, share and listen to talks.
The retreat began with a deeply moving Mass celebrated by Archbishop Wilton Gregory. The Archbishop’s homily encouraged all within the church to be welcoming to those in the LGBT community and to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the dignity and worth of each person within our Catholic family. The readings of the day dealt with seeking the sheep who have been lost or wounded; how blessed we are to have a wise, supportive shepherd in the Atlanta Archdiocese who speaks the same language of love and compassion that we are hearing from Pope Francis.
The next segment was a presentation by two young persons, Kelly Quindlen and Brian McMahon, who were both raised in strong Catholic families. With great poignancy, they shared their struggles with coming to a realization and acceptance of their same sex orientation and the difficulties in weaving that part of their identities into the fabric of their faith. Both stated that because they were loved and embraced by their families, their stories, though at times painful, are among the best case scenarios. With so many young LGBT persons feeling rejected by both family and church, the incidence of homelessness, addiction and suicide is frightening. Kelly and Brian made it clear that being loved and accepted, by family and church community, is the key to allowing a person to live a holy and authentic life, whether gay or straight. Fortunate & Faithful Families hopes to encourage that love within families and within our church for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.
Msgr. Henry Gracz, pastor of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, spoke next. He reiterated the need for love and acceptance for all persons that Kelly and Brian encouraged. Msgr. Gracz stated that if an individual feels abandoned or condemned by family, church and society, it is difficult to live a whole, full life, which is God’s desire for all of us. He noted, referencing Pope Francis, that what matters for each person, gay or straight, is their relationship with God. Each person deserves dignity and respect, welcome and understanding. In the Gospel of that day, Jesus stated that how we treat others is how we treat our God living within each person. Fortunate & Faithful Families will strive to encourage greater acceptance within church families through education, outreach, sharing of stories and personal interaction.
We then had a brief discussion of upcoming opportunities and meetings, followed by a joyful closing prayer service and dinner. The reviews of the day were overwhelmingly positive, but with a few suggestions (larger venue, more time for sharing, etc.) that will be addressed. We were particularly sorry to have to turn people away due to space limitations, so that will be a primary concern in the future. We thank all who made this retreat day a success, particularly Archbishop Gregory, Kelly and Brian, and Msgr. Gracz. Most of all, we thank God for the atmosphere of love, compassion and hope. Our theme was “It’s All About Love”, and we know that “Love never fails.”
Our first quarterly meeting of 2015 was held Sunday, February 8, at Ignatius House. Father Todd Kenny, assisted by Deacon Fred Johns, celebrated a warm and welcoming Mass at 1:00. Following Mass, we discussed the recent happenings within FFAtl, introduced our new board members, and noted that we have formed a strategic planning committee.
Since we were joined by three new couples, we had brief introductions of all in attendance. As always, this time of sharing stories, though short due to time, was moving and honest. Wherever we are on the journey as parents of LGBT children, we are all learning the blessings and growth that make us truly “fortunate.”
Next on the agenda was a discussion of the importance of writing to Pope Francis, Archbishop Gregory, and the U.S. Bishops involved with the Synod. This is an initiative that gives each of us an opportunity to be heard and should be exercised promptly as responses are being reviewed by the Bishops in April. Key points and addresses for the letters were distributed and will be available on our website. Remember, it is most important to share your personal story as parents of an LGBT child or as an LGBT person of faith. Try to make your letters as brief and yet as honest and touching as possible.
We then discussed the Atlanta conference of the Reformation Project being held June 11–13. Though this movement began in the evangelical community, it is very ecumenical and would be great for education and networking. We have been given drastically reduced fees for the conference: $50 for attendance all three days or $25 if willing to volunteer at some time for four hours. A representative from the Reformation Project will be at our April 26 meeting.
Lastly, we discussed the Family Acceptance Project and the tremendous impact for health and well-being of positive responses to LGBT youth within their families. In small group discussions, we explored our own responses, attitudes, language and stories. We also looked at ways in which our Church might encourage more compassion and education in order to ensure the well-being of our LGBT loved ones.
Our meeting was closed with communal prayer and a blessing by Deacon Fred.
Fortunate & Faithful Families sponsored an ecumenical panel discussion on April 26 at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The theme of the presentation was “All are Welcome: Belonging Leads to Believing,” focusing on ways for faith communities to invite, welcome and affirm LGBT persons. Panel members included Msgr. Henry Gracz, pastor at the Shrine, Rev. Chris Glaser, author, teacher and Christian blogger (Presbyterian), Amelia Markham, SE Organizer for The Reformation Project (Evangelical), and Robbie Medwed, Assistant Director at SOJOURN (Southern Jewish Resource network for Gender and Sexual Diversity). The four panelists presented myriad insights, practical considerations and deeply spiritual perspectives on making LGBT persons and their families feel welcome, understood and valued in faith communities.
Each of the presenters is working through education, respectful and faith-filled dialogue, and efforts to create opportunities for personal relationships to promote inclusion, acceptance and loving dignity for all The recognition of hospitality as a spiritual imperative was noted as a tenet of the Jewish faith, as it should be within the Christian faith also. An emphasis on valuing a person’s spirituality (with their sexuality as only one of many personal qualities) was also encouraged.
The speakers promoted respectful, wise dialogue, not destructive polarization or judgmental argument. Acknowledging that all true love comes from God, we were encouraged to welcome LGBT persons and their families with that holy love, respect for each person’s story, and appreciation of their gifts and talents. For many LGBT persons, this can be life-saving, as rejection leads to a high rate of suicide and other destructive behaviors.
The four panelists were stellar in their knowledge, openness, and ability to communicate and educate with very loving, wise, and sometimes witty words. With the unveiling of the Archbishop’s Pastoral Plan this week calling for an openness to the work of the Holy Spirit in promoting welcome and inclusion within our Catholic churches, this panel could not have been more timely. Thank you to all involved in this marvelous day!
Our retreat entitled “Love is Our Mission” was held on a bright and sunny Sunday, November 22, 2015 from 1:00–7:00 p.m. at the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. The location is beautiful and spacious and the hospitality extended to our group of eighty was warm and welcoming. We are deeply grateful to Archbishop Gregory and to Mary Elkins and her phenomenal staff for providing such a loving environment.
Observing the feast of Christ King of the Universe, Father John Adamski celebrated Mass with song and an interactive homily. Father Adamski quoted from Archbishop Desmond Tutu in his homily, calling for the embrace of ALL in the church. [Desmond Tutu: Economy of Grace] The Eucharist, Christ’s gift of love, was the perfect way to begin the day.
The first presenters were Tim and Michele McMahon, who through a moving PowerPoint and poignant, vulnerable sharing, put a “face” on their son and upon their loving response as parents to his same-sex orientation. Their honest sharing of their doubts, fears, questions, hurts and struggles resonated within each parent in the room. Loving our children unconditionally should be a given; it is the real life and faith applications that make this a sometimes perilous and painful journey. Thank you, Michele and Tim, for your story which illustrates: “Perfect love casts out all fear.” (1 John 4:18)
Next, everyone was divided into small groups for more personal sharing and dialogue. The retreat participants were quite diverse in perspectives and life stories, so we give God the praise for the honest, respectful and nonjudgmental discussions that occurred within the groups. What an example of the Body of Christ . . . valuing each person’s search for truth and goodness with the realization that none of us possess all (or even most) of the answers! We are thankful that in our Catholic Church and within our beloved families, Christ’s message of love is paramount; ultimately the dynamic flow of grace and wisdom is the work of the Holy Spirit, certainly not our doing!
Following small groups, three deacons and one deacon in formation gave a powerful panel presentation. Three of the men have LGBT children or foster children and the fourth deacon has developed deep empathy through his work at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. All four stories were heartfelt and vulnerable, all pointing to our theme of unconditional love. Deacon Fred Johns, our liaison with the Archdiocese, led the panel; feel free to him any time with questions or concerns. Our church is blessed to have such compassionate, spirit-filled, loving deacons! Many thanks!
The retreat concluded with a time of fellowship, laughter, and continued sharing over a buffet dinner. Again, we thank Archbishop Gregory and the Chancery staff for creating the ambiance of “home”, of welcome, of love. Fortunate and Faithful Families, which is an archdiocesan- approved ministry, strives to provide a safe place for hurting parents, a “home” for devout Catholics struggling to love deeply both their children and their church. We are not in a position to discuss or change church doctrine, but we cover our church and our families with fervent prayers that Christ’s message of unconditional love, acceptance and inclusion will thrive and grow in both.
Pope Francis recently said, “I desire a happy church with the face of a mother, who understands, accompanies, caresses.” As parents of beloved children, how this sentiment speaks to our hearts! If we live in love, speak in love and trust in love, both our church and our families will be blessed.
Twelve members of Fortunate and Faithful Families joined the Pride Ministry from the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to participate in the Atlanta Pride Parade on October 9th. It was wonderful to see how many church groups participated in the event, showing an ecumenical support and acceptance for the dignity of all persons.
We even had a grandmother among our Fortunate and Faithful Families group who was the star of the show . . . how touched the young people were to see her walking with us, smiling and hugging along the way. Several persons along the route emotionally voiced their appreciation for Catholic parents loving their children.
As always, the day was filled with feelings of pride and gratitude, but also sadness for those not embraced by their families. Thank God for the beautiful weather and our fun group!
Fortunate and Faithful Families hosted their fourth annual retreat, Invitation to Mercy, on Sunday, November 13, 2016 at the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Close to sixty parents, LGBT adult children, priests, deacons and allies gathered to participate in the powerful retreat experience. Father Konzen, principal of Marist High School, celebrated the Mass with Shrine of the Immaculate Conception music director, Donal Noonan, providing the music. The message of the Mass and of the day was the merciful love of God extended to all of God’s children.
The first speaker was Dr. David Gushee, Director of Theology and Public Life at Mercer University. Dr. Gushee, a world-renowned Christian ethicist, author and speaker, gave a powerful presentation on the need for Christian parents to embrace love, mercy, dignity, acceptance and advocacy for their LGBT children . . . both for moral and spiritual reasons, but also for the psychological and physical well-being of their children.
The next presentation was a panel of parents in dialogue with Father Desmond Drummer on the need for parents and clergy to increase in understanding of one another on this issue, and to find ways of boldly and creatively providing safe and welcoming places of worship for all. This conversation illuminated some of the difficulties, but also the hopeful dynamics, of welcoming LGBT persons and families within parishes in our Archdiocese. The heartfelt stories of the parents and Father Drummer’s compassionate, honest responses and insights provided much encouragement and hope.
Attendees then shared in small group discussions followed by a moving closing liturgy with symbolic entry through the “door of mercy” into the Chancery Chapel. Fellowship and dinner rounded out the day. The theme of mercy was evident in every segment of the day, with love, understanding, honest sharing and caring flowing throughout this body of fortunate and faithful believers. Much gratitude to Archbishop Gregory and his wonderful staff for their hospitality! Let us have hesed, the loving mercy of God, within the very bones of the Body of Christ, within our families, and within our Catholic Church. As this Jubilee Year of Mercy comes to a close, this retreat was a powerful way to signal the renewal of this essential grace within our church.
Fortunate and Faithful Families held their fifth annual retreat at the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Atlanta on Sunday, November 12. The theme, “Building Bridges of Love,” was evident throughout the day shared by over fifty attendees, plus several priests and deacons. A joyous Mass liturgy was celebrated by Father Peter Fink, SJ, assisted by Deacon Fred Johns and Deacon Paul Dietz, with music led by Donal Noonan, Music Director at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Father Peter then shared his story of compassion and faithful ministry with the LGBT community throughout his almost forty years as a Jesuit. The priest, parent, LGBT child panel which followed was powerful and moving. Our LGBT presenter, who flew in from California to participate, shared the pain and difficulties that she experienced as a young gay woman in an Atlanta Catholic high school. Her story was heart-wrenching and yet hopeful, as she has been made spiritually strong and deeply compassionate from her own life experiences.
The small group discussions were vulnerable and honest, culminating with the building of an actual bridge of love composed of bricks covered with celebratory, loving comments about our LGBT family members as well as faithful, hopeful observations about our Catholic Church. After the Closing Liturgy, there was time for dinner and fellowship . . . much appreciated after the intensity of the day!
Many thanks to Archbishop Gregory and his phenomenal staff for their care and hospitality! What a truly blessed day for all.
Fortunate and Faithful Families is an organization of Catholic families striving to love both their LGBT family members and their Catholic faith tradition.