Since the establishment of the Courage & Encourage Apostolate within the Diocese of Calgary in 2006, we have had a fruitful apostolate aimed at supporting our brothers and sisters journeying with same gender attraction and with those who live with or accompany them. Many have sought support from this ministry and each person has a very unique and special journey of their own.
This year was our first attempt at a common retreat for the Encourage group (parents, friends etc. of persons experiencing same gender attraction or gender identity and expression) at Aspen Ranch (Clearwater County, near Sundre). The retreat this past August provided a safe and caring space for people to openly share their fears, their hurts, their anxieties and all that accompanies this topic.
Taking time to listen to God's voice through Scripture reflection and meditation as well as prayer, presentations and worship, we opened ourselves to the Holy Spirit, to become tangibly present. As always, the Holy Spirit brought life and love, and renewed us from within. We ended our gathering with a wonderful Mass celebrated by Fr. John Wright. In entering into Eucharist, a mode of intentional thanksgiving to God, we trusted that despite all difficulties, God remains with us and will not fail us.
Annette, one of the mothers who attended the retreat, expressed how blessed she felt to have had the opportunity to participate in the Encourage retreat. She thanked the organizers for their hospitality and was grateful to begin a journey of awareness and healing. Reflecting on the blessings she received on the retreat, Annette gratefully stated, "New friendships were formed amidst Aspen Ranch’s picturesque landscapes and hiking trails, thanks to the gracious hospitality of Deacon Dante. He provided us with refreshments, a delicious BBQ lunch, and overall use of their facilities."
We were able to bring to the altar of our Saviour all that weighed heavy on our hearts. In the end, all thanksgiving and credit goes to God's ever present Holy Spirit for leading us, guiding us and steering us, as we surrendered ourselves into the loving hands of our God. Our gathering became "holy ground”, an encounter with God who never ceases to call us "The Beloved."
As a group we sought the wisdom contained in the US Bishop's Pastoral Letter Always Our Children as to how we can go back into our everyday lives and approach this matter with grace and dignity for all involved. The retreat helped us realize that our call is always to become more like Jesus himself who brought us the message "love one another, as I have loved you".
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers