Knowing that Jesus Welcomed Everyone to the Table

Stand in solidarity with and support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in our quest for inclusion and justice, knowing that Jesus welcomed everyone to the table respecting the dignity of every human person

– 2013 Congregational Chapter

The 2013 Congregational Chapter commitment quoted above is what we have come to see manifest in the life of Catholic social teaching in action. In thinking deeply about what it means to be an ally and walk alongside folks in the LGBTQ + community, I am reminded of the vast healing a welcoming space can offer – a table to sit at completely bringing our whole selves as we are in our tragic brokenness and exceptional beauty. When we honor the dignity of the human person it is also to simultaneously experience a paradox of differences, while celebrating our oneness in that, knowing that this is how Jesus welcomed everyone to the table.

For many of us who experience the privilege of living our lives without the concerns of code-switching or leaving important parts of our identities unaccompanied, as supportive allies who make the commitment to stand in solidarity we must first address the divisive dichotomy LGBTQ+ Catholics face. Parker Breza, recent graduate of Benilde-St. Margaret’s school, said in an interview with National Catholic Reporter …

 “When we’re in those Catholic churches and Catholic parishes, we’re not able to be our LGBTQ selves, and then when we’re in those LGBTQ spaces, we’re not able to be LGBTQ people of faith”.

Am I Catholic at school and only LGBTQ+ after hours? Is my teacher a safe person to tell? Why is my identity always up for debate in Religion class? This is the reality many of the youth expressed to be a consistent struggle. What continues to move me most is the longing the youth expressed to authentically embody both identities while still actively participating in the life of their church. This radiant flame was the burning center piece on the table I watched being set before me as the youth held a feast for everyone.

On May 16th, the LGBTQ+ Catholic Student Coalition hosted the first ever LGBTQ + Catholic Youth Summit. The event was hosted with the intent of creating a space in which LGBTQ+ individuals and people of faith could talk openly about their experience in an affirming faith community. Parker along with several high school students facilitated the day with a keynote address and various workshops on how to create safe spaces and understanding Catholic social teaching.

As the day commenced with a Catholic mass at the Edina Community Lutheran Church, these words permeated the room in a melodic song …

“God, we gather as your people to raise our song above, and we dare to claim the promise of Your love. Though the day may not yet be here, we trust it soon will be, when your children will be free. O, may our hearts and minds be opened, fling the church doors open wide. May there be room enough for everyone inside. For in God there is a welcome, in God we all belong. May that welcome be our song.”

Anchoring me in the significance of the day, this anthem supported a safe space in which we can all belong in the spirit of a welcoming and loving community.

Originally slated to be held at Christ the King, the LGBTQ+ Catholic Youth Summit would’ve taken place with doors wide open in a Catholic parish. Upon the chancery’s request, the event was moved to another location. In the National Catholic Reporter article linked above, Archbishop John Nienstedt is quoted having said,

“There are many venues in our free society to voice opposition to Church teachings regarding contentious social issues. But, the parishes of the Archdiocese are not the proper place where these specific activities are to be sponsored. We want all people, especially the young, to be valued, and Catholic social teaching is very clear that it is wrong for anyone to persecute or discriminate against another of God’s children for any reason.”

When I read the Archbishop’s statement above, I was enthused to learn he believes Catholic social teaching is an ethical model of solidarity. I think rather what is missing is this physical space that emphasizes the dignity of the human person to come as they are. From simply listening, I do know that for our Catholic LGBTQ+ community it is the unification of their segregated identities in their houses of worship. If our faith community is not a place in which we can respectfully debate, celebrate and wrestle with understanding our differences, then we consequently forfeit the sacred meaning of oneness. We should not be content breaking bread with the knowledge that our neighbor is not even invited to the table. I believe that leaves so many of us empty and aching for the fullness we know our church does offer; though the day may yet not be here.

“I need to make sure that other people don’t have to feel the same way I have—shut out by the church and isolated and alienated – because I know that the words of Jesus and the words of Scripture are wholeheartedly behind the idea of love, compassion and acceptance of all individuals and specifically for marginalized and disenfranchised groups, like the LGBTQ community”.

Parker’s words above couldn’t better summarize this image of a space we are working towards building.


This post was written by Megan Bender, Justice Associate

At the Heart of Immigration, People

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

– Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”

The new exhibition at the Ellis Island National Immigration Museum in New York houses the narratives of immigrants amidst the complex history and current political climate in the United States. When I stumbled across the NPR article titled, “For New Immigrants to the U.S., Ellis Island Still Means A Lot”, I was intrigued to look further by the initial wonder of all the newly found artifacts on display! As I read into the article, I was surprised to learn the “artifacts” highlighted were a collection of stories from immigrants today. Stephen Briganti, president and CEO of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, said “people are the focus of this new exhibition”. So why is this location still so meaningful for the immigration story today?

Ellis Island is a monumental example of what is means to be American. The struggle of immigrants who journeyed to this country is as immense as the hopeful promise of refuge in Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” sonnet. From 1892 to 1954 alone, over twelve million immigrants arrived to Ellis Island in hopes of beginning a new life as an American. Not many were turned away (according to the feature, about 1-2% were excluded). This nation welcomed immigrants with diminutive prohibition before the installment of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Currently the tumultuous debate on immigration reform has been hijacked by predominate media headlines on dehumanizing accounts of undocumented immigrants. What is yearning to breathe free, it at the heart of immigration—people.

Ginger, Jackie and I had the pleasure to attend an immigration symposium on April 14th at the University of Minnesota. The event featured a keynote address by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Jose Antonio Vargas. He spoke to his wealth of knowledge and hard-earned wisdom through experiencing the systematic injustice undocumented immigrants endure in the United States. Having outed himself as undocumented in the New York Times, Vargas symbolizes the emerging movement on race, immigration and citizenship ripe with vulnerability and rooted in the dignity of narrative.                                        

In addition to Vargas’ work, NAVIGATE MN and Green Card Voices are groups working to further combat the unjust systems working against immigration reform. NAVIGATE MN is a leadership development program for young immigrants to promote various avenues of advancement through education and employment. Their community work and legislative advocacy is a remarkable model, and above all their mission is deeply rooted in the integrity of the individual experience as they share very moving stories of immigrant experience and community empowerment. Green Card Voices is based on the model that, “the broad narrative of current immigrants should be communicated in a way true to each immigrant’s story”. They use digital storytelling as a means to bridge the immigrant and non-immigrant populations. I spent hours watching videos the first time I came across the site, and the intimate experience of listening to the individual stories only emphasized the impact of movement.

Briganti said he wasn’t sure what the future of immigration in our country will be, according to the NPR feature. It will be up to us as Americans. According to recent The Pew Hispanic Center poll, 72 percent of Americans support legal status for undocumented immigrants. When we think intentionally about the changing attitude toward undocumented immigrants, this is why the storytelling initiative reaches the heart of the issue. More significantly, it is happening at venerated historical sites, in our churches and in the work of local nonprofits.

If you are interested in learning more about the Immigration Task Group of the Justice Commission of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates, please connect with Megan Bender at


This post was written by Megan Bender, Justice Associate