Chicago archdiocesan outreach to gay community remembers Orlando victims

IMAGE: CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World

By Joyce Duriga

(CNS) — When members of the Chicago Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach
gathered the evening of June 19 for their regular weekly Mass at Our Lady of
Mount Carmel Church, they had as their focus the victims of the mass shooting
June 12 at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

mass shooting left 50 people dead, including the gunman, and more than 50
others wounded.

memorial to the dead stood in front of the altar with photos of the victims.
During the prayers of the faithful at Mass, the names and ages of victims were
read while candles were lit for each person. After Mass, many people went up to
the altar to pray before the memorial and to take photos.

Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach began in 1988 as a way to extend the
church’s pastoral outreach to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics
throughout the archdiocese. In addition to holding service projects in the
community and social events, the community meets each Sunday for an evening

Mass June 12, the day of the Orlando shooting, a letter to members of the
outreach from Chicago Archbishop Blase J. Cupich was read.

you here today and throughout the whole lesbian and gay community, who are
particularly touched by the heinous crimes committed in Orlando, motivated by
hate, driven perhaps by mental instability and certainly empowered by a culture
of violence, know this: The Archdiocese of Chicago stands with you. I stand
with you,” the archbishop said in the letter.

our shared grief and our common faith in Jesus, who called the persecuted
blessed, unite us,” he continued, “so that hatred and intolerance are
not allowed to flourish, so that those who suffer mental illness know the
support of a compassionate society, so that we find the courage to face
forthrightly the falsehood that weapons of combat belong anywhere in the
civilian population.”

letter was posted on the group’s website — — and on a
pillar outside of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy next door to the church.

same day, Archbishop Cupich also released a statement to the public.

prayers and hearts are with the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, their
families and our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters,” the statement
read. “The people of the Archdiocese of Chicago stand with the victims and
their loved ones, and reaffirm our commitment, with Pope Francis, to address
the causes of such tragedy, including easy access to deadly weapons. We can no
longer stand by and do nothing.”

Engles, co-director of the archdiocesan outreach, said that their community valued
Archbishop Cupich reaching out to them and doing so the same day as the

archbishop made it very clear that he stands with us. We’re extremely
appreciative of the support he expressed for not only the members of AGLO and
the victims in Orlando but the community at large,” said Engles told the
Catholic New World, Chicago’s archdiocesan newspaper.

on the faith can help people through grieving tragedies, which is something the
outreach community understands.

a regular group of people who come here every Sunday. People are here not out
of a sense of duty or obligation. They are here because they want to be here,”
Engles said. “It is a source of comfort to people.”

director Joe Vitek agreed.

faith is a difficult one if we want to walk in the steps of Jesus. He calls us
to carry a cross. Especially in the Catholic gay and lesbian community we’re
always fighting to be a part of the faith to show that we are a part of the
church,” said Vitek. “What I saw tonight was our church embracing us
and helping us carry that cross together.”

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is editor of the Catholic New World, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

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