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Witness on the Ministry of Sexual Diversity

On the 21st of August 2020 I celebrated the 15th anniversary of my diaconal ordination. My motto as a deacon is Receive the Holy Spirit (John 20,22)”, a motto which I adopted thinking that God is freely giving his Holy Spirit, the gifts and the charisms thereof, to the whole of humanity, throughout the world, in all circumstances, even if we do not see it, even if it is in culturs or languages which we do not know.

In May 2011, I participated in the 2nd Latin American Diaconate Meeting, organized by CELAM in Itaicí, in the Brazilian state of São Paulo. There I presented the results of a diagnosis on the social and pastoral reality of Latin American and Caribbean deacons. From this continental meeting in which more than 200 persons (Bishops, priests, deacons, lay men and women from all the relevant countries, except Peru and Ecuador) I took home the powerful call and challenge to become “apostles at the new frontiers of mission”. I was also asked to write the Anthem of said Latin American meeting. Its text I append at the end of the present article.

Until 2015, I worked as Pastoral Director of the “Blessed Laura Vicuña” Foundation.

As I was looking for something else to do, I received the book called “Who Am I to Judge? Witnesses of Gay Catholics” authored by journalist and theologian Carolina del Rio. This book contains accounts of the experiences made by various gay and lesbian persons who – being Catholic – were excluded and marginalized because of their condition by their families and communities, including the Church. (In the Church they are marginalized because of their homosexuality, in the gay world they are marginalized for being Catholics.)

My wife Sary and me read the book together and discussed it profusely. We concluded that, since these persons are created by God, by the God of love, nobody had the right to treat them badly, bully them or exclude them from social life, even less so the Christian communities who are, by definition, open to all of humanity. The contact with this harsh reality triggered a very profound change in our attitude and behaviour.

One day, I went to talk with Fr. Pedro Labrín, SJ, then Advisor of the Ministry of the Sexual Diversity (PADIS+) headquarterd in the Chilean city of Providencia. My rational was that the “Church in Latin America expects from the deacons an evangelical witness and a missionary impulse, so that they be apostles in their families, in their work, in their communities and in the new frontiers of mission”. (Aparecida Document, no. 208).

If our Church wishes the deacons to be “apostles in the new cultural frontiers”, we should do something concrete for these persons, so excluded and ill-treated at present.

I therefore took part in meetings of reflection and prayer, sessions, Lauds and Vespers and Masses, in which I felt the force of the Holy Spirit, like in a genuine Pentecost, which moves us and invites us to leave the convenient culture of “nothing can change” for the missionary courage of “there is something we can do”.

How can I remain indifferent to this mother who said:”if I, as a mother, love my son, who is gay, and I love him because he is my son, how much more he is loved by the God who created him!”?

How can I forget the sincere prayer of my gay brothers and lesbian sisters who – in spite of the much hatred they had received, even in their own Church – wish to build – with love – a civilization of love among all human beings?

How can I forget so many conversions of so many persons, both lay and consecrated, who wish to accompany them and support them in this challenging ministry of sexual diversity, which is facing so many prejudices and the occultation of the very topic in the local Church?

Additionally, for the past three years or so, I have been working as Director of Advocacy of the Department for Family Ministries (DEFAM) of the Archdiocese of Santiago de Chile. In this capacity, I have keenly sought to open new ways and to build bridges (conversation, reflection and prayer between the ordinary ministry of the Church and this “extraordinary” one.

I have been educating myself, studying the topics having to do with sexual diversity and the gender theories existing in the world; I have been reflecting on the way to build bridges between our Christian anthropology and the new cultural forms of being a person which have surged over the last few years, which for the older ones among us are something “surprising”, “which we can hardly get our head around” but for the younger ones are something quite natural and modern.

The PADIS+ includes Christian communities made up of gays and lesbians as well as Christian communities consisting of parents of gays and lesbians. It is here that I personally see a space in which we – deacons and deacons’ wives – can support the faith and life of these persons of flesh and blood, who find themselves on a genuine “existential frontier” and are in need of our spiritual assistance, given that they are our brothers and sisters.

Moreover, one can count on them for help on certain pastoral reflections on this topic which could take place in our communities, parishes and schools, given that they get to share their experiences (with the approval of the local bishops) in various dioceses of the country.

In all this journey together with PADIS+, I feel like I have been involved with them forever and that it is the Risen Jesus who urges us to make more steps in order for these brothers and sisters of ours to be treated with respect in our society and our Church and be accepted as “legitimate others” in our daily life. I also realized that within the very context of our extended families, there are persons who have this condition of sexual diversity and with whom we must interact, based on who we are, heeding the Lord’s call to b his servants, ever attentive and close to people, persons of dialogue and encouragement.

The Truth revealed by God to all humanity, will only be shared with people who are different, if joined by Love. Without Love, Truth will be similar to an atomic bomb, causing immense pain and even more desolation.

Lord Jesus wishes that everyone reach the knowledge of the Truth and that all be saved and have his eternal Life. Why should we, permanent deacons possessing in our ministry the threefold munera – of the Word, of the Liturgy and of Charity – not be required to do it at the present moment?
This does not mean that the deacons “must” be part of PADIS+, but that, in our normal life, in our work and family contexts, in our respective neighbourhoods and communities, we should have a clear, formed, respectful and merciful gaze on our gay brothers and lesbian sisters.

If the others can see that there is mercy in us, as deacons, the mercy of Jesus Christ will become visible and one will be able to convey the mercy of the Father who loves us because we belong to him. This is – and always will be – Good News!

Truly, God is freely giving his Holy Spirit and the gifts and charisms thereof, always, to the whole of humanity, throughout the world, in all circumstances, even if we do not see it, even in cultures and languages which we do not know.

Brother deacons and deacons’ wives, let us be those apostles in the new existential frontiers of the sexual diversity, just as our Latin American bishops, convened in Aparecida, asked of us.

“Here we are, Lord, because you called us” (Miguel Ángel Herrera Parra)

”The Deacons, Apostles of the New Frontiers”

These deacons are servants,
like Jesus Christ, the Servant,
offering up their lives and values,
alongside their wivs and family of Love.
Pilgrims who are missionaries
they don’t settle in their condition,
but offer, along new paths,
to bring a blessing from th Lord.

They are apostles, filled with love,
consecrated for a wonderful mission,
giving courage to the imprisoned,
conquering all exclusion.
Their treasures are thousands of poor people
of Holy Church, her option.
Poor people whom they know very well, by their names,
That they respect, in peace and prayer.

In the midst of the journeying people
in the history of Salvation,
they open doors and the sun enlightens,
sharing, in Jesus, Redemption.
Migrants and minorities
they help in their integration,
day and night, they offer joy,
their bread and their faith, in action.

Teaching others how to fish, they are happy,
they form other persons, in freedom,
whom the Holy Truth lifts up,
healing their wounds.

With Jesus, in His Eucharist,
with his Word of Salvation,
they overflow with love and joy,
happy, in their urgent mission.
At the world’s new frontiers,
they globalize solidarity
and offer their profound affection,
their hope
and their faithful charity.

To the disoriented youth,
they offer spaces of communion,
and even to those who are condemned
they offer welcome and teaching.

With Jesus, in His Eucharist,
with his Word of Salvation,
they overflow with love and joy,
happy, in their urgent mission.
At the world’s new frontiers,
they globalize solidarity
and offer their profound affection,
their hope
and their faithful charity.
Our deacons!

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