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Diocese launches Courage, EnCourage ministries

The following story appeared in the October 6 Idaho Catholic Register.



By Gene Fadness

For the ICR


For nearly 50 years, the Catholic apostolate, “Courage,” has existed to minister to thousands of men and women who have same-sex attraction but desire to live chaste lives in accordance with the teachings of the Church.


Deacon Gene Fadness


For almost as long (since 1987), there has been a companion organization called EnCourage that ministers to family members of people with same-sex attraction.



Both organizations’ bylaws require that a priest-chaplain lead the groups. Father Robert Mendez, who serves at St. Paul’s Parish in Nampa and is more commonly known as Father Toto, has agreed to serve as chaplain. Now that a priest-chaplain has volunteered, Bishop Peter Christensen’s years-long desire that Courage and EnCourage be formed here can move forward.



Father Robert “Toto” Mendez


To protect the privacy of those who might be interested, Courage and EnCourage do not publicize the time and locations of meetings. However, those who are interested in getting more information about Courage and EnCourage may send an email to courageidaho@rcdb.org or call the Diocese’s main number at 208-342-1311 and ask for extension 5125. There, you will be able to leave a message for a return call. The organization’s website, couragerc.org, has plenty of information about both Courage and EnCourage.


To properly understand the mission of Courage, it may be beneficial to first clarify what it is not.


Courage

 

Every Courage meeting begins with a recitation of the organization’s five primary goals:


  • Live chaste lives in accordance with the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.


  • Dedicate one’s life to Christ through service, spiritual reading, prayer, meditation, individual spiritual direction, frequent attendance at Mass, and frequent reception of Reconciliation and Eucharist.


  • Foster a spirit of fellowship in which all may share thoughts and experiences, and so ensure that no one will have to face problems alone.


  • Be mindful of the truth that chaste friendships are not only possible but necessary in a chaste Christian life.


  • Live lives that may serve as good examples to others.


The organization’s website, couragerc.org, has information about both Courage and EnCourage.


EnCourage

 

EnCourage ministers to family members of people with same-sex attraction and also has five primary goals:


  • To grow spiritually through spiritual reading, prayer, meditation, spiritual direction, frequent attendance at Mass, and frequent reception of Reconciliation and Eucharist.


  • To gain a deeper understanding of the needs, difficulties and challenges experienced by our family members who experience same-sex attractions


  • To establish and maintain a healthy and wholesome relationship with loved ones who experience same-sex attraction.


  • To assist other family members and friends to reach out with compassion and truth, and not to reject loved ones who experience same-sex attraction.


  • To witness to loved ones by our own lives that fulfillment is to be found in Jesus Christ through His Body, the Church.


 

Courage is not a political organization that lobbies or engages in legislation related to gay rights. Courage is not an “ex-gay ministry,” or one that engages in so-called “conversion therapy,” as the secular world and even some Christian organizations define the term. Courage meetings are not group therapy, and no Courage member is required to seek counseling or treatment.


The greatest witnesses to the beauty and simplicity of the mission of Courage and EnCourage are the courageous members of the organizations who refuse to give into the culture’s lie that those who choose to live in accordance with the Church’s teaching live lives without love.


Intimacy is not limited to sexual companionship. In fact, the greatest intimacy to which all Christians aspire is an intimacy with Jesus Christ and His Body, the Church. It is here where the most meaningful and truly lasting relationships form. While marriage is perhaps the most common earthly institution to model the self-sacrificial love that Christ has for us (see Eph. 5:31-32), it is certainly not the only means by which Christians find intimacy and love. Millions of priests and Religious are certainly evidence that a life without marriage does not mean a life without love, intimacy, and fulfillment.


The painful and complex issue of homosexuality and how we treat it as a society and Church splits families, entire religious denominations and further widens the cultural divide. As challenging as the conversation can be, we cannot avoid the topic and be oblivious to the growing number of young people struggling with it.


As public acceptance of homosexuality grows, the Church walks a fine line. The Catechism states the number of those with same-sex attraction is “not negligible,” and our response must be one of compassion. “They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” (CCC 2358).


It is important for those who seek to respond pastorally to these issues to understand them from the abundance of literature available from Catholic and Christian sources. If the Church does not provide the answers—especially for young people—the culture will fill the void. We cannot allow that to happen.


The Catechism teaches that Adam and Eve transmitted to humans a “fallen state” due to original sin. Thus, the human nature that we inherit is disordered and is not as God had originally intended. However, Chris-tian anthropology also says we are more than just our physical nature; we also have a soul, which, combined with our body, forms a single nature (CCC 365).


Staying close to Christ, the sacraments and God’s people are all critical to overcoming whatever struggles our fallen natures pose to us. In that respect, people with same-sex attraction are no different than any of God’s people and whatever cross they carry. We all need connection; we all need intimacy. Getting that intimacy from the right places and the right people fulfills the longing; getting it from the wrong places only makes the longing more severe.


In her three-part series in the National Catholic Register, Melinda Smelys, who struggled with same-sex attraction, writes, “This is the most important work — not the work of safeguarding the legal definition of family or of changing public opinion on the matter of homosexuality (although these are obviously also important battles) — but the work of saving individual souls … When I finally decided to join the Church, and to abandon my homosexual lifestyle, it was not because I had been rationally persuaded that homosexual acts were unnatural, it was because I had developed a relationship with God, and He asked it of me.”


Catholic writer Robert Colquhoun, in his essay “Becoming One Flesh,” writes, “The Catholic Church has canonized a great number of saints from all walks of life. It is likely one day that the church will acknowledge that one of its canonized saints struggled with same-sex attraction … Some saints were formerly alcoholics, some were inclined toward anger, others lust or sloth. But with time they learned to overcome their temptations, choosing the difficult and more narrow path.”


In today’s world, choosing the route of chastity is indeed the more difficult and narrow path. But isn’t that true of all Christian living? In our fallen condition, all are engaged in a war against the flesh, against earthly desire, against selfishness and temporary pleasure. Some struggles are more difficult than others, and some are less understood than others.


One young man from Idaho who attended Courage meetings in other states wrote, “I rarely leave a Courage meeting without tears in my eyes for having had the honor and sacred privilege to fellowship with brave souls who choose the narrow, noble path of Jesus. These are among Christ’s most valiant warriors, fighting against a world – and a netherworld – that tells them they must give in to their inclinations and adopt a ‘if it feels right, do it’ view of sexuality.”


These Courageous won’t be toasted and praised by the culture and the media for their “coming out” stories. They will wait a little longer for their day of glory.


 

Deacon Fadness, assigned to St. Mary’s Parish, is the former Director of Communications for the Diocese of Boise. He will assist Father Mendez with the Courage and EnCourage ministries. Other priests and deacons who are interested in helping may contact either Father Mendez or Deacon Fadness.


 

If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.

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Diocesan Pastoral Center

FAX: (208) 342-0224

1501 S. FEDERAL WAY, SUITE 400, BOISE, ID 83705

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