GALA-ND/SMC hosts LGBTQ ‘Pilgrimage of Mercy’
Devon Harford | Wednesday, October 5, 2016
On Sunday, the Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s (GALA-ND/SMC) led a “Pilgrimage of Mercy” in New York, encouraging recognition of LGBTQ Catholics during the Catholic Church’s Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.
The pilgrimage, co-sponsored by Kentucky-based LGBTQ rights group Fairness Campaign and several other LGBTQ organizations, began at 11 a.m. with a 1.5-mile walk to the doors of the Church of St. Paul the Apostle, where 50 to 60 marchers attended the regularly-scheduled mass. Afterward, a rally was held, featuring Notre Dame alumni speakers such as GALA-ND/SMC chair and 1977 graduate Jack Bergen, television personality and 1957 graduate Phil Donahue and 1982 masters graduate Greg Bourke, who — with his husband Michael DeLeon — was a plaintiff in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court case which legalized same-sex marriage.
“What we wanted to show with this pilgrimage is that being merciful and forgiving is an interactive process,” Bourke said. “We extended our forgiveness and mercy to the Catholic Church, and we ask for those same things in return.”
Bourke said the rally was meant to be “an expression of faithful LGBTQ Catholics.”
“There are many of us, and Pope Francis has started to push that door open for us,” he said, referring to the statements the pope has made on LGBTQ issues.
The rally was also inspired by University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, Bourke said.
“By supporting the civil rights movement among conservative circles, he was ahead of the curve in many ways,” Bourke said. “Now, he is respected and admired for that courage.”
Bourke said a main theme in the day’s speeches was the need for mutual reconciliation.
“We all need to give a little and work better at understanding each other,” he said. “We need to find that area we can agree on.”
GALA is not recognized by the University as an alumni group, but Bourke said Notre Dame could become a leader in welcoming LGBTQ Catholics.
“We need someone willing to take a controversial stand, someone within Catholic leadership and the Catholic community,” Bourke said. “Notre Dame could do that.”
The Pilgrimage was not the only event of the weekend. There was a football game watch on Saturday, as well as a benefit hosted Sunday by GALA to raise money for its LGBTQ student scholarship. The scholarship has existed for two years, and Bourke said it is one of the primary goals of the group right now. The fundraising goal over the next five years is $250,000.
“We want to send a message that Notre Dame is a great place to go to school,” Bergen said. “No matter who you are, you should feel welcome at this university.”
“We want to celebrate our part of the Catholic community,” he added. “The pilgrimage was an opportunity to get people together, but also to encourage the Catholic community and Notre Dame to look at things differently, to foster that mercy and compassion for each other.”