Catholic and pastoral support for adults with same-sex attraction
Courage International is a Roman Catholic apostolate committed to offering pastoral support to adults who experience same-sex attraction (SSA) and who have chosen to live chastely according to the Catholic Church’s teachings. Built around the Five Goals — chastity, prayer and dedication, fellowship, support, and being a good example/role model — Courage provides its members with the framework to live out the Church’s call to chastity in a spirit of prayer, friendship, and mutual support.
Families and friends of those who identify as LGBT can turn to EnCourage, which provides pastoral care for parents, siblings, children, spouses, and friends. Through EnCourage, they find help in reaching out to their loved ones with compassion, strengthen family bonds, assist one another, and grow in their own faith while being witnesses to the fulfillment that only Jesus can bring about.
Each official chapter of Courage and EnCourage operates with the approval of the local bishop. Because of this, regional chapters are typically organized by diocese, rather than by parish. The reason for this, in part, is to ensure privacy and anonymity for those who attend, which is a very serious priority for all Courage leaders. Nonetheless, local parishes can help spread the word about the apostolate by posting ads in the weekly bulletin or diocesan newspaper, as well as by requesting pastors speak about the need for Courage and EnCourage from the pulpit.
Courage and EnCourage center around meetings that have been founded at the diocesan level in regions where the apostolate has been approved by the local bishop. Members can also attend regional retreats, where they can come together for formation and prayer alongside those who understand their experience, under the guidance of a chaplain. For those who are unable to attend meetings for geographical reasons, online support is available.
Courage provides its members with the framework to live out the Church’s call to chastity in a spirit of prayer, friendship, and mutual support.
Chapters are established when the bishop appoints a priest to be the local Courage or EnCourage chaplain, or when a priest who is willing and able to serve as a chaplain approaches his bishop. Once appointed, the chaplain is responsible for getting the word out about the new chapter in the diocese. This involves establishing contact information (email, phone) that is specifically for the chapter, and— if possible —a page on the diocesan website. Some chaplains receive assistance from experienced lay coordinators in fielding emails and phone calls.
Every prospective Courage or EnCourage member is invited to meet one-on-one with the regional chaplain before attending their first meeting. This is to help them understand what they are getting involved in and to ensure that they are on board with the goals of Courage and EnCourage. As an additional measure for protecting the privacy of members, the time and address of meetings are never made public.
In 2020 Courage will celebrate its 40th anniversary. This occasion will be commemorated in a special way during the annual conference, an event which has become a yearly “family reunion” and allows members from around the world to connect with one another in a context of prayer, fellowship, and formation.
Every prospective Courage or EnCourage member is invited to meet one-on-one with the regional chaplain before attending their first meeting.
Founded in 1980 with humble beginnings in a small NYC office by the late Fr. John Harvey, OSFS, at the request of the late Cardinal Terence Cooke, Courage currently has more than 150 chapters in a dozen countries.
In 1987, families in search of guidance and understanding for supporting their loved ones who experience SSA met for the first time. In 1992, this group adopted the name EnCourage.
Courage International received canonical status in the Roman Catholic Church as a diocesan clerical public association of the faithful on November 28, 2016. Learn more at CourageRC.org.
ANN SCHNEIBLE, STL, is the communications director for Courage International. A former Rome correspondent for ZENIT and Catholic News Agency/EWTN and collaborator with Vatican Radio, she has also worked as a translator for L’Osservatore Romano.
PHOTO: JAROMIR CHALABALA/SHUTTERSTOCK
This article was originally published in Catechist, January 2020.