When my 80-year-old grandmother isn’t gambling, she’s stitching. In fact, Nana recently sent me a two-inch-long cross with brown trimming because, let’s be honest, that’s what Mexican-American Catholic women of her age do.
I’ve always appreciated the role religion plays in both of our lives. She ends each of our conversations with the exact same Spanish blessing, which translates to, “May God bless you and keep you safe for me.” She then utters, what I believe to be, the only English phrase she knows: “I love you.”
I’ve thought about her a lot more recently since participating in a beautiful new video project by the LGBT ministry at New York City’s Church of St. Paul the Apostle, which has since gone online. It features 20 LGBT Catholics—some of them with their loved ones—talking about the importance of their faith, the struggles they’ve faced in an oftentimes less-than-welcoming environment, and their desire to feel at home within the Catholic Church.
The project, which includes a short documentary, encourages the full acceptance of all who choose to worship, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. It comes after Pope Francis famously asked, “Who am I to judge,” with regards to gay priests and a meeting of bishops acknowledging the gifts that LGBT Catholics have to offer the church community.
And the truth is, I am one of those people. I have been since I was an altar server for 10 years while in my small Texas border town; since I attended the 20th World Youth Day event in Koln, Germany; since I started helping out with the collection at the church across from my apartment; and since I accepted the invitation to share my story as an openly-gay, Latino Catholic for OwningOurFaith.
OwningOurFaith will certainly start a much-needed dialogue among those of us in the pews who, despite some of the Church’s hardline rhetoric, could never imagine leaving, especially because of cultural ties.
I want to tell Nana about the project, but it doesn’t help that she’s hard-of-hearing. That, and what I have to tell her may be hard for her to hear: “I’m gay, Nana, and I love you.”
Well, if anything, she’ll at least understand that last part. And that’s all that matters.
Xorje Olivares is an on-air personality and a producer for SiriusXM Satellite Radio. His monthly OutQ show is titled "LGBT: Let's Get Busy Talking."