Helping people live chaste lives
By Kat Wagner
For more information on Courage, visit the link under "Outreach" on the Diocese of Madison homepage, www.madisondiocese.org or go to couragerc.net for information on the international organization.
Its philosophy is simply to help people to live chaste lives, said Fr. John F. Harvey, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales and the first national director of Courage.
The Courage apostolate, according to Father Harvey, "is a spiritual support group which reaches out to persons with same-sex attractions who desire to live by the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church."
Founded in 1980 by Cardinal Terence Cooke, it began with a meeting with a handful of men attending. But now this Vatican-approved organization has grown to more than 101 chapters in dioceses around the country and the world.
Father Harvey recently visited the Diocese of Madison on the invitation of Bishop Robert C. Morlino to work with priests to start a chapter here.
According to Catholic teaching, explained especially in the letter On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons (1986), same-sex attraction is not sinful. But acting upon those attractions and engaging in homosexual activity is not a morally acceptable option.
Therefore Courage helps those who experience same-sex attraction strengthen their interior life and live chastely, just as all of us are called to live chastely, Father Harvey said.
"We want to bring people from a 'white-knuckle chastity' to a chastity of the heart, where they've reached a place in their spiritual development where they really want to be chaste," he said.
The group makes no pretense of bringing about a psychological healing. Instead, "we do everything possible to bring about a spiritual healing," Father Harvey said. "Our work is the spiritual healing, to bring them back to a state of grace, teach them to practice virtue."
To achieve this, the Courage support group follows a similar pattern to the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program (which Father Harvey described as "all about virtue"), as well as other approaches in order to help members achieve chastity.
The first thing a person does in the group is admit "I am a person with same-sex attraction, and I'm powerless over this condition," Father Harvey explained.
The meetings operate with everyone sharing, with no interruptions and only facilitation of the discussion by the leader. It operates by five goals written by the first members of the original group, which strive for chastity, prayer and dedication, fellowship, support, and being a good example.
And at all times, confidentiality and anonymity is maintained. The diocese has a dedicated hotline set up to answer inquiries and direct interested people to a support group.
For more than 27 years, Courage has offered confidential support to men and women with same-sex attraction. Since 1990, the organization has also offered a program called Encourage for those around them. Parents, siblings, children, and other relatives and friends of persons with same-sex attractions support each other and their loved ones through discussion, prayer, and fellowship.
At this time, the Diocese of Madison does not have an Encourage group, but persons interested in starting one may call the local Courage hotline for information.
|Jump to: Top of page
PORTAGE -- Nancy Hibbard has been in Haiti, working as a missionary, for a little over three years.
Her journey actually began 15 years ago when she heard a talk given by the former director of the Portage Chamber of Commerce. This former director gave up a prestigious position and moved to Chiapas, Mexico, in order to help the poor. A seed was planted in Nancy's soul.
Five years later, Nancy's friend, Jane Zander, felt led to go on a mission trip to Haiti. Jane describes her 12 days in Haiti as phenomenal and life-changing.
"What struck me most," says Jane "was how joyful the Haitian people were. Being joyful is different than being happy. They had this deep, pervasive joy that just filled every part of their lives."
Jane recalls seeing hundreds of sick people making their way to the clinic. "They waited in line for hours to be seen by one of the medical staff. These people were sick and hurting, some of them very badly, and they had walked for hours and days with little or no food."
More amazing than that Jane says, "Instead of moaning and complaining because of their pain and discomfort, these people broke out in song! The whole line of people started singing 'How Great Thou Art' in Creole!"
Based on her good friend Jane's suggestion, "You just have to go. You'll love it," Nancy signed up for the next trip. She was hooked.
After traveling to Haiti for mission trips two and three times a year for five years, Nancy states, "I made the biggest decision of my life - to sell my home and car, give away all my belongings and move to Haiti.
"With no job or place to live, and trusting totally in God, I left my job, friends, and family to begin a new life with a new language in a new culture."
In the beginning, Nancy was on her own. She had no sponsors and no specific church affiliation. She relied totally on God's good graces to see her through each day.
In the summer of 2006, she asked the good people of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Portage to be a sister parish to hers.
We at St. Mary's agreed to take on the challenge. Under the umbrella of the Catholic Twinning Project, we became a sister parish to St. Pierre Apotre Parish in Corail, Haiti.
In our first year as a sister parish, St. Mary's raised enough money to pay the annual salaries of teachers in the Catholic middle school as well as several of the chapel schools, to buy books, and to make several critical repairs to the school.
In the summer of 2007, Nancy visited St. Mary's with Pere (Pere is Father in French) Jean Louiner St. Fort. He is a wonderful young Haitian priest who has a dream to further his education in France. Nancy and Pere St. Fort are seeking frequent-flyer miles and/or money for airfare and books for Pere's education.
Remy Douce and his family are a typical Haitian family. Despite their hard work, they find it very hard to make ends meet.
They were living in a home that was falling apart, and the dampness and cold were causing sickness in the family.
When Nancy first visited them, Mrs. Douce had just given birth to a son, her fifth child. The beautiful little boy had died. The mother was in much pain, but there was no money for medicine or for a doctor's care.
The Douces shared their troubles with Nancy and she prayed with them that God would provide them with a decent home.
This past Christmas, our parish set out to build the Douces a new home. But thanks to our wonderful parishioners, we collected enough money to build four new homes!
With the money left over (not quite enough for a fifth house) other homes will get much-needed repairs: new roofs, new siding, new doors and windows.
(Read more about the Douce family by going to www.stmaryotic.com and check out the bulletin for November 25, 2007.)
Nancy loves to welcome visitors to Haiti. Next winter our pastor, Fr. Jim Murphy, and our deacon, Dennis Sutter, plan to visit her.
Karyn Jordahl is a college student who heard about the Haitian people at a Mass at St. Mary's on a weekend she was home from Edgewood College.
Karyn came back armed with pictures and stories to "raise awareness of this country." She hopes to return to Haiti this summer.
Karyn sums it up well. As she stated in an article she wrote for the Edgewood Review, "The golden rule is to love your neighbor as you would like to be loved. This country is our close neighbor."
We at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception agree.
|Jump to: Top of page
|Front page Most recent issue Past issues|