Archdiocese’s AGLO ministry marks 30th anniversary

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Santiago Toledo and Larry Cubalchini sing at the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach of Chicago's 30th anniversary Mass June 3, 2018, at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 708 W. Belmont Ave.(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Thirty years ago, a group of local gay and lesbian Catholics, with the involvement and approval of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, founded the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach, or AGLO Chicago. 

That ministry, which holds weekly Masses and offers the LGBT community spiritual retreats, social events and outreach opportunities has been going strong ever since. Its members celebrated its anniversary with a Mass on June 3 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 708 W. Belmont Ave., where they worship each Sunday at 7 p.m.

“It is 30 years of hard work and dedication and faith and love and service and inclusion and a place to call home and to worship for people to practice their Catholic faith in a loving and accepting environment,” said Steven Engles, co-director. 

Before coming to AGLO over 28 years ago, Pete Warner was very active in his parish, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, volunteering for numerous committees and helping out at fundraisers, but he always felt that something was missing.

“I had that question in my mind of would they really accept me if they knew who I was,” Warner said. “I found AGLO and for the last 28 years this is where my home has been. Though I’m still involved in my parish, this is my home.”

Ron Saviano found faith through AGLO. 

“It was somebody I worked with who introduced me to the Mass. I wasn’t really involved at all in church,” said Saviano. “This got me a lot more involved and I made more friends. It’s something to look forward to every Sunday.” 

Since the group’s founding, archbishops of Chicago have supported its ministry.

In 2013, after celebrating Mass with the community for its 25th anniversary, Cardinal Francis George invited AGLO to send a delegate to be part of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, a volunteer group of laypeople who advise the cardinal and which is mandated under canon law.

In 2016, following the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that left 50 people dead, including the gunman, and more than 50 others wounded, Cardinal Cupich sent a letter to the group expressing his sympathy.

After the tragic shooting, more than a half-dozen dioceses and parishes around the country learned of AGLO and reached out to the organization for assistance in starting their own ministries to LGBT Catholics.

“Thirty years ago, AGLO was very unique in the American church. We were one of the very few ministries [to the LGBT community] that got together every single Sunday to celebrate Mass. I’m happy to say that some of our uniqueness has worn off as other dioceses and parishes across the country have started their own ministries,” said Joe Vitek, AGLO’s community outreach director. “We’ve been a seed that has grown.”

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