Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach celebrates 35th anniversary

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Participants hold hands during the Our Father at the 35th anniversary Mass for the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach of Chicago on June 18, 2023, at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Thirty-five 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 LGBTQ+ community spiritual retreats, social events and outreach opportunities, has been going strong ever since. Its members celebrated the anniversary with a Mass with Cardinal Cupich on June 18 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 708 W. Belmont Ave., where they worship each Sunday at 7 p.m.

“Thirty-five years is a long time,” said Rick Guasco, co-director of AGLO. “It speaks to not only the longevity but the commitment that has been sustained over the years right from the beginning, since 1988.”

AGLO received support from Cardinal Bernardin and Cardinal Francis George, Guasco noted, and now has the support of Cardinal Cupich.

“The Roman Catholic Church is universal, yet we still enjoy coming together as members of a community. We all come from overlapping and multiple communities,” Guasco said. “We’re all Catholics here and we take it as our mission to create a safe space for LGBTQ Catholics to come together, celebrate our faith but also to learn more about it and to explore what it is to be Catholic and to be a member of this community.”

“We exist not in isolation as Catholics. We exist not in isolation as members of the LGBTQ community. We find joy, meaning and purpose integrating all of the aspects of who we are,” Guasco said. 

“I was blessed to find AGLO,” said Kevin Pease, director of spiritual life for AGLO.

One of his students at the Institute for Pastoral Studies at Loyola University of Chicago introduced him to the group last year. Pease, who is director of the Scripture school, was invited to create programing for LGBTQ+ community.

That resulted in the two groups partnering on a spring retreat series on what it means to be LGBTQ+ and Catholic. The four-part retreat was open to all who identified as LGBTQ+ and those who did not.

The series was rooted in the spirit of the upcoming synod on synodality.

“I consider us to be moving closer and closer toward the heart of God together,” he said. “The way we’re discerning and listening, it isn’t about being divisive but about being diverse. It’s about being collected in the unity of God’s heart, which includes people of all different colors of the rainbow — God’s first covenant sign of love with the world.”

AGLO “means everything” to the LGBTQ+ community, Pease said.

“We are a people — especially those of us who do identify at LGBTQAI+ Catholics — that have not always felt welcomed in the world, in our families, with our friends, in our workplace and sometimes even in our parish communities,” he said. “That the archdiocese sponsors a ministry that serves this people in particular allows us to feel that we are nevertheless included and welcomed by God and that we have a baptismal right and a calling to worship just the same as every other Catholic in the world, and that does mean everything.”

During the Mass, AGLO recognized Father Pat Lee, who has supported the group since its inception. Having a safe and welcoming space to worship is important to the community, he said after Mass.

“That’s so important, for all of us to be accepted, isn’t it? To be appreciated and affirmed,” Lee said. “And this is a place where we can come as gay, lesbian, transgender people. It’s so important and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Celebrating the Eucharist together is particularly important, he said.

“The Eucharist is the sacrament of reconciliation, the sacrament that nourishes us and gives us the strength and courage that we need to live our lives. Without it what would we do?” he said. “So many people think it’s an obligation. It’s a place where we come to be fed, to be nourished and to be connected to other people who believe and want to carry out the message of the Gospel for all peoples.”


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