On Saturday 28th October – the feast of the apostles, SS Simon & Jude – the parish of St. Alban in Chaddesden, Derby, hosted the second annual Mass for LGBT people, their families and friends in the diocese of Nottingham, following a Mass celebrated by Bishop Patrick in the Cathedral last year. About eighty people gathered for Mass, among them many parishioners of St. Alban’s. The Mass was celebrated by the parish priest, Fr David Cain. Concelebrating with Fr David were Fr Phillip Holland a retired priest and Fr John Martin from the parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour at Bulwell, Nottingham.
The event received strong support from the parishioners of the hosting parish, who not only attended the Mass, but also helped to prepare for it, provided all the liturgical ministries (including the involvement of the parish music group) and organised cakes and drinks for the refreshments following Mass. They provided a warm welcome to the LGBT people, their families and friends who arrived from across the diocese and beyond, and they set the tone for a joyful celebration.
In his homily, Fr David reflected on the diversity in the community of apostles and on the difficulties of living with diversity. He pointed to the differences in character and outlook between Simon “the Zealot”, Jude, Peter, and later Paul, and to the conflicts that often arose between them as they followed the joint mission that they had been given. Nevertheless, this diversity was not an accident or an oversight on Jesus’ part. As the gospels tell us, Jesus chose the apostles after a night of prayer in which he discerned the Father’s will. Similarly, we, too, do the Father’s will if we come together in the diverse community of the Church, and in spite of differences of opinion, misunderstandings and conflicts we can be sure that our attempts to live the faith together will be blessed. By way of illustrating this diversity within the Church, Fr David brought with him to Mass a Rainbow Star which he had created earlier in the week at a children’s holiday club – it was the half-term break. As well as being a sign of God’s loving promise to always be there for us, the rainbow is also a creation of diverse colours emanating from one light. This rainbow of difference in unity is also used as a symbol for the diversity of the LGBT community and continues to serve as God’s sign for the Church comprising peoples of all languages, races, cultures, nationalities, sexual orientations and gender identities.
Bishop Patrick recently told the Catholic weekly, The Tablet:
“My hope, as I travel about the diocese, is that more LGBT Catholics do feel welcome and part of the parish where they attend Mass, and that they are involved in its life and work. These occasional Masses for LGBT Catholics, their families and friends, in various parts of the diocese of Nottingham are more to reassure those LGBT Catholics who may feel hurt and uncared for by the Church, that they are very much part of the pastoral care I wish to ensure is offered to all Catholics in the diocese.”
With their enthusiastic support for, and participation in, the Mass and afterwards in the Parish Hall, the parishioners of St Alban’s helped to make the Bishop’s vision a reality. Looking back to the celebration, we can only thank Fr David and his parish for their hospitality and Bishop Patrick for opening the door for an extension of LGBT pastoral initiatives in the diocese.
Report by Thomas Bartsch, with contributions from John Ashman and Fr David Cain, and photos by Paul Begley.