In keeping with the goals of the archdiocesan synod, the Archdiocese of New Orleans has established a new ministry to persons with same-sex orientation and their families, as well as those who have questions about the Catholic Church’s teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity.
The ministry is called LIGHT, an acronym for Living In God’s Holy Truth, and will be directed by Deacon Len Enger, a 25-year veteran Catholic school teacher and principal who was ordained to the permanent diaconate in 2015.
LIGHT is the successor to an archdiocesan ministry that offered pastoral care to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) People from 2013-15.
“The response has been all positive because people are happy to have this ministry active,” Deacon Enger said. “The need is there. It’s important that people know this ministry is to provide pastoral care both for individuals with same-sex orientation as well as for their families.”
Deacon Enger and a small committee – consisting of Sister of Mount Carmel Mary Ellen Wheelahan, Father Buddy Noel, Father David Kelly, Loyola University’s director of university ministry Kurt Bindewald and RCIA director Robin Ledet of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Mandeville – conducted listening sessions in locations around the archdiocese over the last year.
Ideas and suggestions from those meetings helped determine the purpose and operational structure of the new ministry, Deacon Enger said.
“The listening sessions that we had showed a need for resources,” Deacon Enger said. “There are a lot of misunderstandings that people have and a lot of questions that families have, so there was a lot of discussion about the great need to provide the resources that the church has.”
Links to church documents about those with same-sex orientation are included on the ministry’s website – http://nolacatholic.org/offices/light.
Deacon Enger said the listening sessions indicated that rather than giving the ministry a physical location – as it had in the past in the French Quarter – it would be better for the ministry to respond to needs as they arose across the archdiocese, especially regarding spiritual and educational formation activities.
Website, phone number
“This will allow me and the members of the committee to move around the archdiocese as needed,” Deacon Enger said. “There’s a need throughout the archdiocese, and we feel it would be better if we set up through the various deaneries as needed.”
Deacon Enger said he hopes LIGHT will be able to raise awareness of the church’s teaching that “we are all made in the image and likeness of God.”
“I think sometimes homosexuals are ostracized, and sometimes there is violence done against them,” Deacon Enger said. “Our mission is to educate and to oppose any violence or hatred, and also to teach that the homosexual inclination is not itself a sin. The church doesn’t reject people based on same-sex orientation.
“I think it needs to be made more aware that the catechism says homosexuals should be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. If somebody has a same-sex orientation and is living in accord with what the church teaches, then they can take an active leadership role in the church. And, if somebody is not living a life in accord with the church’s teachings and therefore is not able to take a leadership role, we still want to offer them a place to get spiritual formation and spiritual guidance, because the church does love them and respect them.”
Deacon Enger said he and committee members would be available to speak to individuals about the issues surrounding same-sex orientation.
LIGHT – Living In God’s Holy Truth – was intentionally chosen as the name for the ministry because, Deacon Enger said, the truth involves “the holy truth of who they are and the holy truth of the church’s teachings.”
Future events planned include a morning of reflection and educational programs for school guidance counselors and administrators.
Archbishop Gregory Aymond said it is “very important that the church reaches out to those who experience same-sex orientation and their families in order to provide pastoral care.”
“There is a great need in our society to come to a better understanding of the church’s respect for those who are experiencing such orientation and to help them come to a deeper understanding of the church’s teaching and how much the church cares about them and wishes to walk with them,” Archbishop Aymond said.