Gaudete: celebrating welcoming parishes, schools, communities, and people

Historic St. Paul Parish

Lexington, Ky.

Stan "JR" Zerkowski / April 30, 2022

​In June 2016, a man walked into the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida – a well-known gay nightclub – and opened fire on the patrons. He killed 49 people and wounded 53. It is the deadliest incidence of violence against the LGBTQ+ community in the history of the United States.

The lack of prayers; the lack of communication with the LGBTQ+ community; and the seeming lack of care for LGBTQ+ people in the parish I was serving, put me a crossroads. As a gay Catholic, I prayed. I sought discernment. And ultimately, I felt the Spirit calling me to do something because the void was deafening.

Image: JR Zerkowski; some passersby; and Mike Jagielski, Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus; put out Historic St. Paul’s first rainbow banner.

Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv., bishop of Lexington, Ky., speaks to those gathered for a Fortunate Families Day of Discernment at the Catholic Center in Lexington.
I was inspired to speak to John Stowe, OFM Conv., the Bishop of Lexington, and seek his permission to begin intentional LGBTQ+ ministry in the Diocese. I did exactly that; received Bishop Stowe’s permission; and began the ministry as a “personal outreach of the Bishop of Lexington.” We established ourselves as the Catholic LGBTQ+ Ministry Lexington at Historic Saint Paul Parish. With no plan in place and relying totally on the Spirit, we held our first meeting — which two people attended. Plenty of growing pains and trials followed, but the ministry has produced much good fruit. Since then, the ministry has drawn dozens of LGBTQ+ people and their families/friends back to the church and has attracted others who have made their Profession of Faith or received baptism because of the witness of the LGBTQ+ Ministry. This ministry has made Historic Saint Paul Parish the home for a great many LGBTQ+ Catholics, their families and friends in the Lexington Diocese. We have partnered with civic organizations to work for the common good and received a Mayoral Proclamation for our work with the civic community. By providing opportunities for encounter, we have brought together unlikely pairings: an Eagle Scout project partnered with the ministry; the Knights of Columbus partnered with the ministry; and many other groups who have now become family – supporters and defenders of the LGBTQ+ community.
The ministry was instrumental in establishing two LGBTQ+ support groups at Lexington Catholic High School and a statement supporting LGBTQ+ Youth signed by more than 50% of the presbyterate of the Diocese of Lexington. The ministry is a regular sight at the Pride Festivals in the Bluegrass and is a respected member of the LGBTQ+ community in Lexington and in the Commonwealth. It contributes editorials and statements regularly to the press. Moreover, our ministry’s model is known throughout the country; I have been invited to assist educational venues, parishes, religious communities, bishops, and presbyterates in discerning and beginning LGBTQ+ intentional outreach. In 2021 the local ministry produced yet another incredible outcome: The Diocese of Lexington LGBT Outreach Commission, which is part of the diocesan structure under the Peace and Justice Office. The 50 counties of the Diocese of Lexington now benefit from ministry to and with LGBT persons and the LGBT Outreach Commission is a permanent part of the diocesan mission.

Stan "JR" Zerkowski

Stan JR Zerkowski is the director of LGBTQ+ Ministry Lexington, coordinator of the Diocese of Lexington, KY, LGBT Outreach Commission, executive director of Fortunate Families and author of Coming Out and Coming Home.

All articles by Stan "JR" Zerkowski

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