I’m a member of St. Agnes church, and have been since I moved to San Francisco in 1999. This past Sunday, I picked up a letter along with other leaflets at the front of the church before sitting down in my pew. In reading the letter, I realized what a unique place the church is. More importantly, on this holiday honoring a man who fought graciously for equality, I want to acknowledge a church that does not discriminate and welcomes the unique diversity of its congregation.
I live in a society where religion is frowned upon, which makes it difficult to speak up, let alone admit I’m a practicing Catholic. How many times have I heard: “You go to church? Are you serious? But not like all the time, right? Only like on Christmas or Easter.” “How can you believe in God when he lets bad things happen?” “Priests molest boys. The Catholic church allows this to happen. What do you think about that?”
You know what? I think it’s disgusting. I feel sick every time I hear about another case. Our priests should be allowed to marry. I believe women should be priests. The Catholic church needs serious reform, but I’m a member nonetheless. Because I’m happy when I go to church. Because I always feel welcome. Because I’ve walked down a dirt road, stumbled upon a hut with a crucifix, and opened up a songbook to read music I know well. This happens to me throughout my travels.
Here is the letter from my special church.
Our Catholic Community at St. Agnes would like to introduce our parish to you and invite you to “come and see” what we are about.
If you are an inactive Catholic, we invite you to “come and see” the post Vatican II church. We are a community that recognizes the richness and giftedness of diversity in its many forms. We are young and old, straight and gay, married, single and divorced; we speak many languages and come from different lands. We are a rainbow of colors. Yet we stand united in our shared faith.
If you are stil searching for a relationship with God and with others who are striving to live lives of integrity, we invite you to “come and see” how we worship together and strive to live the Gospel call to love in our daily lives.
If you have been hurt in the name of Christ in the past, we would only hope to be part of the healing and reconciliation. We invite you to “come and see” how we seek to care for one another. You are most welcome to speak with a member of the pastoral staff, and can be assured that you will be greeted with open arms, and listening ears and hearts.
We also recognize that you may be involved in another faith community. In that case, we assure you of our prayerful support and hope that we may continue to grow in our mutual respect of different denominations and faith traditions.
We wish you an abundance of God’s blessings!
Fr. J. Cameron Ayers, S.J., Pastor and St. Agnes Parish Staff