Confidential support groups for those with same-sex attraction

By WRC Staff

Courage and EnCourage support groups are getting started in the Diocese of Rapid City. Courage is a Roman Catholic Apostolate to people with same-sex attraction. Cardinal Terrance Cook founded it in 1980, in the Archdiocese of New York. The founding director was Fr. John Harvey. At the root of the ministry it says persons experiencing same-sex attraction must be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity as people created and loved by God. EnCourage, a ministry to family and friends of SSA individuals, was started in 1992 to provide peer support and spiritual growth for its members.

Like all single Catholics, members of Courage are urged to live chaste lives and participate fully in the sacraments of the Catholic Church. Courage proclaims that holiness and happiness are possible for its members who strive to know Christ profoundly and seek to follow him in the Gospel way of life.

The program requires compassionate chaplains to guide the ministry. Two priests from the Diocese of Rapid City, Msgr. Michael Woster, Spearfish, and Fr. Jim Hoerter, Faith, will be coordinating the efforts to start a chapter (or chapters) in western South Dakota. The two priests attended the Courage and EnCourage national meeting July 19-24, 2016, in Washington, D.C. “The Courage apostolate is a wonderful opportunity for those experiencing same-sex attraction in our diocese to know personally Christ is walking with them. Through community and the riches of the church, participants come to know Jesus’ very real concern, his friendship, joy and his call particular to their own life,” said Father

Hoerter. “Through Courage members can come to know Jesus Christ concretely. He is the One we desire in the depths of our being. He really is the ‘good news’ for all of us.”

Msgr. Woster said, “I was really impressed with the people I met at the national meeting in Washington. Some tended to be older, people who had gone through some pretty rough times, and maybe had gone through several relationships. Many were people who had some connection to spirituality or to the church earlier in their life. They went down one road after another and nothing worked out and they have found their way back. They found reconciliation, forgiveness, friendship, and support through Courage. Christ is real to them — they rely upon him.”

He said the people at the national meeting were strong Catholic Christians — many have been in Courage for several years. “I was touched in listening to many of their stories. They are wonderful examples of God’s love and God’s grace.”

“At the convention we learned Courage members love their priests. Fr. Jim and I felt very affirmed by Courage members. Our celibacy is a sign to them that living a chaste life and having chaste friendships are possible,” said Msgr. Woster.

While at the conference, Msgr. Woster also attended a joint meeting of Courage and EnCourage members. The EnCourage parents told how hard it was when they learned their son (or daughter) was questioning their sexually identity or experiencing SSA. They spoke of their confusion about how best to respond to them and their fears about their child’s future. The Courage members shared with EnCourage family members what they were looking for in their parents and siblings that would help support them and help them find healing and reconciliation.

“It was amazing to see the compassion and growth toward understanding between Courage and EnCourage members,” Msgr. Woster said.

The chaplains can be reached by phone. To protect anonymity, a contact number for the chaplains is given. Callers can leave a message, and a chaplain will contact the caller and give them ministry and meeting information as well as assistance in discerning if the ministry will be helpful to them.

Call Courage at 605-646-3363 or EnCourage at 605-519-8688. To learn more about this ministry go to http://couragerc.org or email office@couragerc.org.