Up to this point in my life, I have struggled to sit with emotions like frustration, anger, and sadness, whether they are mine or others’. These emotions often feel like too much for me to contain. They manifest as a pulsing sensation throughout my body, urging me to move, shake, and set them free. Maybe that is why from a young age I have been oriented toward movement (sorry, Mom and Dad) and why movement has stayed central to my day-to-day life through sports, running, and the act of writing.
With that said, it is no surprise that action also helps me channel the anger I experience when engaging with the harm the Catholic Church inflicts upon marginalized communities. In fact, I applied for the Re/Generation program largely to act on the frustration I feel over the way LGBTQ+ Catholics are excluded and ignored in the Church. How exactly am I channeling my frustration? I am striving to create a listening session where LGBTQ+ Catholics can safely share their experiences and needs with their parish and Church leaders so that these leaders will work to minister to them.
Though I did realize I would learn a lot while implementing my project, I did not realize that I would learn to value uncomfortable emotions and that I would begin that journey as soon as the first cohort retreat. Throughout the four-day Re/Generation retreat, which included learning about the history of CTA, exploring the roots my faith, and attending sessions at the (Re)Imagining Catholic Vocation conference taking place nearby, I held the stories of hardship and resilience that were shared by those around me, alongside my own. Amidst the activity of the retreat, I felt these stories and difficult emotions weighing on me because I was not making time to process them through movement. One night near the end of the daily Re/Generation programming, I was desperate to release the stories I was holding onto from the past two days. My body was pulsing with electricity as emotions rattled inside me. When the Re/Generation programming ended, I leapt out of my seat and quickly made my way to the building’s third-floor rooftop patio to write.
In the dim light emitted from the apartments surrounding me, I freely wrote: “I feel full of people’s stories: their journeys and their pain. I feel full of my own journey and pain too. I just feel like I am beyond the point of further absorption…like I am a pitcher in the hand of someone ready to pour.” I continued: “Am I a vessel for stories? Will I be one in the coming months as I work on my project? How can I hold these stories as beloved rather than burdensome? Can God hold them with me?” It was then that I realized I had lost sight of God’s accompaniment in this witness to pain. By recognizing God’s hand in my witness to stories and emotions, perhaps the pain of carrying them might lighten and transform.
As I returned home and began my project, I held that realization close. During these last two months, I have been building relationships with LGBTQ+ members in my parish. Often, we share a meal together after mass and engage in conversation about our lives, our parish, and our Church. When conversations about frustration or pain do arise, I am learning to be a witness to these emotions, rather than immediately release them. Moreover, in this season of the resurrection, I am learning that with the help of God, I can transform my pain into healing when I approach it with gentleness and curiosity. If nothing else, perhaps I can help others do the same through my project.