By Stephen Noon, SJ
July 23, 2019 — This summer marks the sixth anniversary of All Inclusive Ministries (AIM). AIM is a real gem in the collective mission of the Society here in Canada (and perhaps also one of our best kept secrets). We are based at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish and gather once a month to celebrate the Eucharist together. This monthly mass, and the social that follows it, brings together a richly diverse group of LGBT+ Catholics. This short video will give you some flavour of who we are and what we do:
To borrow the words of US Jesuit, Fr. James Martin, AIM’s mission is to build, and be, a bridge between gay Catholics, many of whom say they have experienced painful rejection by family or faith communities, and the Church that they love.
In lots of ways, LGBT+ Catholics sit on the margins of two communities and in that respect AIM offers a safe space both within the Church (which is sad to say, but reflects the unfortunate reality of the often harsh and judgmental words of some) and within the LGBT community (where there remains a deep distrust of all things religious). In a world where the simplicity of either/or tends to draw the most attention, AIM’s mission is to live in the often uncomfortable and challenging space in between.
And that is why it is so important that the Society in Canada is involved in this sort of work. As the recent Apostolic Preferences remind us, as Jesuits, we are called “in all our work… to unite people where they are separated, to heal them where they are wounded”.
AIM is a community where God is very present, and that reality is at the very heart of our mission. It is not about ‘politics’ but prayer: that is, helping each other to an ever-deepening and growing relationship with Christ. In so many ways, therefore, it oriented by the first apostolic preference – the spiritual exercises and discerning God’s presence and call in our lives – that feeds and energises our work and our community.
I have been involved with the group since coming to Canada almost two years ago, and it has been one of the most important parts of my formation. Amidst all the formality of studies, time and again, the AIM community has reminded me what it means to live the joy of the Gospel. They are helping me to become a better Jesuit.
Inspired by the welcoming ethos of Our Lady of Lourdes, our approach is based around three elements: ‘belong’, ‘believe’, and ‘become’ and so the starting point is the invitation to people to join us, to be part of our Christian community. As a result, hospitality – at its simplest providing a warm welcome – is a crucial part of the work we do. If a person comes to the monthly mass for the first time, we want them to feel accepted and acknowledged for who they are.
As a community, we strive to deepen our faith together. Ignatian spirituality, of course, is central to that. Alongside the participation in the sacraments, we offer a monthly scripture reflection, online and offline Ignatian retreats, a range of spiritual resources and the opportunity for spiritual conversation in smaller groups through a book club and regular movie nights (where the reflections and sharing are often very powerful).
Finally, the group is also about engaging as fully as possible in the life of the parish and contributing also to the wider community. Many of our members are involved in other parish groups, in particular around the music ministry, and we have just recently started an outreach initiative, with members volunteering to visit LGBT (and other) seniors in a couple of local residential homes.
One of my favourite images for the Church is the pilgrim Church because it reminds me of some important truths about this always complex, sometimes challenging, and yet deeply beautiful Body that we are part of. In our earthly reality we are not perfect, none of us, but together we know that God is leading us in the right direction and will take us where we need to be. The members at AIM are part of this journey and I think also trust in the journey – we have faith and love and hope.
Please say a prayer for the ongoing life and vitality of the group and, if you know any LGBT+ Catholics, please also let them know about AIM and invite them to come along to one of our masses. And keep in touch with what we do – you can ‘like’ our Facebook Page and/or sign up for our regular email updates. And of course, you are also very welcome to join us for one of our monthly masses. There are many friends and family who choose to walk with us on this important, challenging, but also very wonderful bridge, trusting, as we do, in God, and believing that it will take us to somewhere better.