Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach of Chicago celebrates its 35th anniversary

Hundreds filled Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Lake View for a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Blase Cupich, who honored the group as a ‘covenant of people.’

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Cardinal Blase Cupich celebrates Mass on Sunday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Lake View on the 35th anniversary of the founding of the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach of Chicago. The church serves as the home parish of the ministry, founded under the guidance of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.

Natalie Garcia/For the Sun-Times

The Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach of Chicago celebrated its 35th anniversary with a Mass on Sunday in Lake View.

Hundreds filled the pews at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church at 708 W. Belmont Ave. for the Mass, which was celebrated by Cardinal Blase Cupich.

AGLOChicago was established under the guidance of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church serves as the ministry’s home parish. It celebrated its first liturgy in 1988.

Joe Vitek, director of outreach and liturgy at AGLO, said the anniversary is an affirmation of the church’s desire to reach out to all Catholics, no matter what their situation in life may be.

“Our ministry truly focuses on providing that weekly gathering where people can be their authentic selves and worship in the way that we were baptized in,” said Vitek, 52. “To claim our stake in the church that we have a writ to. It’s truly unique.”

AGLO holds weekly Masses and offers the LGBTQ+ community spiritual retreats and programs, accompaniment, social events and outreach opportunities.

“Through the groundbreaking leadership of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin and persistence of the founding lay leaders, AGLO has made much progress in bringing in the Good News of Jesus to all Catholics and creating a welcoming faith community for our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters,” Cupich wrote in a letter to the congregation.

In his homily, Cupich explained how the AGLO community was a “covenant of people.” People who come together to support each other.

“There is that wonderful adage in Africa that if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to far, go together,” Cupich said.

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Hundreds attend Sunday’s Mass. The Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach of Chicago offers the LGBTQ+ community spiritual retreats and programs, accompaniment, social events and outreach opportunities.

Natalie Garcia/For the Sun-Times

Vitek said that it was the collective work of leaders before him that allowed AGLO to reach 35 years of existence. He hopes to continue that work and inspire future generations to take up the mantle.

“I like to say that when I became involved in a leadership position, I was sort of the second generation,” Vitek said. “The first generation of leaders of our organization were our founders, They worked hard to establish our ministry. My generation carried it further, and we’re at a point where we’re welcoming many new members. Hopefully we reach a new generation of Catholics who identify as LGBT and let them know there’s still a place in the church for them.”

Outside the church, a group of demonstrators recited prayers and played bagpipes throughout the Mass. The group carried banners reading “the month of June belongs to the sacred Heart of Jesus, not to homosexual ‘pride.’”

Vitek said the demonstration proves organizations like AGLO are still needed in many communities.

“There are those who feel that people who are ‘other,’ whether that’s based on their sexual orientation, sometimes on their immigration status, on their race, on their gender, have to take a different position within the church, and that’s not the case,” Vitek said. “We all share one baptism, and through that one baptism we all have the same rightful place in the church.”

Cupich echoed Vitek in his letter, stating that the stigmatization or exclusion of groups of people has become common or normalized in recent times.

“As Catholics, we believe everyone is created in the likeness and image of God and should be respected and treated with kindness and gentleness,” Cupich wrote. “God loves us all and walks with each of us. Treating people as the ‘other’ has no place in any Church. We are a Church for all.”

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