Every youth minister and high school teacher faces this problem at one time or another: One of his or her kids confides he or she identifies as gay.
“They are hurt or angry or ashamed. They don’t know why they feel the same-sex attraction, or how to feel about themselves, they don’t know who they are or they feel their loved ones don’t know them,” said Rilene Simpson, who will speak at the Faith Formation Conference at the Santa Clara Convention Center Nov. 21 in conjunction with the film “Desire of the Everlasting Hills.” The screening is free and open to the public.
Simpson knows all the feelings she described, because she was that teenager and went on to live with another woman for 25 years before rejecting the lifestyle and discovering her Catholic faith. She is one of three subjects of the Courage documentary “Desire of the Everlasting Hills.” A second subject, Paul, a former international model will also be on hand to answer questions.
Simpson and Paul are members of Courage, an international apostolate of the Catholic Church, which ministers to persons with same-sex attractions and their family and friends. San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone supports Courage and the screening at the Faith Formation Conference. “The new evangelization depends upon a culture of witness both personal and public. I was reminded of the power of personal witness when viewing the film ‘Desire of the Everlasting Hills’,” the archbishop said Nov. 10 during his report on the state of marriage at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in Baltimore.
“It was profoundly moving to see three courageous witnesses who experience same-sex attraction testify to Jesus’ concrete love in their lives. Personal witness speaks volumes,” the archbishop said.
The Nov. 21-22 annual Faith Formation Conference is a continuing education opportunity for religion teachers, catechists, and others in Catholic ministry. It attracts as many as 2,000 people. Begun in 2003, the Faith Formation Conference is sponsored by the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and the dioceses of San Jose, Santa Rosa, Monterey, Oakland and Stockton. The Archdiocese of San Francisco Office of Marriage and Family Life and Courage are sponsoring the movie event. The documentary can also be viewed online at www.everlastinghills.org.
“It is a story of hope, healing and reconciliation. It is an important work that puts a human face on an issue that is too often politicized and polarizing,” said Simpson, who also works with EnCourage, a ministry to those whose family members are experiencing same-sex attraction.
The documentary was released in July. “It doesn’t preach, it doesn’t harangue, it simply tells our stories, and gives the viewer a new opportunity to think about this group of God’s children from a different perspective,” said Simpson.
“This is the story of our struggles, and frankly, the struggle of all Christians: to turn away from whatever is distancing us from God – our idol, whatever it is – and to turn toward Jesus. This is a story of people
wrestling with the big issues in life: Who am I? Who is God? What does he ask of me?” said Simpson.
Ed Hopfner, director of the archdiocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life said the opportunity to view the movie and talk with two of its subjects is particularly timely in the San Francisco Bay Area, where same-sex attraction is more publicly prevalent. “It is an honest portrayal of the beauty and the difficulties of trying to live the Catholic Church’s teaching on sexuality, and is particularly valuable because it avoids politicizing the issue or polarization, but simply presents their stories and offers a chance to reflect on the topic,” Hopfner said.
‘DESIRE OF THE EVERLASTING HILLS’: The film will be shown at the Faith Formation Conference Nov. 21 at 5:30 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m., Santa Clara Convention Center, Ballroom H. Each screening will be followed by a question-and-answer session with two of the documentary’s subjects. Pizza will be served after the first screening. Admission is free to the public. There is a cash bar but the first 50 to register at the Courage exhibit at the convention will receive a complimentary drink coupon.
[This article originally appeared in the Nov. 21, 2014, edition of Catholic San Francisco.]
• Related on CWR: “Same-Sex Attraction and the Universal Desires of the Human Heart” by Carrie Gress (July 27, 2014)
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