When journalist and videographer Eric Kruszewski first learned about LEAD, an LGBT church outreach program started at St. Matthew Catholic church, he knew he needed to see its work in action — and capture the stories of the people involved.
His curiosity took him to Baltimore, MD, where St. Matthew is located and where he met Father Joe Muth, Jr., the church’s pastor, who is passionate about welcoming members of the LGBTQ community and their allies back into the faith. Kruszewski’s resulting video series tells stories that range from a lesbian former nun’s decision to leave the Church to a mother of gay and straight children learning how to be an ally.
“I don’t think the institutional church realizes how hurtful they are to homosexual people,” Muth says in the video above, one episode in the series.
LEAD, which stands for LGBT Educating and Affirming Diversity, meets every month. During meetings, people are welcome to introduce themselves to the group and speak about their faith, their sexuality, and how those two parts of their identities interact. It was during these meetings that Kruszewski was able to see just how devoted the members were to Catholicism, in spite of the hostile treatment they’d received before coming to St. Matthew.
“I was astonished at how people could have such unwavering, strong faith, even though they’re looking at a church that doesn’t fully accept them,” Kruszewski told Refinery29.
He said that this may stem from the fact that most LEAD members grew up with the Church and are, in fact, all baptized Catholics.
“When you’ve spent decades believing in something and living its teachings, it’s really hard for somebody to say, ‘Now that you’ve found your sexuality, you can’t believe anymore,'” Kruszewski said.
Fortunately, LEAD and Muth have become major sources of security and positivity for everyone who joins St. Matthew, regardless of their sexual identities. It’s a rare safe space for LGBTQ Catholics who seek to maintain — and nurture — these two seemingly disparate parts of their identities.
Check out the video above to learn the stories behind LEAD and some of its members, and watch the rest of Kruszewski’s series here.
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