Breaking: Fired gay church worker opens himself to people

Breaking: Fired gay church worker opens himself to people
Mark Guevarra was a pastoral associate at the St. Albert Catholic Parish until February seen here outside the church in St. Albert April 5, 2018. Complaints about his homosexuality forced him to lose his position. He is now holding two town hall meetings at the St. Albert United Church where he invites any and all from the community to talk to him directly.
 Edmonton, Alberta

Mark Guevarra will face people in town halls today and tomorrow

In an unprecedented and bold move, a  Filipino-Canadian church worker fired last February by the Edmonton Archdiocese will hold two town hall meetings today, Friday (April 13)  and Saturday (April 14) at 1 PM. Both meetings will be at St. Albert United Church at 20 Green Grove Drive.

 Mark Guevarra was fired unceremoniously for his post as a lay pastoral associate in February by the Archdiocese of Edmonton.
 Guevarra, who holds a master’s degree in religious education, was told the archdiocese has been compiling information about him for eight years. He was accused of being gay and in a relationship with another man.
He has also been public with his work with the St. Albert Ministerial Association, which hosts the annual St. Albert Community Carol Sing. He formed the support and prayer group called LGBTQ+ CORE (Catholic OutReach of Edmonton) without any backlash or administrative gear grinding.

“It’s not a group that’s unusual in the Catholic church. There are some dioceses around the world that have LGBT ministries. Some have been going on since the ’60s. These are not ministries that seek to convert LGBT Catholics. They’re there actually just to welcome them as they are,” he told St. Albert Gazette in an interview.

He said that he never heard that there were any problems with him in the church up until he was fired. He wasn’t even allowed to look at the file of complaint.

“It was never told to me directly up until this investigation when a file was placed in front of me. Basically, the investigator said that there were people that had been tracking my life for the last eight years of me working in the church and trying to discredit me from working in the church. The Archdiocese overlooked that and allowed me to work all these years. It doesn’t surprise me. I know that the Catholic church is huge. There’s 1.1 billion people and we can’t all think the same way.”

In a message offered on the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton’s website on Feb. 24, Archbishop Richard Smith acknowledged the pain that other parishioners experienced after Guevarra’s dismissal since he was “widely loved and respected in the parish.” The note clarifies that his employment was terminated solely and strictly in relation to its policy as anyone who serves in a leadership or teaching role is expected to live in accord with the teaching of the Church.

“The duty of the Church is to proclaim the Gospel to the times in which she lives, not to become their echo. Her teaching does not change simply because societal norms do. Therefore, the Church teaches, and will continue to teach, that marriage is intended by God as a permanent union of covenant love between one man and one woman, who, in their sexual relations, give expression to their mutual love and their openness to the gift of life,” he wrote.

Archbishop Smith is the same archbishop who recently announced that the archdiocese will withhold funds for Development & Peace- Caritas Canada for its alleged involvement in a ‘pro-abortion’ women’s group in Haiti.

These last few months have been tough for Guevarra and his supporters. His co-workers took it really hard, he said, adding that he personally felt lost and without purpose on Easter weekend. Though he is still employed as a sessional instructor of religious studies at St. Joseph’s College at the University of Alberta, he has been thinking about returning to post-secondary education to get a PhD in theology.

This Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, he will be front and centre at St. Albert United Church to allow one and all the chance to speak with him or simply pose their questions. When he was fired, the church reached out to ask him what it could do for him. As the weeks went past, he realized that he needed a venue to be able to speak to people’s concerns and questions.

Guevarra doesn’t know what to expect but does know that the conversation needs to continue, the Gazette reports.

“I have not over the past two months, in the 800 emails I’ve received, not one of them has opposed me, maybe because they’re afraid to email me and to hear the response back. The overwhelming majority of responses I’ve gotten from people is support,” he said.

“I’ve not heard of anyone who is thinking of coming to the town hall ready to oppose me. I’ve only known of people who support me and want to tell others how much this means to them, how it touches their family, their life and their church. I am preparing for opponents who might come but at the end I firmly believe that the majority of Catholics side with me on this. They see that my firing is unjust. None of the other 39 pastoral associates like me have been scrutinized as much as I have been, ever. They see that as being not right, unchristian and unjust.”

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