By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Encourage, a Catholic support group for family members, spouses and friends of men and women experiencing same-sex attraction, will begin in the Davenport Diocese in November.
Father Tony Herold will lead the English group, while Father Joseph Sia will facilitate a group in Spanish.
Fr. Herold said people often don’t know how to react and respond when someone they care about is dealing with same-sex attraction. The church teaches that it is sinful to act on such desires, while society in general is becoming increasingly accepting of homosexual behavior.
With Encourage, “what we want to do is help one another to respond to loved ones in a healthy way, and shed light on a very difficult subject,” he noted.
Encourage is a an affiliate program of Courage, which provides Catholics experiencing same-sex attraction an opportunity to support one another as they attempt to follow Catholic teaching on the subject. A Courage group is already meeting in the Iowa City area with facilitator Father Thom Hennen.
The meetings for both organizations are loosely structured. They start and end with a prayer and, in between, participants can share their stories, if they feel comfortable doing so.
Fr. Herold said of Encourage: “The goals of the meetings are set by the people gathered there, depending on their needs. We obviously uphold Catholic teaching on marriage and sexuality, but we also pull from Catholic teaching on our need to support and love people with same sex attraction.”
Both support groups are confidential; persons interested in attending must call the facilitator to receive information regarding meeting times and locations. Fr. Hennen (Courage) can be reached at (563) 888-4245; Fr. Herold (English Encourage) can be reached at (563) 888-4363; and Fr. Sia (Spanish Encourage) can be reached at (319) 728-8210.
Fr. Herold encourages anyone who is interested in Courage or Encourage to give the groups a try. “We are in this journey together. We don’t have to walk this road alone.”