Courage Conference takes place in Illinois

By Jeffrey Keefe, OFM Conv.
Sun contributing writer

One  cardinal, five bishops, 25 priests, and seven deacons joined over 300 delegates to the national Courage Conference at St. Mary of the Lake University in Mundelein, Ill., in early August. Courage is the Catholic support group for persons with homosexual attractions who are trying to follow Catholic moral teachings and develop a deeper spiritual life. The program included pertinent talks and workshops for EnCourage, the support group for parents whose children have same sex attractions.

Delegates came from across the U.S., as well as from Canada, Haiti, Australia, Mexico, and Central America.

This year’s conference was dedicated to the memory of Father John Harvey, OSFS, who began Courage at the request of  Cardinal Terrance Cook, archbishop of New York, in 1980. Father Harvey died in December, 2010, at age 92.

There are now chapters in 100 U.S. dioceses and eight foreign countries.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the head of the Vatican’s apostolic signatura,  celebrated the opening Mass, and later gave a talk on his association with Father  Harvey. Father Harvey assisted him when he was bishop of La Crosse, Wis. Conference Masses were celebrated and homilies were  given by Bishops Thomas Olmstead of Phoenix, Ariz., Thomas Poprocki of Springfield, Ill., John Le Voir of New Ulm, Minn. and Marc Seitz, auxiliary of Dallas, Texas. Bishops Le Voir and Sietz were formerly chaplains of Courage chapters. Bishop Lawrence Sabatini, retired bishop of Kamloops, Canada, also attended. In addition, a Spanish Mass was celebrated daily as well as Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, all-night adoration and opportunity for the sacrament of reconciliation.

Talks and workshops included a keynote address by Father Paul Check, a priest of the Bridgeport, Conn. diocese who is the new director of Courage International. Father Jeffrey Keefe, OFM Conv., director of the Syracuse diocesan chapter of Courage, gave one of the presentations. His topic, “The Hidden Path  to  Homosexual Activity,” treated non-sexual influences which can pressure an individual to homosexual activity. Father Keefe wrote his paper in consultation with Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, one of the founders of the National Association of Research and Therapy for Homosexuality of which Father Keefe has been a member since its founding in 1992.

The U.S. army office of Training and Doctrine Command currently is distributing one of Father Keefe’s earlier Courage talks. It is being sent to 280 training base chaplains, mostly non-Catholics, to assist them in dealing with the suspension of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in September.

Two principal speakers were Father Benedict Joseph Groeschel, CFR, who was instrumental in founding Courage in 1980 and psychiatrist Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, an expert on anger and forgiveness.

Locally Courage meets at Assumption Church in Syracuse. For further information call Father Jeffrey Keefe, OFM Conv. at (315) 422-6233. On the internet, www.couragerc.org or www.narth.org.

Father Jeffrey Keefe resides in the Franciscan community at Assumption Friary in Syracuse. He is the local director of Courage/EnCourage.

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