BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Church of The Little Flower is announcing its LGBTQ+ support group, “You Are Mine.”

Margaret Manning, Pastoral Associate at Church of the Little Flower, said the name was chosen as a “reminder that we are all God’s children and also that LGBTQ individuals are our beloved children.” Manning also assists with outreach to the homebound and oversees adult ministry and prayer groups at the parish.

After a year of perfecting and establishing the group, the parish is now ready to open the group to the public with its goal of being able to “walk with all people and share in their joys and struggles. We want to welcome,” specifically the LGBTQ+ community and their families, said Manning. 

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She notes that the goal of this group is to show the “mercy of god” and to have a diverse group of people within the church, including those within the LGBTQ+ community. She noted, “Just as Jesus did, we want to walk with all people and share in their joys and struggles. We want to welcome.”

In regard to community response, Manning said she is particularly excited to see the parish community so supportive. She said, “We have had an overwhelmingly positive response and not one negative response.”

In full transparency, the parish noted that because they are not independent of the Catholic Church, they “uphold the Catholic Church's teaching” of marriage. 

TAPinto: Who is this group for? And is there a target audience?

Manning: Anyone is welcome to attend You Are Mine meetings but the intended audience comes out of those conversations with parents. So it's geared to parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends, of LGBTQ individuals.

TAPinto: To many LGBTQ+ Americans the church has not been a comforting or safe place, how do you break these barriers?

Manning: We recognize that and that is why we have created this support group. It's a small beginning but it's a beginning. We also recognize that the language that can be used by the Catholic Church can be hurtful. We also recognize that each and every one of us is a "saint" and a "sinner". We all have growing to do. LGBTQ people have often considered themselves unwelcome by the Catholic Church. What we are looking to do with You Are Mine is create a welcoming, inclusive environment in our parish. And through this group, we hope that LGBTQ individuals and their families feel loved and welcomed. As our patrons, St. Therese, the Little Flower would say and live, "Do small things with great love."

TAPinto: What would new members get out of this group?

Manning: New members would discover a listening, supportive, fun group of Catholics who can provide wisdom and encouragement to each other. I've heard some parents say that when their child came out to them, they went into the closet. Some parents found it uncomfortable to share. Other families are more open about their child but the group provides a listening ear and solidarity for everyone. Members benefit from the experience of other parents and participate in discussions based on readings or videos we utilize as a group.

Meeting schedule: Beginning in September, the third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. (on Zoom for the foreseeable future, with hopes for person sometime this year.)

Contact Margaret by emailing youaremine.LF@gmail.com or call 908-464-1585x133

With meetings monthly, the Church of The Little Flower has taken the first step to welcome those in the LGBTQ+ community and create a more inclusive environment with the goal to “welcome and accompany all people.” 

Editor's Note: Aidan English is a junior at Gov. Livingston High School participating in the TAPinto Berkeley Heights internship program. To learn more contact Bobbie Peer at bpeer@tapinto.net.