Join the Courage & EnCourage Family in celebrating four decades of prayer, fellowship, and pastoral support.

History of Courage

The inspiration for the ministry that would eventually be established as Courage first came to Terence Cardinal Cooke, Archbishop of New York, in the spring of 1978.  Cardinal Cooke wished to start a ministry that would specifically address the pastoral needs and concerns of lay persons with same-sex attraction who wished to live chaste lives in accordance with Catholic teaching.  The Cardinal consulted with the Director of Spiritual Development for the Archdiocese of New York, Father Benedict Groeschel (then OFM Cap., later CFR) who advised that Father John Harvey OSFS, a priest from Philadelphia, would be the ideal person to lead such a ministry.  Father Harvey, a moral theologian, professor, and pastoral counsellor, had already written guidelines for confessors on the question of homosexuality and was giving retreats to priests and brothers in perpetual vows who were committed to living out their vow of chaste celibacy amid the experience of same-sex attraction.

After several preparatory committee gatherings, workshops, and consultations, the first meeting was finally held on Friday, September 26, 1980 in Manhattan at the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, the Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, with just five members.  This spiritual support group continued to meet weekly and eventually came to name itself Courage.  The members themselves composed their statement of purpose in the form of five goals: Chastity, prayer, fellowship, support, and good example.

As Courage gradually began to take root in other U.S. dioceses and in Canada, it soon became  apparent that there was a need to develop a complementary spiritual support group within the apostolate, for family and friends of those who experience same-sex attraction.  Thus, what is now known as EnCourage came into existence in 1987. Members of EnCourage strive to live by the following five goals: Prayer and dedication, formation, charity, unity, and witness.

While Courage and EnCourage meetings are held separately, both sets of members enjoy being in community together at our annual conferences.  The first one of these conferences was held in 1989 at the Cardinal Spellman Retreat House in Riverdale, New York and has been held every year since then at various locations in the United States and Canada.  The annual conference can best be described as a large spiritual retreat which includes solid teaching, heartfelt sharing, joyful conversations, and many opportunities for prayer and the sacraments. Courage and EnCourage members have come to look at the annual conference as a family reunion and eagerly await this time of renewal and refreshment every summer.  Although COVID prevented our gathering in person for our 2020 conference, we not only managed to connect virtually, thanks to technology, but we were able to welcome more members from around the world than ever before.

In addition to participating in chapter meetings and the Annual Conference, our members and Chaplains often host regional weekend retreats and Days of Recollection to keep their lives deeply rooted in Catholic spirituality and to foster a sense of community and fellowship throughout the year. The year 2000 saw the start of our yearly retreats for women. That same year, we held our first Sports Camp, a now-annual event which combines prayer, fellowship, and sports for the men of Courage, whether or not they have a background in athletics. Annual retreats for our EnCourage members have been taking place since 2018.

Over these last forty years, with the help of the Holy Spirit and the prayers and commitment of faithful lay people and clergy, Courage has grown into an international apostolate, currently found in 18 countries. Courage has become the spiritual home for adults of all ages, ethnicities, and languages, who share the experience of same-sex attraction and a commitment to developing a life of interior chastity in union with Christ. Our outreach continues as we make use of all the tools at our disposal (books, videos, social media, etc.) to draw others into an incarnational, in-person experience of our community where together we learn to seek an ever-deepening intimacy with our Creator.

We humbly thank God for the solid foundation He has laid in this apostolate through the faithful, tireless ministry of its founding director Father John F. Harvey OSFS, and through the dedicated, generous leadership of both Father Paul N. Check and our current director Father  Philip G. Bochanski. We’re grateful for all who have served and participated in this Christ-centered, sacramental community and who continue to do so, especially the members of Courage and EnCourage, whose quiet lives of virtue, holiness, and commitment to both truth and love set an example to all the world and the Church.  May the Lord continue to bless our apostolate for another 40 years!


Beers, James A. Courage: A Ministry of Hope. Dog Ear Publishing, 2018.
Harvey, John F., O.S.F.S. The Truth About Homosexuality: The Cry of the Faithful. Ignatius Press, 1996.
Harvey, John F., O.S.F.S. The Homosexual Person: New Thinking in Pastoral Care. Ignatius Press, 1987.

Faces of Courage

Courage became my family. The chaplains, the members, and the ministry as a whole served as the gentle hand which Christ Himself extended to me to lift me out of a dark and shameful place. Through Courage I’ve had my faith restored, my life redirected toward Christ, and my desire for love and community met in ways I never even thought to hope for.

– Avera

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I’ve hidden from love much of my life. Homosexuality helped me hide from the real love that was available to me but not accepted out of fear. Fear of the pain inflicted by rejection, real and perceived, from men throughout my life. Through the Courage apostolate I’ve confronted this fear and now experience the healthy love from men I’ve been missing.

– Garrett J.



Be sure to check back later as we’ll be featuring new Faces of Courage throughout this anniversary year!

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