On September 26, 2020, Courage celebrated 40 years of ministry, dating from its very first meeting.
This memorial page was put together to mark this special milestone and to thank God for four decades of
prayer, fellowship, and pastoral support through this apostolate.

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 experiencing same-sex attractions who desired to live chastely 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.

A visual timeline of Courage’s history can be viewed here.

Faces of Courage

Courage has a clear program for the future. It aims to promote interior chastity—or chastity of the heart—within the Church. It stresses that each person must develop a life of prayer and interior chastity, supported by chaste friends… In the midst of our work, which at times seems daunting, I recall what Pope John Paul II said to one of our more well-known members: “Courage is doing the work of God.” It is this conviction that keeps us going.

– Fr. John F. Harvey, OSFS
Founding Director of Courage

To view more Faces of Courage, click the arrow!

Neither I nor anyone else with same-sex attraction knows the answer to the question, “When and why did you become gay?” But many of us in Courage know exactly when and why we stopped embracing a gay lifestyle and started seeking a life of chastity. It happened when we finally listened to what God was telling us in the depths of our hearts, and it happened because we knew what we heard in our hearts was true.

– Paul



While living an active gay life, I was angry and believed the teachings on homosexuality to be unfair because I never asked for these attractions. It seemed like the Church was punishing me and expecting me to live a life of loneliness based on something I couldn’t control. I came to know Christ through the Catholic Church and experience true freedom as I now understand these beautiful teachings, and embrace them instead of fighting them. In the past, while living an active “gay” life, I was miserable, lonely and filled with shame, but now that I live chastely and pursue this, my life has meaning and I have authentic friendships with friends who love me for me. When I get a hug from one of my Christian brothers, it goes right to my heart, my soul and is much deeper, more beautiful and meaningful than all the sexual and romantic acting out of my past.

– David


The members of Courage have served as witnesses and teachers — martyrs — of the lived realities and consequences of those who integrate the greatest commandment authentically and fully into their person. Specifically, I have learned that patient and enduring chaste — sexually integrated — interpersonal intimacy with God and neighbor is the key to happiness in this life and in the next.

– Fr. Colin Blatchford
Associate Director of Courage International



Courage is for me a second home. It is where strong bonds of friendships are created and where one can be themselves and share their true selves in an honest and in a trusting way. Courage is a spiritual group that helps me grow in my relationship with Jesus, not just in areas of sexuality but in all areas of my life. Courage to me is an instrument of God’s mercy and compassion – His mercy and compassion coming alive.

– Bob H.



I’ve been involved with Courage for 28 years. Through it, God has shown me that I am valued and loved, and that He cares about my Eternal life as well as my day to day life. I’ve been gifted with great friends who help me walk through not just same-sex attraction, but also my fears, joys, and worries. They understand me. I’ve had the blessing of vacationing with these same dear people. I have more fun with Courage and EnCourage people than any other group I’m a part of! In the past few years, I’ve been helping lead an EnCourage support group for family members who are concerned about people who experience same-sex attractions. Their love for their children and other relatives is inspiring and healing for me to see. It’s another aspect of Courage in which God allows us to help others and to receive love back from them. I am so grateful.

– Yvonne


I have been involved with Courage and EnCourage for over 20 years, both as a chaplain and as a member of the Episcopal Board. Those who have same sex attraction and their families and friends have found Christ and his transformative power through Courage and EnCourage. I have witnessed many lives transformed by this unique apostolate. Congratulations on the 40th anniversary of your most important work.

– Bishop John LeVoir
Courage & EnCourage Chaplain



My ministry as a Chaplain of Courage and EnCourage has not only given me a different perspective of the priesthood, but it has also shown me the face of mercy, love, and compassion of God and His Church. We are all in search of God’s redemption; no one is excluded from this need, including me. Courage has been God’s instrument in order to help me to be a better person and, in consequence, a better priest.

– Fr. Richard Samour
Courage & EnCourage Chaplain



Courage, through Christ, literally saved my soul; not just my life. … He saved my soul [and I] will be able to eternally praise and thank Him for the love, forgiveness, healing, acceptance and fellowship I’ve found through the Courage ministry.

– Kim




At 18, I left the Church because I could not bring my sexuality in line with my belief structure. Decades later, I made my way back. Courage has been the pathway to reconciliation of that defining duality of my existence.

– Karl M.




My involvement in Courage was neither anticipated nor sought; and it has been one of the greatest blessings and influences in my priesthood. Courage’s presentation of the Church’s teaching – with charity and clarity – has shaped my pastoral approach in general. In all instances we try to unite Christ’s saving doctrine with persons in search of Him (whether they know it or not). But most of all, the men and women of Courage inspire me, as they strive to “be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil 2:15). They reveal that virtue is possible and that joy can be found in the Cross.

– Fr. Paul Scalia
Courage Chaplain


Courage is the kind of ministry that is just so profoundly needed in our world today. It is a refuge for those who are trying to be disciples in spite of the lies and half-truths that our world is constantly throwing at them. I am so grateful that the Lord called me to be a part of this apostolate and to be of service in some small way to those who have the courage and integrity to walk this path!

– Fr. Raphael Mary Salzillo, O.P.
Courage Chaplain



The joy and freedom I experience today in pursuing a heart of chastity is profound – and I hope everyone in the whole world might desire to take a leap of faith to pursue it for themselves.

– Hudson




Courage has become my family, my “where I belong” in the Church. Both my online Women’s Courage group and my local chapter here in Scotland are irreplaceable in my life. They accompany me and I accompany them on this journey of growing towards Sainthood.

– Elena




God has given me wonderful people to serve and love in the Courage and EnCourage apostolates. They are his beloved children and my companions on our common pilgrimage, our journey to God in his holiness. We walk with his Son Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

– Deacon Hilmar Pabel, Ph.D.
Courage & EnCourage Chaplain



Accompanying Courage members as they strive to live lives of chaste virtue has been an unexpected gift to me. I pray that my chaplaincy is in some small way a help to my friends in Courage and Encourage.

– Deacon Patrick Lappert, MD
Courage & EnCourage Chaplain




I couldn’t say it better than the beloved St. Pope John Paul II: ‘Courage is doing the work of God.’ In the Courage apostolate I’ve discovered a community of brothers and sisters just like myself who are striving for sainthood despite what the world says and what the enemy wants. As a united family in Christ, we freely and joyfully carry our beautiful cross of same-sex attraction through these trying times in our current world. Courage was the very first resource that I discovered on my journey back to the Lord and what a blessing they truly have been to me since. In Courage I see family, I see love, I see hope and ultimately I see Christ.

– Emmanuel (Manny)


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



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.



Watch a video featuring our friend Garrett!

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40th Anniversary Mass

Click here to read the full text of the homily by Father James Lloyd, C.S.P. given at the
Mass of Thanksgiving for the Courage Apostolate on its 40th Anniversary

View pics from our
40th Anniversary Mass!

Photo Gallery

Encouragement from Our Bishops

Cardinal Burke, Cardinal O’Brien, Fr. Check

Archbishop Rodríguez, Archbishop Aquila,
Archbishop Vigneron

Archbishop Lori, Bishop Palma, Bishop Parkes

Cardinal Nichols, Bishop Byrne, Bishop LeVoir

Bishop Caggiano, Cardinal Dolan

Archbishop Porteous, Bishop Konderla,
Bishop González

Archbishop Peréz, Bishop Byrnes

40th Anniversary Annual Conference

Fr. Sean Kilcawley, STL

Fr. Glen Sudano, CFR

Dr. Stephen Hopkins

Deacon Hilmar Pabel, PhD


Sr. Helena Burns, FSP

New Courage Handbook

Celebrating 40 Years of Courage with a New Edition of the Courage Handbook

This newly revised edition is rooted in the spiritual vision of our founding director Fr. John F. Harvey, OSFS, and informed by the solidly Catholic goals laid out by our original members.

Click for more information