Global Participation in Courage’s 40th Anniversary Annual Conference 

Announcement Made of New Associated Director, Revised Chaplain Handbook 

(Trumbull, Conn.) “I consider you all to be spiritual giants,” said Sr. Helena Burns, FSP, to the hundreds of Courage and Encourage members gathered from around the world for this year’s online Annual Conference, an event which marked the launch of Courage International’s 40th anniversary celebrations. 

Centered on the theme “40 Years of Courage: A Legacy of Hope,” registered participants hailed from five continents, 35 countries, and nearly every US State. The July 25-26 Zoom webinar was a celebration of the apostolate’s four decades of pastoral care for men and women who experience same-sex attractions. 

“I have long followed the work of Courage,” Sr. Helena said during her talk – entitled Brazen Chastity and the Gift of Self – and she admitted to being intimidated by the invitation, “because I consider you all to be spiritual giants.” 

Why do I think you’re spiritual giants? Because you’re all perfect and holy? Nobecause you’re trying. 

She added: “And you’re not just trying. We’re not just trying. We’re committed to the imitation of Christ, the narrow path, the road less travelled, the royal road of the Cross, and you are pursuing God in holiness. 

In addition to the 40th anniversary celebrations, two significant announcements were made over the course of the weekend. The first of these was the launch of the newly revised Handbook for Courage and EnCourage chaplains; previously distributed only to those working within the apostolate, the new Handbook will be available to the public, and can be accessed on the Courage website.  

On Sunday afternoon, members received the announcement that Father Colin Blatchford, a priest of the Diocese of Knoxville, had been appointed as the new associate director, to work alongside Father Philip Bochanski, Courage’s executive director.  

The Courage apostolate was founded by Fr. John Harvey, OSFS in September 1980 at the request of the late Cardinal Terence Cooke, then the Archbishop of New York. It was during those early meetings that members compiled the Five Goals of Courage – Chastity, Prayer and Dedication, Fellowship, Support, and Example – which continue to be the pillars of the apostolate to this day. 

Fr. Sean Kilcawley, director of the Office for Family Life of the Diocese of Lincoln (Nebraska), delivered the webinar’s opening talk on the Goal of Chastity. “Chastity becomes a foundation for the rest of the spiritual life,” he told members during the webinar. “It becomes a foundation for our ability to encounter our Lord, to see Him, and to recognize that He sees us.”  

Speaking on the Goal of Prayer and Dedication, Father Glenn Sudano, CFRone of the founding members of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, focused on the important of having structure as a means of avoiding temptation, and giving oneself fully to God.  

“When we look at ourselves, we can be grateful that there’s a lot of light that’s in us,” he said, “but we always have to be careful where there’s the dark area. He explained: “There can be a very small little area, a sort of fissure,” where this darkness can come in. “All of us are tempted. So we all have to be mindful of our weak area.” 

“It’s important that we bring all of ourselves to the Lord so that every part of us is healed, and also illumined,” Father Sudano said. 

Dr. Stephen Hopkins, a Nashville-based psychologist who produced the film Portraits of Courage, spoke on the Goal of Fellowship. “We are our brother’s keeper,” he said, “and we will find salvation through the righteous love of each other. We come to know God’s love of others. 

Meanwhile, Deacon Hilmar Pabel, Courage and EnCourage chaplain in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, showed how the Goal of Support is understood in the context of friendship. “You’re my friend, and you are reason enough for me to be your friend. You are reason enough for me to love you. The reward of being your friend is the love that I bear for you. That is disinterested, unconditional friendship.  

That’s the friendship that God offers and gives us: Unconditional love. Unconditional friendship,” he said. 

Finally, members heard witness testimonies from Courage members, Elena F. and Hudson B., as well as EnCourage parents, Ed and Jean L., who all spoke on the Goal of Good Example.  

Like the inperson Annual Conferences, the weekend included private meetings for Courage and EnCourage members, a breakout session for those working in ministry, and the opportunity to take part in a virtual social gathering. 

An annual event, this year’s Courage and EnCourage Conference was originally set to take place at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake (also known as Mundelein Seminary) in Mundelein, IL from July 23-26, 2020. The decision to move the conference online followed the Illinois governor’s plan to prohibit large gatherings until the identification of a vaccine for COVID-19. 

Simultaneous translations were made available to Spanish-speaking participants. 


Background on Courage International and EnCourage   

Courage International, Inc. is an apostolate of the Catholic Church which offers support to persons experiencing same-sex attraction who have chosen to live a chaste life. It was founded by Fr. John Harvey, OSFS at the request of the late Cardinal Terence Cooke. The first Courage chapter meeting was held in New York City in 1980, and it was this initial group which developed the Five Goals of Courage: Chastity, Prayer and Dedication, Fellowship, Support, and Good Example. Fr. Harvey was succeeded as executive director by Fr. Paul Check, who held the position from 2008 to the end of 2016. Fr. Check was then succeeded by Fr. Philip Bochanski in January, 2017. Today, Courage has more than 150 chapters in eighteen countries. Courage and EnCourage received canonical status in the Roman Catholic Church as a diocesan clerical public association of the faithful on November 28, 2016.   

EnCourage is an apostolate under the Courage umbrella which provides support for families and friends of persons who identify as LGBT, and aims to teach them how to reach out to their loved ones with compassion and understanding. The group was first formed in 1987 by families in search of guidance for supporting their loved ones who experience same-sex attraction. In 1992, this group adopted the name EnCourage. Currently, they have more than seventy-five chapters in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Australia, Italy, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.    

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