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Bishop Burbidge Discusses Courage/Encourage Apostolates

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In March, 2008, The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh announced the establishment of the Courage Apostolate in the Diocese of Raleigh.

Courage is a program designed to assist individuals with same sex attraction in living a chaste life in accordance with the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. The five primary objectives of the Apostolate are chastity, prayer and devotion, fellowship, support, and serving as good examples to others.

Courage has the endorsement of the Pontifical Council for the Family and currently has more than 110 chapters and coordinators worldwide. It has become a mainstream Catholic Apostolate helping thousands of men and women find peace through fellowship, prayer and the sacramental life of the Church.

Bishop Burbidge appointed the Reverend James Fukes, O.F.M. Conv. as the Spiritual Director of the Courage Apostolate in the Diocese of Raleigh. Father Fukes primarily serves as Pastor of St. Julia Parish in Siler City, NC.

Bishop Burbidge said that he is confident that the Courage Apostolate will be a source of many blessings for individuals seeking guidance and support.

In addition to Courage, an additional ministry, Encourage, is now available for the pastoral and spiritual needs of parents, siblings, children, and other relatives and friends of individuals who have same sex attraction.

For further information, kindly contact Father Fukes at St. Julia Parish, 210 Harold Hart Road Siler City, NC 27344.


Below is a story on the Apostolates from the January/February NC Catholics.

“I thought I had the homosexuality under control. I'd been a Catholic for five years, went to daily Mass, prayed the rosary daily, went on one or two retreats a year, and volunteered at my parish. Yet, after a series of crises occurred, I once again became involved in addictive, homosexual behavior. So what happened?”

These words begin the story of “Mark,” a member of Courage, a 28-year-old program designed to assist individuals with same sex attraction (SSA) in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church. Courage embraces Church teaching that SSA is not in itself sinful, but that homosexual acts are. The program aims to provide spiritual, moral and fraternal support to men and women who are attracted to members of the same sex, so that they can live chaste lives. The five primary objectives of the apostolate are chastity, prayer and devotion, fellowship, support, and serving as good examples to others.

Courage has the endorsement of the Pontifical Council for the Family and currently has more than 110 chapters and coordinators worldwide. It has become a mainstream Catholic Apostolate helping thousands of men and women find peace through fellowship, prayer and the sacramental life of the Church.

In 2008, the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge announced the establishment of the Courage Apostolate in the Diocese of Raleigh, and appointed the Reverend James Fukes, O.F.M. Conv., as its Spiritual Director. (Father Fukes primarily serves as Pastor of St. Julia Parish in Siler City, NC.) In addition to Courage, an additional ministry, Encourage, is available for the pastoral and spiritual needs of parents, siblings, children, and other relatives and friends of individuals who have SSA.

On March 31st, Fr. Paul Check, a priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport and national director of Courage, will lead a day of reflection for priests and lay leaders in the Diocese of Raleigh to educate them on SSA so they can support the apostolate. An evening session will be open to those seeking more information on the Courage and Encourage Apostolates.

In a recent interview, Fr. Check talked about his experience in counseling those with SSA. “The problem of same-sex attraction does not reduce well to a few words,” he said. “It is certainly no place for slogans or hastily formed conclusions. Most importantly, it calls for abundant and genuine charity, something that in my opinion tends to be conspicuous in its absence from much of the discussion of the topic.”

NCC spoke with a Raleigh woman active in Encourage. Her son was 23 when he announced defiantly – by email -- that he was gay. “I was devastated,” she says. “My son was sinning, alienating himself from me and from God, and I didn’t know how to parent him. All I could say to him was, ‘I love you with all my heart. Stay close to God.’” In her search for compassion and support, she learned about Courage/Encourage in 2004, and became an advocate for the establishment of a chapter in the Diocese of Raleigh.

The perception that people with SSA are happy is a myth, she says: “When my son is ‘acting out’ the SSA lifestyle, his whole personality changes. He becomes distant, cruel and defensive. When he’s not living it, he’s just the opposite, compassionate and empathetic.”

“The problem of same sex attraction is often vexing to those who struggle with it,” Fr. Check concurs. “Shame, loneliness, and a sense of hopelessness are the enemies. Often people with SSA also struggle with sexual addiction, drug or alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety or other mental illness. This remains true even in the places where sexual promiscuity is widely tolerated.”

For reasons like these, the Raleigh mother stresses, people with SSA need to feel safe. “Many of them are very sensitive,” she says. “They are hurting spiritually, emotionally and mentally.” That safe environment is one of the goals of Courage. “Courage is not about changing people,’ she says. “It’s about helping them to a conversion of heart, to chastity and trust in the Lord.”

Through her attendance at Encourage, she sees hope. “Encourage has been a blessing to me,” she explains. “We believe that as we grow, our children will grow as well. And I think my son will. I believe the Lord hears a mother’s cry. In Encourage, we’ve seen a lot of rejoicing out of the tragedy that brought us together.”

“Regrettably,” Fr. Check says, “many people think that all the Catholic Church offers to men and women with SSA is ‘no.’ Like all good mothers, the Church does say ‘no’ to the self-destructive and counterfeit pleasure of sin, out of a sense of love for her children. Yet that ‘no’ is embedded in a larger ‘yes,’ a yes to Him who is Love, and who gave Himself to the Father and to us from the Cross. The Lord asked St. Paul to find strength in his weakness through the power of the Cross. The Courage apostolate expresses that same redemptive paradox to men and women with SSA and urges them to trust in what they see in the life of the Master and His apostle.”