Philadelphia’s only Catholic LGBT organization, Dignity Philadelphia, will celebrate its 40th anniversary later this month.
Dignity president David Kalinowski said that, in the 16 years he has been a member of the organization, it has been a consistent source of support for the community.
“I think we’ve been there for people who have the desire to have a faith in God, but don’t feel comfortable going to regular Catholic churches,” he said. “And I think we have provided that safe space for people, not only LGBT people, but with friends and allies as well.”
Dignity has also offered women leadership roles in the church that they often cannot find in mainstream Catholic environments.
In 2010, the group brought on a Catholic female priest to say Mass.
“That was a big accomplishment: opening the doors to women having a role in the church,” Kalinowski said.
Dignity Philadelphia has been a visible and active member of the local LGBT community. Among its community activities, the group has sponsored GayBINGO events and held panel discussions on topics such as the bar scene in Philadelphia, LGBT history of Philadelphia and the history of Dignity Philadelphia, with remarks from former presidents.
“We try to have a mix of interests that would appeal to people not only at Dignity, but the Philadelphia LGBT community,” Kalinowski said.
Pursuing recognition for the LGBT community from the church, he added, has been an ongoing struggle.
“I think it is a challenge trying to have the acceptance of the church itself, so that struggle continues. We’re always hopeful that there will be acceptance,” he said. “I think the importance is that we continue to have a dialogue with the church. We provide a welcome and open space for GLBT people, friends and allies, so they have a place to go to feel safe and comfortable and worship God.”
Kalinowski said Dignity, which holds Mass at 7 p.m. Sundays at The Church of St. Luke and The Epiphany, offers Catholics an opportunity to reconcile their faith and their identities.
“They can come to our liturgies and feel comfortable and it is something they are familiar with and they feel accepted for who they are,” he said. “They can worship God and at the same time feel welcome.”
Dignity Philadelphia will celebrate its 40th anniversary with a dinner and dance from 7-11 p.m. April 27 at the Mummers Museum. A Mass will follow at 7 p.m. the next day at St. Luke’s, 330 S. 13th St.
“It will be a great time with great friends,” Kalinowski said.
For more information, visit www.dignityphila.org.