Lesbian and Gay Ministry at St. Matthew’s Church, Long Beach, CA

Powerhouse Parents

Robert and Carolyn Aldapa

By Anna Totta

Carolyn and Robert Aldapa are a pleasant couple, they always bring delicious treats to Comunidad meetings, come to our prayer services, and bring a supportive kind presence. They seem like your typical married (55 years) nurturing parents, and I really wanted to write about that. I wanted to call this article, “Comunidad’s Parents.” However, when I interviewed them, I found fierceness and a fearlessness about them that changed my mind: I would rather call them “Champions for Comunidad.” Well, even that is not broad enough. They are “Powerhouse Parents” for us, for our diocese, and for the United States Catholic community

It isn’t that they found it easy enough to be parents of two children that were gay and lesbian, Michael and Lynette. As Carolyn put it, “I had known only one gay person in my youth. I was about 13 years of age and he was a family friend who would bring his ‘friend’ around to play cards. As parents we went through a sense of loss, realizing many people will not accept our children. We thought there would be no marriage and no grand children. We took 12 year old Lynette to counseling. The psychologist said, ‘she has accepted who she is.’ I just needed to be sure, knowing it would be a hard life, and that violence against her was possible. Michael, our gay son, was about 14 when my gay cousin was killed in San Francisco. This just reinforced our fears.” Early on in the AIDS crisis, the Aldapas did all they could to assist Michael’s friends who had AIDS, taking two of them in at different times and caring for them, until they were well enough to leave and go home to their own families – to die.

What really catapulted this couple as advocates was when in a parish bulletin in 1994 and 1996 that listed homosexuality among other major sins as if in it self was sinful. Even though Carolyn was working in the parish school, she sent a letter to the pastor with a copy to the cardinal of the archdiocese. The Aldapas were dismayed when the pastor responded that they should encouraged their gay son to try Courage (a Catholic organization, which believed homosexual persons, had no option except to remain celibate) meanwhile denying that he said anything harmful or hurtful.

Later, the Aldapas were outraged when they saw a prayer for youth in the parish bulletin in March, 2001 that urges “people who deem themselves offensive to prefer that God call them from this world.” Again, they took action, with an outcry to the Vicar of Clergy and local Bishop Satoris because it seemed as if this prayer could push a young person to suicidal thoughts and/or actions.

By 1996 the Aldapas were involved with Comunidad because their daughter Lynette attended. She would later become chair; thus, they became members of St. Matthew Church. By 1997, they were also part the Archdiocesan ministry at that time called Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Catholics (MLGC) and helped the founders of the parent group. By 1999 they were leaders of this group, which was covered by the National Catholic Reporter, getting the attention of parents throughout the United States. Even today the Aldapas are listed on a call list to help other parents come to terms with having a gay son or lesbian daughter.

In 2002, the Aldapas sent a letter to the cardinal objecting to inferences that homosexual priests were wrongly identified as perpetrators and the main cause of child sexual abuse. Carolyn had the courage to point out that two heterosexual uncles molested her and her sister.

In 2007, the Aldapas resolved that they would write a letter to every Bishop in the United States. The impetus for this was a change in tone of a new Bishop’s document that spoke of “homosexuality as objectively disordered” avoiding any reference to the Bishop’s previous document “Always our Children” which quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “they do not choose their homosexual condition.” In the guidelines called “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care,” the Aldapas believed much was lost that had been present in “Always Our Children,” which emphasized compassion and support. Nearly 300 letters were sent out and about 22 bishops responded, most in a supportive manner but also some arguing for their position.

In 2008 a bishop believed to be supportive of gay and lesbian ministries in the church gave the opening address for a national association currently called Catholic Association of Gay and Lesbian Ministries. His position so disappointed participants that once again the Aldapas took it upon themselves to prepare a letter to this bishop on how badly these sincere Catholics felt treated at their own conference.

In 2015, the Aldapas wrote a note to the 20 or so Bishops they had been corresponding with for a long time telling them of the death of Father Jerry Meisel. Here they described the ministry he accepted from Cardinal Mahony who named it Comunidad. Many bishops acknowledged her letter. Bishop Joseph Sartoris, a retired Bishop from our diocese previously said, and it rings true today, “I’m glad you’ve found a spiritual home at St. Matthew. Father Jerry is a good man.”

Comunidad is blessed to have the strong support and love of Carolyn and Robert. On our behalf, they have had the courage and know-how to make a magnificent impact upon the Catholic Church in the United States. We owe it to them to double our own efforts advocating for our rightful place within the Catholic community.

As their daughter Lynette said, “Mom and dad have been living out the bishops’ letter ‘Always Our Children,’ long before the bishops ever thought of writing it”.