News / Edmonton

'We have a place, we have a story': Fired church worker speaks out for LGBT Catholics

Mark Guevarra says he was fired from a St. Albert church because he's gay

Mark Guevarra runs a support group for members of the LGBTQ community who are also Catholic.

Kevin Tuong / Edmonton Freelance

Mark Guevarra runs a support group for members of the LGBTQ community who are also Catholic.

A pastoral worker who says he was fired from his parish for being in a same-sex relationship will continue running the LGBTQ support group that landed him in trouble.

Mark Guevarra was fired from St. Albert Parish on Feb. 6 and made a lengthy post on Facebook that day detailing the incident.

Since then, he said he’s received hundreds of supportive messages from around the world, from LGBTQ Catholics who feel marginalized, Catholic parents with LGBTQ children who are torn in their faithfulness to the church, and even priests.

“Being terminated, essentially I had been kicked out of my own family. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster, to say the least,” Guevarra said told Metro Wednesday.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by public support.”

Guevarra said many parish members knew he was gay and in a relationship when he was hired eight years ago, but he was told to keep quiet about it.

A complaint was made against him after he launched the LGBTQ+ CORE support group last September, and it sparked an investigation because he had not sought the Archbishop’s official approval.

Guevarra said was called in for a meeting with his pastor and a representative of the archdiocese, where he was asked directly whether he is in a relationship with a man – a question he refused to answer.

Months later, on Feb. 6, he said he was fired after the investigation determined that he was in the relationship.

“I came to discover that over eight years ago when I started working for the church, there were opponents to me doing ministry in the church. Over the years they had sort of been collecting stories, anything I had done, and scrutinizing my life," Guevarra said.

“This is the church. And it’s supposed to be merciful and forgiving and kind and compassionate. And I feel like that behaviour is not very Christian-like.”

Guevarra has moved LGBTQ + CORE’s Feb. 25 meeting to the Edmonton Pride Centre.

The group has about 15 members now and he hopes to see it grow, and is optimistic that it will eventually become an official ministry.

“I can see in a microcosm here what I see in a macrocosm in the church’s hierarchical structure,” he said.

“This is something I feel called to do – to build avenues of dialogue and communication between LGBT Catholics and the broader Catholic community, to say that we have a place, we have a story.”

Guevarra said in his estimation, conservative voices opposing homosexuality account for a minority – about 30 per cent – of the Catholic church.

He said he received support and affirmation over the years from priests, nuns and Catholic teachers, as well as members of his own parish.

Guevarra initially considered legal action against the church, but said he has chosen to focus instead on building understanding.

“At the end of the day, I’m broken by this. I want to reconcile with my church community, and the only way to do that is to lay down my legal arms so to speak,” he said.

“I know there is great injustice and discrimination here, but I am willing to forego that to focus my energies on building this bridge.”

The Archdiocese issued a statement last week saying they would not comment directly on Guevarra’s termination, but added that “anyone who comes to work at the Archdiocese or one of its parishes agrees to live in accord with the teachings of the Catholic Church and its sacramental theology.

“For example, the Catholic understanding of marriage is that it is a sacrament, in which a man and a woman promise before God to enter into a committed, exclusive and permanent relationship.”

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