Holding On To Hope

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A photo of Maggie from queer photographer Sarah Deragon’s The Identity Project.

This is a post by Margaret Wagner: a writer, non-profit professional, cartoonist living in Austin, TX. She graduated from DePauw University in 2014 having majored in English Literature with double minors in Women’s Studies and Religious Studies. She currently works as a Communication Specialist for a non-profit organization in Austin dedicated to fostering peace and respect through interfaith dialogue. As a radical feminist queer Catholic, Margaret spends a great deal of time trying to reconcile all of her various identities with each other.

Ever since I moved away from home to try my hand at adulting in the real world I’ve noticed many major lifestyle changes, but one in particular stands out. Growing up, I was a regular church-goer, helping to fill the pews for mass each and every Sunday. But now that I’m all grown up, my church attendance has steadily dwindled down to a mere appearance at Christmas and sometimes Easter. In my family, we always referred to such individuals as “Chreasters”, jokingly shaming those who only found enough time to come to God’s house on the days they were most expected to. Now, as one of the Chreasters I so readily derided as a child, I cannot help but wonder what led me to avoid church more and more over the years.

unnamed-2Like any good Catholic kid, a great deal of my youth was spent at my home parish. Some of my first memories are of that place: watching my older brother receive his First Communion, making Advent wreaths in the community hall, sitting at the altar with all of the children called to hear the story of Jesus’ birth during Christmas Eve mass, playing with other kids in the church nursery, watching my younger brother be baptized, singing the hymns by memory because I still could not read along in the book, sneaking away to get the post-mass donuts and juice before anybody else, the list goes on and on. Needless to say, the Church was a major part of my life growing up, and for a long time I was sure it always would be a major part of my life. But then, life changed.

A number of incidents led to my alienation from the Church, the most recent one being my acceptance of my own sexuality as something outside of the hetero-normative standard. As a Queer woman, I found it increasingly difficult to commune with God in a setting where a fundamental part of me was considered inherently “wrong”. Sure, that was never said to me directly in plain terms. In fact, I recall being told quite clearly during confirmation class that there is nothing at all wrong with being gay; the only sin lies in actually engaging in homosexual sex. To me, that allowance was no consolation.

unnamed-1After I came out, I would look at pictures of my parents’ wedding ceremony which was held in my mother’s childhood parish. Growing up, I always imagined getting married just as my parents had. But as I looked at the picture of my newly married parents standing on the altar, that hope that I too would one day experience a similar moment was dashed. When marriage equality was announced in the US this summer, I literally cried tears of joy, partially because it’s a step in the right direction for The States, but more because it is a sign that the whole world, including The Church, may one day give full honor and blessings to me when I marry the love of my life, even if she happens to be a woman. To one day be fully embraced by the community and traditions I grew up with is a dream I hope to live to see come true.

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