Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Lost Parish Part III

After more than a decade without their Church, the Faithful return to the sanctuary -- for one emotional day.


hilary said...


Chris, did you actually read this?

It was the usual Tuesday night committee meeting at Holy Trinity, but Dignan had something unusual to propose. It was mid-June 2005, and he had just gotten a call from Sen. Migden's office. The San Francisco lawmaker had stepped in to save St. Brigid. Now she expected something in return.

Dignan was hesitant to broach the subject, but the truce with the archdiocese had faded in recent months as church officials became increasingly annoyed with the committee's lobbying in Sacramento. These days, Migden seemed like their best hope.

So after taking care of routine committee business, Dignan suggested that it would be a good idea for them to show support for Migden by marching together and carrying signs backing the senator. In the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade.

One committee member said, "I don't think this is the right place for us to be."

By now, Dignan was sure the committee members knew of his sexuality. They heard him make references to a certain friend none of them had met. And they read stories he wrote for gay newspapers. But they never asked Dignan about his love life.

In an attempt at levity, Dignan said, "We have the choice of being next to a transgender group or a leather manufacturing booth."


It was at moments like these when Dignan felt like an outsider. He knew that acceptance came slowly for some -- if at all.

When his father learned Dignan was gay, he had urged his son to stop telling people, as it would "get him in a lot of trouble." His mother had said she suspected he was gay since his college days, but she never said anything because she didn't want to encourage him.

Dignan still carried enormous guilt over his failed marriage. He had loved his wife, Polly, with whom he had a daughter, Mary. He was sure his ex-wife would never forgive him.

After a brief discussion, committee members saw little choice but to have a contingent in the parade. But as Dignan started out on his ride home from Holy Trinity, he doubted that anyone from St. Brigid would actually show up.

• • •

Dignan bicycled to the corner of Howard and Spear streets early on the morning of Sunday, June 25, 2005, the day of the Gay Pride Parade.

He chewed nicotine gum, wishing he hadn't sworn off cigarettes. He repeatedly checked his cell phone, convinced that committee members would call to say they couldn't make it to the parade.

He searched the parade staging area and saw no one from St. Brigid. He was surrounded by men in neon tights and headdresses made of colorful balloons. Drag queens in circus-bright makeup sashayed by.

Then, about 9:30, just as the parade was about to start, Dignan spotted Wong, Beatriz "Bebe" St. John and Jan Robinson. He let out a sigh of relief. Committee members were there not only for St. Brigid -- but also for him.

Migden and her entourage showed up. Dignan made a point of saying hello, so she would know that the St. Brigid crew was there.

Not long after the parade began, Father Cyril O'Sullivan joined them. Eleven years earlier, he had been transferred from St. Brigid to South San Francisco and then Marin County. He had been told to stay away from his former flock, but there he was, wearing his collar under a bulky sweater, and marching with the St. Brigid contingent in a gay parade.

As the group made its way up Market Street, others from St. Brigid were busy in a booth at the corner of Larkin and McAllister, across from City Hall. They had been there since 7 a.m. to gather signatures of support for Migden's bill allowing St. Brigid to be designated a historical landmark.

Lorraine Kelly, her silver hair in a loose bun, stood at the edge of the St. Brigid booth and tried to catch the attention of passers-by.

Directly across from the St. Brigid group was the Hot House Entertainment booth, with posters of videos with titles including "Screw" and "The Hard Way."

"I'm competing with that," she said, smiling.

Yet two hours into the parade, Kelly had gathered more than 200 signatures.

Soon, Dignan arrived at the booth. For so many years, he had been ashamed of being gay. Now, surrounded by the intrepid believers and his revered priest, Dignan no longer felt like an outsider.

This was his family now.

Gillibrand said...

Ill-advised to put it mildly!