Feature Story

Sister Virginia (Ginny) Sheehan has a gentle manner and a warm smile as she welcomes directees into her office in Connecticut where she ministers as a Spiritual Director. This welcoming approach is a constant as Sister Ginny balances a full schedule offering spiritual direction, giving retreats or serving as a facilitator for the Open Hearts parents of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) adult children at the Franciscan Center for Urban Ministry at Saint Patrick Saint Anthony Church in Hartford, Connecticut.

Raised in Hartford, Ginny’s parents taught their children that a meaningful life involved giving to others. “ My brothers and I were encouraged to help out in the neighborhood. When I was able to drive, the only reason I was able to use the car was if I was driving the sisters in our parish to appointments! I never had the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in school, but I was attracted to these SNDdeNs in our parish because of their spirit of joy and their sense of the goodness of God

After graduating from Emmanuel College, Ginny taught high school and then served in parish ministry before studying for a certificate in Spiritual Direction and Spirituality at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California and Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.

"During the course of a Spiritual Direction session in 1995, a directee shared that her son recently wrote a letter to her husband and herself to tell them he was Gay. "Ginny said." I could see her unconditional love as well as the deep concern and fear she had for his well-being and acceptance by others.

After reflecting on that session, I discovered the risk of depression and suicide among LGBT individuals who reported high levels of suffering related to experiences of isolation and rejection. I felt called to help and offered to be a part of the Open Hearts Parents and Friends of LGBT Adult Children at the Franciscan Center for Urban Ministry. The members share a deep love and respect for their children and a desire to support them in terms of family, the church and society in general. "At a recent Open Hearts parents meeting members greeted one another warmly as they entered the room for their monthly meeting. Also present was Michael Reynolds a member of the Open Hearts LGBTgroup. Michael was the editor of the book, Our Place at the Table: Stories of Welcome and Reality from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Catholics & Friends.*  This collection of people's personal stories and experiences seeks to build awareness, understanding, and offer specific ideas for religious leaders and lay Catholics to further build more inclusive and welcoming LGBT Catholic parishes and communities, from the first-hand needs and thoughts of those featured in this book.

Michael spoke about his experiences at Saint Patrick/Saint Anthony Church. "As a gay man, I immediately felt a warm welcome from parishioners who are a diverse group of people from all walks of life. After being here for a while, I felt drawn to take on additional leadership and assumed a leadership role in our Open Hearts LBGT ministry."

Responding, Ginny said, " Michael has done a great job and Our Place at the Table* is a heartfelt sharing from the Open Hearts LGBT members and the Open Hearts Parents and Friends Group. Members have shared the book with individuals and with groups involved in the LBGT ministry. It has been very well received."

"Sister Ginny is being modest by not mentioning her own contributions" Michael stated. "I have seen her save the lives of young people who were struggling with their identity or who were rejected by others because of being LGBT. Sister Ginny offered respect and love and helped people reconnect with their self-respect and become hopeful again. She has been a steady and positive resource for us."

Sister Ginny said, "I believe that with all my heart that where one Sister of Notre Dame de Namur is present in a particular ministry we are all present. Working with this community who have experienced being on the margins is a deeply spiritual experience for me."

* If you would like an electronic copy of Our Place at the Table:  Stories of Welcome and Reality from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Catholics & Friends, please contact Sister Ginny Sheehan at

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