ACT NOW: Support the Sisters of Mercy in San Francisco

Gabriel Bodenheimer

Earlier this month, the Sisters of Mercy in San Fransciso decided to continue the employment of Gabriel Bodenheimer (pictured above), a transgender man, at Mercy High School. Read coverage in the San Francisco Chronicle and National Catholic Reporter.

This flies in the face of recent trends within Catholic institutions to fire or expel LGBTQI employees and volunteers who choose not to hide who they are, opting instead to love who they love, and be their authentic selves. As a coalition of Catholic organizations that have spent more than 120 years combined working on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families, we do not want this small victory to go unnoticed!

Several of our member organizations and their supporters have already sent letters of thanks to the Sisters of Mercy in San Francisco, and have copied Archbishop Cordileone, too. We invite you to do the same, so that the Sisters of Mercy and Archbishop Cordileone both understand that the Church — the people of God — support the Catholic values of dignity, mutual respect, and inclusion.

We offer the sample letters below, which you may modify as you see fit.

Addresses:

Sister Laura Reicks, RSM, President
Sisters of Mercy, West-Midwest Region
7262 Mercy Road
Omaha, NE 68124
Email: sgoetzinger@mercywmw.org (assistant)

Diane Lawrence, Board Chair
Mercy High School
3250 Nineteenth Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94132
Email: zwan@mercyhs.org (office manager)

Gabriel Stein-Bodenheimer
Mercy High School English Department
3250 Nineteenth Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94132
Email: gbodenheimer@mercyhs.org

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone
Archdiocese of San Francisco
One Peter Yorke Way
San Francisco, CA 94109
Email: info@sfarchdiocese.org

Sample Letter to Mercy High School:

Dear Sister Laura and Members of the Board of Directors,

As a faithful, practicing Catholic committed to the full equality and dignity of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, I am writing to thank and commend you for your decision to continue to support a member of your faculty who is a transgender man.

I believe this decision is entirely consistent with the values of love, justice, and inclusion that are foundational to our faith. I appreciate your “resolve to support the dignity of each person—regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity” as expressed in your letter to the Mercy High School community. I applaud your sensitivity in making counselors and School administrators available to parents and other community members who need help in understanding this decision. I truly believe the approach you have taken models the highest of Catholic standards for your students.

Thank you for your willingness to do what is right, rather than what may be expected. I hope for many blessings on your ministry.

Sincerely,
[Your name and contact information]

Sample Letter to Archbishop Cordileone:

Your Excellency,

I am writing to thank you for your measured statements regarding the Mercy High School Board and administration’s decision to continue the employment of a transgender teacher. I truly appreciate that you and the school’s leadership had what sounds like very productive dialogue surrounding this decision, and that you see this decision as “consistent with mercy and Gospel values and the corporate identity of the school as a Catholic institution of secondary education.”

It is my hope and prayer that this model of respectful dialogue will be replicated in other situations, in order to avoid the tragic terminations of many talented, dedicated, and committed employees and volunteers based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. This has occurred too often, with negative repercussions to the individuals and the community involved.

As a practicing, faithful Catholic … [Insert a brief statement about your own faith and/or values you hold as a Catholic committed to the full equality of all LGBTQI people.]

Again, I am very gratified to see we stand on common ground on this matter.

With continued prayers for your ministry,
[Your name and contact information]

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