The support group Courage was established in 1980 in New York City, and has since grown into an international ministry. Courage has come to play a vital role as an authentically Catholic spiritual support system which persons with SSA can draw strength from in their efforts to live chastely. The goals of Courage are as follows:
1. To live chaste lives in accordance with the Roman Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality.
2. To dedicate our entire lives to Christ through service to others, spiritual reading, prayer, medication, individual spiritual direction, frequent attendance at Mass, and the frequent reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist.
3. To foster a spirit of fellowship in which we may share with one another our thoughts and experiences and so ensure that none of us has to face the problems of homosexuality alone.
4. To be mindful of the truth that chaste friendships are not only possible but necessary in chaste Christian life - to encourage one another in forming and sustaining them.
5. To live lives that may serve as good examples to others.
Courage meetings focus on the five goals above, and often use an adapted version of the Twelve Steps of A.A., which applies to the steps to the issue of homosexuality. The priest-leader or moderator of the group will give a short reflection on some particular aspect of homosexuality and then give a teaching on how Catholic spirituality can aid one in dealing with that issue. Members are given a chance to share with the group, if they so wish, about how the topic at hand applies to their own life and how he or she is dealing with that issue. The Courage support group setting can be a huge source of strength, because the person with same-sex attractions will not be alone in his or her struggle, and will also have the moral support and fellowship of those who share his or her goal of chastity and spiritual growth.
Members are also encouraged to fellowship and build good friendships with one another outside of the support group setting, and also to seek out friendships with those who do not experience same-sex attractions.
The Role of Encourage
In 1990, attention was given to the need for pastoral guidelines for the parents and loved ones of those with same-sex attractions. A support group for this need was initiated, and it eventually grew into what is now known as Encourage. Like Courage, Encourage provided authentic Catholic spiritual and moral support for its members. Many Encourage chapters exist in the United States.
The goals of Encourage are as follows:
1. To promote a spirit of compassion and acceptance among the members so that they may share with one another their thoughts and experiences and so ensure that no one will have to face the problems of homosexual loved ones alone.
2. To foster the practice of service to others, spiritual reading, prayer, meditation, individual spiritual direction, frequent attendance at Mass, and the frequent reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist.
3. To encourage loved ones in the development of chaste friendships.
4. To witness by good example to others who have homosexual loved ones.
(Source: Same Sex Attraction: Catholic Teaching and Pastoral Practice by Fr. John F. Harvey, OSFS)