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Need Spiritual Interaction in Lincoln, Nebraska
May 29, 1998

You noted in other messages that you knew priests who would work with people with AIDS. I wonder if you know any in the Lincoln, Nebraska, area? The reason I ask is based on the story below:

Sometime ago I was asked to be an "AIDS Buddy" to a fellow who moved from Chicago back home to Lincoln, Nebraska, for the last months of his life. Since he was unfamiliar with the Church in the area, he asked if I would help arrange his funeral and contact a compassionate priest to whom he might go to confession. I called the Chancery, explained the situation; and was immediately greeted with: "We don't condone that sort of behavior." I asked, "What behavior? All I told you was that the fellow has AIDS and would probably die within the next few months." I then called almost every Catholic Church in Lincoln. Not one priest with whom I spoke would provide a positive spiritual environment or funeral for this fellow. I then called the Omaha Chancery and got someplace.

I have never been so disappointed in my Church. For a while I could not go to a local Mass. The preaching of hate was so evident. I tried the Ukranian Byzantine Catholic Church in my area. It gave me a spiritual outlet for worship, but not interactively as the priest did not speak English.

So, I am at a lost. Can you make any suggestions of what to do? Might you know priests in this area who would not condemn the person to hell yet offer some spiritual comfort? Once in a while I get an "AIDS Buddy" who is Catholic. If I lie to the priest and tell him that they are dying from Cancer, they work with the person... but this is so dishonest (One family requested that do this and tell no one about the true nature of their son's illness.)

Thanks in advance for any ideas or help.

EJN

Response from Father DeMartini

Dear EJN

Thanks for your inquiry. I have to admit that as I read your story I felt a mixture of deep sadness and intense anger at the closed doors you described so powerfully.

The only listings I can find for Network contacts in Nebraska are the AIDS Task Force for the Archdiocese of Omaha (402-558-3100) and Catholic Charities in Omaha (402-554-0520). Even though they are distant--they may know of a priest near or in Lincoln or the vicinity who could be sensitive. Also, I know that phone ministry and outreach has its limits--but you or your friend could call me at 707-874-3031. God's healing grace can deal with phone lines I am sure!

I realize that the Church is composed of humans who can get in the way of God's grace and the boundless outreach that Jesus witnessed in the Gospel. I believe that most often people who make judgments and close doors to others are basically afraid and angry and are unwilling to let others in. I also believe that Jesus challenges us to love our enemies anyway and I try to pray for them as a gesture of love -- that they can be healed as well.

I would also like to encourage you to become more familiar with our National Catholic AIDS Network and our annual gathering in July in Chicago. It is a wonderful and diverse Catholic community that can provide immeasureable support and resources for people like you and your friend who live in the "deserts" of the Church.

Please keep me posted on whether my referrals were helpful. I keep you in my prayers. Fr. Rod



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