Jeannine Gramick is a Sister of Loretto, born and raised in Philadelphia, where she was educated in the Catholic school system, where she felt her call to religious life, and where, almost 50 years ago, she began a ministry to lesbian and gay people, which has transformed the Catholic Church in the United States and beyond.
In 1971, very few Catholics were talking about LGBT issues when Sister Jeannine, then a doctoral student in mathematics education at the University of Pennsylvania, met Dominic Bash, an alienated gay Catholic man who asked her, “What is the Catholic Church doing for my lesbian and gay sisters and brothers?” Sister Jeannine responded that she didn’t know, but she would find out.
She learned, of course, that nothing was being done for this community, so she decided to do something. She arranged home Masses, prayer services, and discussions for Dominic and his friends. Little did Sister Jeannine realize that she was pioneering a ministry that now reaches into countries throughout the globe.
In 1977, along with Father Robert Nugent, she established New Ways Ministry, an international Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for the LGBT community and the Catholic Church. Sister Jeannine continues her educational work with New Ways Ministry through public advocacy and has authored or edited more than a hundred articles or books.
Sister Jeannine has received dozens of awards from Catholic and LGBT organizations. Her outreach was the subject of the award-winning documentary, “In Good Conscience: Sister Jeannine Gramick’s Journey of Faith”.
A Vatican investigation of her ministry culminated in a 1999 order from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to cease her work. Her discernment led her to respond, “I choose not to collaborate in my own oppression.” In the political fallout, Sister Jeannine transferred from the School Sisters of Notre Dame to the Sisters of Loretto, who continued to receive letters from the CDF that Sister Jeannine cease her LGBT ministry or be dismissed from religious life. With the election of Pope Francis, the Vatican letters ceased.
A great supporter of Pope Francis, Sister Jeannine’s car has a bumper sticker that reads: “I (picture of red heart) Pope Francis,” and her computer is adorned with the sticker, “This Pope Gives Me Hope!”