LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ)- Lexington’s Pride Festival is Saturday and to celebrate Pride Month one nearby catholic church has put out a sign saying all, including those in the LGBTQ community are welcome and encouraged to join its parish.
Nick Ralston says he grew up in the catholic church but as a gay man struggled to find his place in the church once he got older.
“About the time of college I really fell away from the faith. You know I didn’t feel as welcome in the catholic church. So I dropped off until about two years ago,” said Ralston.
That’s when Ralston found Saint Paul Catholic Church in downtown Lexington.
“They did the For Pulse, the concert an I thought that’s very nice, seems like a welcoming church and so I decided just to come to mass one day and someone I never knew just came up to me and said I hope you feel very welcome, come back some time,” said Ralston.
Stan “JR” Zerkowski is Saint Paul’s facilitator of catholic LGBT ministry and says it was his and the church’s leadership idea to reach out the the LGBT community after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida two years ago.
“We found out that many of them were hurting and really had bad experiences with church. So that sort of motivated us to intentionally welcome and to intentionally reach out to these brothers and sisters on the peripheries,” said Zerkowski.
Reach out they have, last year Saint Paul was the first catholic church to participate in Lexington’s pride festival and in addition to participating in the festival again this year, the church has also put up a banner for the duration of pride month making sure everyone knows the LGBT community is welcome.
“We’re the gay church. We’re the refugee church. We’re the immigrant church. We’re the black church. We’re the white church. We’re the poor church. We’re the rich church. We’re the church where everyone is welcome,” said Zerkowski.
While there is always some push back, Ralston says he is so proud his church is taking a stand.
“It also makes me feel hopeful that now that people see this that they can come in and they can feel that warm welcome that I felt and know that they’re loved and there is a seat at the table for them,” said Ralston.
This year both Ralston and Zerkowski will be running Saint Paul’s booth at Saturday’s pride festival.