With Pride Month in full swing in Hudson County, Our Lady of Grace Church in Hoboken is planning to host their 5th annual Pride Mass in Hoboken on June 26, where they will welcome and support the LGBTQ+ community.
The masses began back in 2018, and Rev. Alexander Santora, the pastor of the church, says that it’s to show that they’re welcoming.
“They’ve been very exhilarating and we’ve got hundreds of people who come,” he said. “We get families, we get people, couples. I think the message is an important one, because what it says to people is that God is a god of everyone, we’re all brothers and sisters and we learn from each other.”
The idea for the mass originated back in 2017, when Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the Archbishop of Newark, hosted a pilgrimage for LGBTQ+ people. Santora said that that event was a signal for them that they had a supportive pastor.
Since then, the church began a minstry called LGBTQ@Grace Ministry, run by Gary Stavella. “It really started out as an encounter group or a sharing group for LGBTQ people who may be Catholics who may feel disenfranchised with the church, and has evolved from that to a speaker series,” said Stavella.
Santora said that one time, a women who identified as lesbian came to a meeting and had cried saying that she never thought she would be welcomed at the church. “Those moments have been very powerful as people found a sense of healing,” he said. “That they’re welcomed here at the church.”
The church’s support stands in contrast to other religious groups that aren’t as friendly to LGBTQ people. When asked about that, Santora said that if they dwell on the hate, they won’t go anywhere.
Stavella added that he’s conflicted with his Catholic faith, noting that some parts of the faith in general is structured against gay people, but the reason why he remains Catholic is because of people like Santora that embrace welcoming everyone.
They also see this year’s Pride Mass as important, given a number of states such as Florida have passed laws that discriminate against LGBTQ people.
“There are groups in the United States, political and religious, who are trying to villainize gay people, and especially trans people at this point,” said Stavella. “The visibility of Our Lady of Grace holding its fifth annual Pride Mass and welcoming everybody is very important. It’s always important to be visible in your embrace of other people, especially now.”
Santora concluded that he hopes they’ll get the work and the church will be able to change. “We have a long ways to go,” he said. “There’s still a conservative bent to the Catholic Church. But I think with Pope Francis and Cardinal Tobin, there’s a much more openness to listen.”
The mass will begin at 10:30 a.m. Limited parking is available at the Willow Ave. lot next to the church rectory. Parking is also available in the municipal garage at 4th and Clinton Streets.