Courage, Faith, Acceptance
In celebration of their 40th anniversary, Acceptance Sydney has curated an exhibition which provides a fascinating insight into one of the world’s oldest Catholic groups for GLBT people. Reg Domingo reports.
“Acceptance practices what Jesus preached. Jesus reached out to all, including those who were not always accepted in society, and invited them to know his grace and love and grow their faith.”
So said former NSW Premier, and noted Catholic, Kristina Keneally of gay and lesbian Catholic group Acceptance which, in 2012, is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
To mark this occasion, the group has mounted a retrospective exhibition at Surry Hills Library, which was launched by Keneally on June 7.
Featuring rare photographs, archival material and historical texts, the exhibition chronicles the group’s evolution, providing a fascinating insight into one of Sydney’s most enduring GLBT community groups, and the second oldest gay Catholic group in the world.
Started by Sydney man Garry Pye in 1972 Acceptance members first gathered in each other’s homes for monthly mass. For many years, the group struggled to find a place in their church and the gay community. It wasn’t until 1990 that Acceptance was welcomed to a weekly parish mass at St Canice’s Catholic Church in Elizabeth Bay. In 2006, Acceptance moved to Newtown, where members attend services at the Catholic parish of St Joseph’s.
“While members of Acceptance, their families and friends can now worship in a Catholic church, and many gay Catholics are now able to actively participate in their parish liturgies and community life, it is important to remember that this was not possible only a few decades ago”, said Acceptance Sydney spokesperson Tim Smyth.
“The courage and determination of Garry Pye and his Acceptance colleagues in the 1970s needs to be recognised and acknowledged. The support and spiritual contribution of the many priests who celebrated Mass with Acceptance needs particular recognition. It took great courage to do so”.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP said Acceptance Sydney’s 40th anniversary was an opportunity to recognise the difficulty faced by the GLBT community in gaining acceptance in society and the church.
“Acceptance Sydney has played a major role in supporting lesbian and gay Catholics and promoting understanding. I particularly pay tribute to its founder, the late Garry Pye, who I came to know as a good friend.
"Garry’s leadership in Acceptance’s early years helped lay the foundations of one of the GLBT community's longest established organisations. Australia has made significant progress in accepting and recognising the human rights of GLBT people, in part due to the efforts of organisations such as Acceptance.
[Pictured] Top: Long-time Acceptance members Harry Fransen (far left), Michael Hing (third from left) and Tim Smyth (second from right) with former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally (third from right), City of Sydney councillor Philip Black (far right) and Ray Pye (second from left), the brother of Acceptance founder, Garry. Below: The exhibition at Surry Hills Library.
The Acceptance Sydney exhibition, part of the Sydney Pride Festival, is on throughout June at Surry Hills Library, 405 Crown Street, Surry Hills. For more on Acceptance Sydney, go to www.gaycatholic.com.au