A Ministry of Accompaniment

A Conversation with Sister Nancy Corcoran

Stand in solidarity with and support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in our quest for inclusion and justice, knowing that Jesus welcomed everyone to the table respecting the dignity of every human person.
(Church, the People of God: Acts of Chapter 2013)

Sister Nancy’s time in campus ministry introduced her to individuals who challenged her to see gender in a new way. She committed to expand her knowledge and experiences with gender identity issues, and today, S. Nancy defines her ministry as one of presence and accompaniment with LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual) folks.

How did your interactions with students plant the seed for your current ministry?

In the summer of 2007, I joined the Wellesely College Interfaith Chaplaincy as the Catholic chaplain. My first concern was to create a community that was welcome to all Catholic students. I noticed immediately that the students manifested gender in ways of which I had never thought. Some students would appear very feminine, and the next time I met them their dress was definitely masculine. A woman’s college, we were graduating a couple of trans-men every year. The gender non-conforming students began to educated me by offering me books to read. I remember that first one was Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein … and my world enlarged.

Then you did research on gender identity during your sabbatical?

I retired from the college in 2015 and asked Province Leadership for a sabbatical to explore ministry with gender fluid (ultimately LGBTQIA) folks. New Ways Ministry's Executive Director Francis DeBernardo and Jeannine Gramick, SL introduced me to Luisa Derouen, OP who had ministered with transgender humans since 1998. Luisa became my mentor. My sabbatical revolved around hanging with transgender humans, attending national transgender conferences, auditing a course at Washington University on

Transgender History with Dr. Amy Cislo Eisen, and lots of research (reading, viewing and listening).

In your current ministry, do you work mostly with groups or individuals?

I define my ministry as one of presence and accompanyment. The Metro Trans Umbrella Group (MTUG), PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) meetings, the TransParent organization, the Trans Spectrum Conference (STL), and the Barnes/Jewish Children's Gender Clinic claim a majority of my time and talent. I find that my energy centers around presence with the families of trans humans at meetings or privately. I have become more aware of the awesomeness of unconditional love of families who accept their children for whom they (the child) know themselves to be. The integrity of transgender individuals, their desire to pay whatever the cost of becoming who they know themselves to be, challenges me to become my best self.

Is any of your work with directly with the Church community?

I define church as the People of God, so yes, my ministry deals directly with the church. The hierarchical clerical system of the Roman Catholic Church has offered weak understandings of the issues surrounding gender. The presentations on transgender sponsored by the Catholic church in our diocese lack intellectual rigor and concentrate on unenlightened dogma. Neither is helpful. I am now in dialogue with them to help them update their information.

How do you see your ministry as an expression of the CSJ mission, especially in light of the Acts of Chapter?

At our 2013 CSJ Congregational Chapter in Los Angeles, we as a congregation recognized the ignorance and intolerance surrounding humans who claim membership in the LGBTQIA communities. We promised to stand in solidarity and support, especially these folks in our quest for inclusion and justice, knowing that Jesus welcomed everyone to the table, respecting the dignity of every human person. We believe where one of us is, we all are present. I am proud to be one of the sisters who walks with members of communities who show us the multiple ways to be human.