By FR. KEROLOS SALEIB
Saint Damien of Molokai Parish is an Old Catholic Congregation in Washington, D.C., that offers those raised in the Roman Catholic tradition, as well as other faiths, a new spiritual home of unconditional and unreserved acceptance.
Many other Christian churches offer acceptance, but they often attach denigrating strings or withhold full participation in God’s gifts to those they deem less than worthy. Saint Damien and the Old Catholic Church do not prejudge anyone’s worthiness to receive Holy Communion — all are welcome at Christ’s table. The sacrament of marriage is open to all couples whose love is strong and abiding and built on faith, even if they have been divorced or are of the same sex. The Old Catholic church does not reserve the sacrament of ordination to celibate men, but instead recognizes that Christ may call anyone to service in priesthood — women and men, mothers and fathers, gays and lesbians — if their faith and devotion are strong enough to carry that great responsibility.
This unique spirit of inclusion is at the very heart of Saint Damien Parish. We see these sacraments as real celebrations of God’s love and doorways to our spiritual fulfillment and healing. A guiding philosophy of Saint Damien Parish is that spirituality has huge healing powers — for fighting disease, addiction or self-destruction; for getting over a bad breakup; for coping with guilt, shame and low self-esteem; for breaking the bonds of loneliness, depression and anxiety; for celebrating God’s love for each and every one of us; for becoming better people. These healing powers can be boosted tremendously if fostered in an affirming community of like-minded people, but they can dwindle quickly if people feel excluded or unworthy. In committing ourselves to offering unconditional love and support to others, both inside and beyond our parish, we become larger than ourselves. In this way, we truly follow God’s instructions to “be fruitful and multiply” in a whole different way than we may have thought we ever would.
Many of our clergy and members share experiences of rejection and isolation, often from the very churches where they had previously sought consolation and community. Saint Damien offers everyone a clean slate, an unconditional opportunity to get reacquainted with God and the affirming traditions of the Christian faith.
We let God be the judge of our hearts, and we strive to form a loving community where we are all our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, regardless of who they are or what they have done. We celebrate our faith and community throughout the year, at Sunday Mass as well as other holy observances, such as the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. We convene regularly in smaller groups — such as in our singles and couples ministries — in which we share our experiences, learn from each other and discover meaningful new ways to understand the scriptures and be inspired by them. We have fellowships, in which we share good food and good laughs (and good cocktails). We sponsor pilgrimages, in which we literally walk in the footsteps of our heroes, such as Saint Damien of Molokai. We create outlets of our charity and good will, such as by supporting outreach ministries to those struggling with loneliness, HIV/AIDS, addictions, and other challenges. In everything we do at Saint Damien Parish we welcome EVERYONE home.
Saint Damien Parish is under the care of Archbishop Julius Licata of the Old Catholic Apostolic Church of the Americas, who traces the succession of his office directly back to Christ’s apostles. We don’t operate on the fringe of any other organized religion — we have a long and proud history, dating back to the 19th century, of operating independently of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, while sharing its more affirming traditions and history. In fact, many of our fundamental beliefs, including the sanctity of same-sex unions, date back to the very early Christian Church.
Saint Damien of Molokai Parish meets for Mass each Sunday at 5 p.m. in the Phillips Chapel of the National City Christian Church at 5 Thomas Circle (two blocks north of the McPherson Square Metro on the Blue and Orange Lines).