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Fr. Martin to Students: Open Your Hearts to the Excluded

Jim Norman

The title of the talk Father James Martin, S.J. gave to students for Canterbury’s Social Justice Series—“Walking with the Excluded”—sounds simple enough. But Fr. Martin knows from experience that it is anything but simple.

A Jesuit priest and bestselling author, he has devoted his life to advocating for people who are ignored, forgotten, or rejected by society. During his Zoom presentation hosted by the Sacristans, Fr. Martin shared how he has worked with refugees, prison inmates, street gang members, and others who were “on the margins” over the years. Most recently, his personal ministry led him to connect with LGBTQ Catholics.

“I began this work right after the Pulse Nightclub massacre in 2016, when 49 people were killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida,” he recalled. That inspired him to write Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.

"In 2019, I met with Pope Francis to discuss LGBTQ Catholics and how he and the Church could reach out,” he continued. “And I’m going to be starting a website for LGBTQ Catholics called Outreach.”

Fr. Martin also shared three Gospel stories—about the Roman centurion, the Samaritan woman at the well, and Zacchaeus the tax collector—that perfectly illustrate how Jesus treated people who were excluded with compassion and dignity. “These stories show how this is foundational to the Gospel and rooted in Jesus’ ministry,” he said. “It’s not just some current thing, some woke or politically correct thing. It is a fundamental part of the Gospels.”

Director of Campus Ministry & Retreats Devon McCormick was delighted by the powerful messages Fr. Martin delivered to students. “He has been incredibly influential in the lives of so many who have read his books, listened to his talks, and learned from his model of inclusive ministry. We are thrilled to welcome him to our hilltop!”

Such a calling hasn’t always been easy for Fr. Martin, or, he says, for Christians in general. “A lot of times being Catholic calls us to do the unpopular thing,” he explained. “It is helping someone who is poor, inviting someone who was excluded into the group even when it costs you. To be able to welcome someone in the face of opposition is really important. We all need to work toward more inclusion; it opens our hearts.”