Father’s love for gay son key to conversion

| August 27, 2015 | 11 Comments
Richard G. Evans, left, visits with his father, Donald, at a gathering Dec. 20, 2014.  Courtesy Richard G. Evans

Richard G. Evans, left, visits with his father, Donald, at a gathering Dec. 20, 2014.
Courtesy Richard G. Evans

Richard G. Evans remembers the day he told his father he was gay.

The conversation took place in the driveway of Donald Evans’ home in Princeton in August 1992. It was on a Saturday during a weekend-long family reunion. Donald’s youngest child had summoned the courage to say something Donald had suspected for a while.

“I was nervous telling him, even though I was 36 years old at the time,” Richard said. “He was actually tinkering on the car, and that’s a good time to catch him because he loved doing mechanics. So, I shared with him that I had same-sex attraction.”

What happened next changed the course of Richard’s life. Bracing himself for possible disapproval, especially after his coming out led to a divorce from his wife a month earlier, he got something else instead.

“He was very nice about it,” Richard recalled of his father’s reaction. “He didn’t preach or anything like that. He wasn’t that type of person. I believe his faith helped him because he said that one of the things he truly learned in his faith was to really be tolerant on a true level. That’s the biggest thing he said to me.”


The family as a home for the wounded heart

Many people, especially today, face painful situations resulting from poverty, disability, illness and addictions, unemployment, and the loneliness of advanced age. But divorce and same-sex attraction impact the life of the family in different but powerful ways. Christian families and networks of families should be sources of mercy, safety, friendship and support for those struggling with these issues.

— From the World Meeting of Families


Back to the Church

Donald continued to show support to his son, even though Richard was sexually active with men for about 15 more years. Eventually, due to his father’s love and resolving some internal conflicts with the Catholic faith of his upbringing, Richard made a decision to become celibate in 2004. Two years later, Richard — who had been longtime engaged in Protestant ministry — was confirmed at the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Olaf in downtown Minneapolis April 15, 2006.

He now has turned to helping others who struggle with same-sex attraction, and he recently attended his first meeting of Courage, a Catholic apostolate for people who are same-sex attracted. The unconditional love and acceptance he received from his father is something he wants to pass along to others. And, he believes it was key to his journey back to the Catholic Church.

Richard has become more  reflective of the landmark conversation and the relationship with his father because Donald died in April at age 92. The two connected often during the later years of Donald’s life, and they formed a bond that didn’t exist during Richard’s childhood.

“We had not been extremely close over the years,” said Richard, who now belongs to All Saints in Minneapolis. One thing that hampered the relationship was Richard’s growing awareness that his sexual desires were different from most boys his age.

Sensing that his father — and others — would disapprove, he kept that part of his life hidden.

That first conversation in 1992 led to many more. Lots of the talks centered on God, faith and, eventually, the Catholic Church. Richard had plenty to share about that, as he went through the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute (graduating in 2010) and joined the Knights of Columbus a year and a half ago.

Unconditional love

As his father reached the end of his life, he had one final message for his son. He wanted Richard to know that he believed God had “a reason he is the way he is,” Richard said.

That message ultimately was interpreted by Richard as his father’s unconditional love. And, as Donald’s strength was fading, he told one of Richard’s sisters to deliver this message in case he died before he had the chance to tell Richard himself.

Thankfully, Donald lived just long enough to have the face-to-face encounter with Richard he was hoping for.

“It was important enough to him to make positively sure that I heard from him before he died that he really, 100 percent, no questions asked, accepted me,” Richard said.

“That was big, and that’s something that I will carry with me forever.”

Slowly, Richard has been able to minister to others who are same-sex attracted. Because he has written essays on his journey, along with blog posts, people seek him out. Some express interest in following his example of being Catholic and celibate. Others aren’t so sure they want to take that path.

Regardless, Richard wants to show them the same love and mercy his father showed him.

“I take pains to not be condemning,” Richard said. “And, I also try to do it without being compromising either. That’s sort of a teeter totter to walk, but I think it’s worked pretty well for the most part.

“That’s what I think Pope Francis is doing a little bit differently than some of his predecessors. I don’t think he teaches anything differently than what was already there. But, I think his idea is, ‘Let’s reach people where they’re at, and then help them to change.’ That’s key.”


WMFlogoNinth of a series
Created for joy

In partnership with the publications of all Minnesota dioceses, The Catholic Spirit is launching an 11-part series on families based on the meeting’s 10 themes.

 

 


 

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Category: Featured, World Meeting of Families