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

  • dominic solis

    Good article about how much good we can do just by being good examples. Richard is not celibate, however – he is CHASTE. Celibacy is the determination to remain unmarried; CHASTITY is the determination to remain continent, avoiding all activity related to the marital act. As Catholics we know that he is not unmarried, given the indissolubility of the marriage bond and the impossibility of divorce in the eyes of Our Lord. God bless Richard in his conversion and his determination to please God in his life. Maybe with adequate prayer, reconciliation with his wife may even be possible!

    • Actually I am single, as my marriage was nullified in 2006, and for personal reasons reconciliation with my former wife is not likely. But God can do all things and I have never ruled out that possibility. As to my example, as the person who posted below has pointed out rightly, I have a long ways to go indeed. But I am aiming towards it. That is what God asks of each of us, no more and no less. Thanks for your kind and encouraging remarks. Blessings.

    • Thank you for your very kind and compassionate remarks. You have no idea how much that means to us who struggle in this area or any area. Or maybe you do:) In any case that is what our Church must be about–both forgiving the sinner and then assisting them to “go and sin no more.” God bless.

    • Richard Gerard Evans

      My marriage was not within the Catholic Church and ended a quarter of a century ago. It was nullified in 2006 shortly before I was confirmed. So actually I am unmarried. As to chastity, I am aiming towards it always. But I would not pretend to be perfect by any means, however it is my aim. However I am celibate since 2004 as the article rightly indicates, and full chastity should be all of our goals, married or unmarried. God bless.

  • tschraad

    I was disappointed that the article did not show him having any regrets about throwing his wife (children?) into a ditch and did he ignore them for these 15 years? Was the marriage annulled? Did he help support his family during his unfaithfulness? Is his behavior setting a good example?
    Article leaves us with more questions than answers.

    • TSCHRAAD I find it amazing that one would need or be expected to “prove” his or her repentance after confessing and forsaking their sins to Christ through the priest, and that would go for those from whatever background. I surely did not throw anyone, at least intentionally, under the bus or in the ditch as you imply, and before I returned to the Church I made things absolutely right with my former wife. My children, 4 through miscarriage, are in heaven. I am also no longer married as I had been married outside of the Church and it was declared nullified officially before I was confirmed in 2006. I still send support to my former wife 23 years later and do so voluntarily. Any other questions or concerns regarding my example to others are self-explanatory. Just like you, I am very, very far from a perfect example of my Faith but I am working towards it. My perfection or lack of it was not the point of the article, but rather the healing of a loving Father, both on earth and in heaven, for those of us who are indeed grievous sinners–that would be you and me. I have been celibate since 1999, and very intentionally so, as the article indicates, since 2004. I ended my marriage in 1991-92, believing then that it was the best thing for us both. I have very publicly written elsewhere about this issue, and have long realized the sinfulness of that action.I have long since repented of this and taken it to the tribunal of the confessional, which is in fact the only one which counts in heaven or on earth. I wonder if you would react as you did, full of questions about my regrets and repentance, had I been involved in heterosexual sin, as many, many are who go to Mass every single Sunday? I hope you would be consistent on your implications, and perhaps you indeed would. Since I do not know you I will not assume the worst of you, and pray you do not of me. God bless.

      • tschraad

        Richard G. Evans – Thank you for your reply and may God continue to bless you.
        Yes, the article was about the love between you and your father which is wonderful. You have now told us about your wife and your children who are in God’s presence. In my opinion, as you may have determined, your wife and the children were a part of your life and should be a part of your acceptance of Jesus Christ and his commandments.
        I wish you to continue to be in God’s graces and I commend you for being responsible to the welfare of your former wife and I hope that she is also in God’s family.

        • Thank you for your reply also. I think the author of the article was attempting to focus on the relationship with my dad and me and how it related to my SSA issues. The other points are important of course, but I am sure that they only have a limited amount of space to cover, and getting into every detail was just not possible. But then again I guess that is what the comment section is for. God bless.

    • Richard Gerard Evans

      The purpose of the article was primarily to discuss my relationship with my late father, and how it, among many other things converging in my life, helped assist my path back to the Catholic Church. I have 4 children in heaven via miscarriages she (and I) suffered together. Although we did not remain married I took pains during all of the years after the marriage ended to reach out to her and we are close friends–and that did not happen right away but through a great deal of work and forgiveness on both of our parts. I expressed my regrets quite clearly in that I returned to a celibate life and to the Church via the sacrament of Reconciliation. She is a devoted Christian within another denomination. I hope that answers your concerns adequately. God bless.

  • Alicia Nguyen

    I love this story so much. God bless!