The 40th anniversary edition of the Courage and EnCourage chaplain’s handbook is now publicly available at the Courage website, couragerc.org. Previously, the handbook was only distributed within the apostolate.
Bochanski has served at Courage International since 2015, and as executive director since 2017. For him, the 40th anniversary year of Courage is a time to be “mindful of the rich legacy we received from our founding members.”
Courage founder Father Harvey had invited the first members to compose the Courage goals themselves.
“The language and priority of the goals comes directly from the needs and desires of our founding generation,” said Bochanski. “Revising and expanding the handbook, and structuring it on a discussion of the goals, seemed the perfect way to celebrate our legacy and to hand it on to the next generation of Courage and EnCourage members.”
The handbook’s latest edition is an opportunity “to present the insights we have received over the past four decades, both from the rich development of the Church’s pastoral teaching, and from the shared experience of our members.”
It is the first edition to have an entire section dedicated to the EnCourage apostolate. Despite the similar structures of Courage and EnCourage meetings, Bochanski said, their members have different experiences, questions and needs.
The handbook has a Jubilee prayer for the Courage and EnCourage apostolates. It discusses topics like establishing a Courage chapter, publicizing local chapters, guidelines for the use of personal testimonies, questions of sexual identity and gender identity discordance, and collaboration with other groups.
The handbook includes Catholic teaching on same-sex attractions and sexual morality: excerpts from the Catechism on the Catholic Church; documents from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2006 document “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care.” The U.S. bishops’ document is included in the print edition of the handbook, but not in the internet version due to reasons of copyright.
Bochanski said making the chaplain’s handbook public would help respond to false understandings of the work of the Courage apostolate.
He said “there are more than a few people in the Church and in the wider society who have misunderstandings, or have been told deliberate mischaracterizations, of our approach to ministry.”
“Some individuals and groups opposed to the Church’s teaching use such mischaracterizations in an attempt to discredit our apostolate or marginalize it,” he continued. “I am hopeful that, by posting the Handbook online, we will have a greater opportunity to speak for ourselves to anyone interested in understanding our approach, and in doing so finally put these misunderstandings to rest.”
The latest handbook edition was drafted with comment from Courage staff, members and chaplains of Courage and EnCourage, the apostolate’s board of directors, bishops on its episcopal board, and diocesan staff responsible for granting church approval and imprimaturs.
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Bochanski characterized the handbook as “the work of many hands, minds and hearts.”
“Fundamentally, our approach is based on the pastoral insights of our founding director, Father John F. Harvey, OSFS, whose memory is still quite vibrant whenever we gather, especially with our older members,” he told CNA.
Each handbook has been shaped by the apostolate chaplains’ insights, especially those of the second executive director, Father Paul Check, Bochanski said.
“As we gather with our members at chapter meetings and conferences, we learn from their experience and questions what techniques are most effective in pursuit of the goals,” he said. “As we talk to clergy and others in ministry, we understand which questions are most important to those on the ’front line’ of pastoral ministry at a given point in the life of the Church.”
“As we encounter challenges and criticisms from others who take a different pastoral approach, we are motivated to present and express the Church’s teachings more clearly,” said the priest.
“As questions of sexuality and sexual identity become an increasingly important part of our discussions as a Church and as a society, I believe Courage International is well equipped to contribute to those discussions with a clear witness to the authentic teaching of the Gospel and the Church. Our new Handbook is an important part of our efforts to make such a contribution.”