Francis DeBernardo serves as Executive Director of New Ways Ministry, a national Catholic ministry of justice, education, and reconciliation for lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer Catholics and the wider Church community. He began volunteering at New Ways Ministry in 1992, joined the staff in 1994, and was appointed Executive Director in 1996, a position he still holds.
As New Ways Ministry director, he serves as editor and contributor of Bondings 2.0, the organization’s daily blog about Catholic LGBT news, opinion, and spirituality which he started in 2011. He was credentialed by the Vatican to cover the 2015 Synod on the Family, the 2018 World Meeting of Families, the 2018 Synod on Youth, the 2019 Vatican Summit on Sexual Abuse. He reported daily on the proceedings of each of these events.
He has conducted programs on lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer (LGBTQ) issues and Catholicism in religious and secular settings throughout the United States. He also consults with parishes, schools, religious communities, and other Catholic institutions on developing pastoral initiatives and programs for LGBT people. He has presented talks, workshops, and retreats to church groups, university audiences, and the media on the following topics: the Vatican’s approach to homosexuality; the history of Catholic ideas about sexuality; the language and arguments of Catholic thinking on homosexuality; gay/lesbian/transgender development and spirituality; U.S. Catholic pastoral outreach to LGBTQ people; the spiritual gifts of LGBTQ Catholics; new theological approaches to LGBTQ people and sexuality; Catholicism and marriage equality; transgender spirituality and pastoral care. He has conducted programs in 83 dioceses across the U.S.
He is the author of the booklet, Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach (Mount Rainier, Maryland: New Ways Ministry, 2011). He has published articles in Commonweal, National Catholic Reporter, Advocate.com and American Catholic. He contributed an essay to May My Lips Kiss Yours, an anthology about Chinese LGBTQ Catholics. He wrote the foreword to Dr. Jay Michaelson’s report, “Religious Liberty: Old Myths, New Impacts,” published by Political Research Associates. He is writing a biography of Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, a gay Catholic priest who died in the 9/11 attacks, to be published by Liturgical Press in 2020.
He was the keynote speaker at the conference on religion and homosexuality at the first World Pride celebration in Rome, in 2000. In 2012, he was a panelist on religion and LGBTQ issues at Word Pride in London. In 2014, he was a panelist on a panel exploring the issue of criminalization laws against LGBTQ people at an international seminar in Rome. In 2017, he was a speaker at the Intimate Conviction Conference, Kingston, Jamaica, which examined the role of churches in the anti-sodomy laws in the British Commonwealth.
In 2014, he helped to organize the Ways of Love Conference, an international theological meeting about LGBTQ issues, held in Rome. On the evening after that meeting, a group of the conference's organizers from several countries gathered to debrief and devised the plan for what would be called the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC), an international network of Catholic LGBTQ organizations and individuals. He helped to organize the GNRC's inaugural Assembly in Rome in 2015, and was elected to serve on the Steering Committee for 2015-2017. In 2017, he was elected to serve on GNRC's first board of directors, where he held the office of secretary.
Mr. DeBernardo was a reporter and section editor for The Tablet, the newspaper of the Brooklyn Diocese. He taught writing, literature, and rhetorical theory courses for ten years at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he also served as the Assistant Director of the campus’ Writing Center and as a Coordinator for the Freshman Writing Program.
He serves as Treasurer of the Board of Directors of the Quixote Center, a faith-based social justice organization that works on international development, criminal justice reform, and renewal of the Catholic Church. He has also served as Vice President of this board.
He has served as Vice President and member of the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Homes, Inc., one of the oldest and largest housing co-operatives in the nation. He founded GreenBeLT Pride, a social group in Greenbelt, Maryland (motto: “You can’t spell ‘Greenbelt’ without ‘GBLT’!”).
He was a member of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Riders Advisory Council from 2009 to 20014; he served as Chair of this Council for 2010 and 2011.
He currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia, and he is a member of the Anti-Racism Team of Pax Christi USA, a Catholic organization which promotes nonviolence.
He was born on January 12, 1959, in Brooklyn, New York, and was raised there in a large Catholic and Italian-American family. He grew up in Immaculate Heart of Mary parish, and graduate from their elementary school. He attended John Dewey High School, a New York City public school, and he graduated from there in 1977.
Mr. DeBernardo attended the State University of New York at Binghamton, and he received his bachelor’s degree in 1981 from Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut. He holds a master’s degree in English from the University of Maryland, College Park. He completed doctoral coursework in Rhetoric at the University of Maryland and the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC. His research focused on Catholic language and arguments about homosexuality.
(This biographical statement provided by Francis DeBernardo.)
Biography Date: September 2019