Kevin Calegari, a gay Roman Catholic man, was a lifelong activist for gay and lesbian visibility and acceptance within the Catholic Church. Most notably, he served as president of Dignity USA, a coalition of LGBT Catholics advocating for themselves within the church. Kevin played a significant role in increasing the community visibility of the organization and encouraging the Catholic Church to stand up against laws that discriminated against LGBT people in America. Kevin passed away from AIDS at 36 years old after a lifetime of LGBT Catholic advocacy work.
Kevin Calegari was born on March 13, 1958 and was adopted by an Italian-American couple, Joseph and Lorayne Calegari, who raised him and his sister Joanie in San Francisco. The Calegaris were Catholic, so Kevin and his sister were raised in the tradition as well. An examination of Kevin's life shows that he was a natural born leader in the church. Once, his mother remarked that when he was just a baby of three weeks old she took him to church and he became "totally transfixed already by the candles, the Cross, all the sights of the altar."
As a child, he attended St. Vincent de Paul Elementary School and received an education that was typical for a young Catholic child, a mix of academics and religious teachings. As a teenager, he attended Marin Catholic High School in San Anselmo, California. It was here in this city that his religious career officially kicked off, serving as a youth leader for the school.
Kevin attended Stanford University and majored in classics. During his college education, he took the opportunity to see some of the world and studied abroad in both England and Rome. At the time of his death, Kevin was in college for a second time, studying for a degree in Systematic Theology. During his time in college, Kevin knew he was gay and knew he wanted to serve the Catholic Church, two things that at the time were mutually exclusive. Aware that he would not be able to pursue a traditional religious career, he focused his efforts on philanthropy, which he considered to be a crucial part of his religious values and expression. He began to work in philanthropy in San Francisco, eventually becoming the Associate Director of Development at the University of San Francisco. Here he was involved in the creation of the Koret Health and Recreation Center, a community sports facility that continues to serve the USF campus. Moving forward, he became the Director of the Annual Fund at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. In addition to his work in San Francisco, he also served as the Executive Director of the Community Counseling Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.
While he was in college, Kevin became familiar with the organization DignityUSA. Dignity focuses on achieving equality for LGBTQ+ Catholics both in the church and in society at large. Beginning in 1980, Kevin became an active member of the Dignity San Francisco chapter and became increasingly involved in the organization as time went on. In 1987, he became the co-chair of Dignity USA and served on a committee that published works on sexual ethics as it relates to LGBTQ+ members of the Catholic Church. From 1991 to 1994, he served as Dignity's national president. During his time as president, Kevin worked tirelessly to convince the Catholic Church of their moral and religious obligation to actively fight laws endangering LGBT citizens. In one particularly bold move, he mailed the Vatican a copy of the New Testament, along with his suggestions for fighting these laws.
Kevin was diagnosed with AIDS in 1985 and Karposi's Sarcoma two years after that. He felt that his diagnosis "turbo-charged" his spiritually and he felt that he had become more involved in theology, letting it take the center stage over the philanthropy work he has been doing for most of his life. He returned to school at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley to study systematic theology. His master's thesis centered mainly around DignityUSA as an example of the ongoing changes in the Reform Catholic movement. Just before his death, he had been accepted into the doctoral program at the Graduate Theological Union. During this time, Kevin also played a critical role in developing the Rick Cohen Residence, a care center for homeless San Franciscan AIDS patients.
Kevin passed away in his hometown of San Francisco on February 12, 1995. Per his request, he was cremated and some of his ashes were scattered in Rome and in Hawaii. Kevin's leadership in the Catholic Church, AIDS advocate community, and LGBTQ+ community continue to have an impact on those who worked with him or are familiar with his legacy.
(This profile was written by Noah Prince using the following resources: Kevin Calegari’s obituary, testimony from his partner of 11 years Thomas Kaun, and a lecture written by Deacon Brian Bromberger that contains testimony from Kevin’s friends and family.)
Catholic (Roman) | Dignity | Activist (religious institutions) | AIDS | Theology | San Francisco | California
“Kevin Calegari | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed February 25, 2021, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/kevin-calegari.