Stan "JR" Zerkowski is the founder of Lexington (Kentucky) UNITED Interfaith Encounters and Lexington UNITED Interfaith Dialogues. He designed and facilitated Lexington's first Pride Interfaith Service at the historic Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center to cap Lexington Pride Month and the Lexington Pride Festival, bringing together more than 26 interfaith leaders--Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Muslims--as well as civic and community leaders, including Lexington's mayor.
In 2016, Zerkowski founded the first LGBTQ+ ministry in the Catholic Diocese of Lexington at Historic Saint Paul Church. The ministry was the impetus for the Diocese’s LGBT Outreach Commission, created by Bishop John Stowe in 2021, which is part of the diocesan structure under the Peace & Justice Ministry. Zerkowski also founded “Together on the Journey,” an LGBTQ+ Family, Friends, and Allies Ministry, now Fortunate Families Lexington. He was instrumental in beginning two LGBTQ+ support groups at Lexington Catholic High School and other Catholic LGBT Ministry Sites throughout the United States.
As the first executive director of Fortunate Families, Zerkowski travels throughout the United States and beyond speaking about LGBTQ+ intentional welcome and LGBTQ+ ministry within the Catholic Church, including such topics as "Prudence and Possibilities," "Do Whatever He Tells You," "Orthodoxy is Living Catholic Social Teaching," and "What Is the Reason for Our Hope?" as he accompanies those discerning or beginning Catholic LGBTQ+ ministry. He leads Days of Discernment and Visioning, Days of Reflection, and retreats for parishes, colleges, high schools, teachers, campus ministers, campus ministries, presbyterates, parish staffs, and communities of consecrated women and men.
His monthly faith-based article appears in LinQ, the Pride Community Services Organization of the Bluegrass LGBTQ+ magazine. He has been a contributor to many publications including Pastoral Liturgy magazine, Liturgy Training Publications and Villanova magazine.
Zerkowski’s undergraduate and first graduate studies in human resource development and administration were at Barry University in Miami, Florida. He completed the REAPS program through Sacred Heart University, earning a certificate in spiritual direction. He was a delegate to the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy's Liturgical Congress held at Pontificio Ateneo Sant'Anselmo, Rome, Italy. After earning a master's degree in church management from the Villanova University School of Business, he was awarded the highest honor a graduate student can attain at Villanova: the Bartley Medallion. He is a member of the honor societies Phi Kappa Phi and Beta Gamma Sigma.
He has received five mayoral proclamations for his interfaith and LGBTQ+ initiatives; was named a Commonwealth Ambassador by the Kentucky Secretary of State; was awarded the honorary commission of Kentucky Colonel in 2013; and, in 2017, received the Lexington Fairness Jonathan Barker Leadership Award, given in part because he "has taken the words of Pope Francis to heart and has worked to build bridges between the LGBT and faith communities."
In 2019, Zerkowski received the George H. W. Bush Points of Light Award for his work building bridges for both the LGBTQ+ community and the interfaith community in Lexington, Kentucky, and was recognized by Rabbi David Wirtschafter of Temple Adath Israel with a Jethro Award for his work building bridges within the Lexington community. In February 2020, he received the Stone Catcher of the Year Award from the Kentucky Partnership for Families and Children.
He served on the board of directors of Lexington Fairness and is a current member of the executive board of the Kentucky Council of Churches. He has served on the Diocese of Lexington Stewardship Advisory and the Black Faith Leaders of Lexington and Vicinity Subcommittee on Law Enforcement. He is past vice president and a current member of the board of trustees of the Newman Foundation and is chair of the Newman Foundation Distinguished Speakers. Appointed by Bishop Ronald W. Gainer, he served for several years on the Opportunities for Life Advisory Council in the Diocese of Lexington. In 2021 he was appointed to the Mayor's Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index Workgroup for the city of Lexington and also to the Mayor's Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index Law Enforcement Subgroup. He is a member of the Tyler Clementi Foundation Faith Committee, serves on the CASA of Lexington (Court-Appointed Special Advocates for Children) Volunteer Recruitment Advisory Committee, and is a member of the Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition Steering Committee. He is chair of the Diocese of Lexington LGBT Outreach Commission and director of Catholic LGBTQ+ Ministry Lexington at Historic Saint Paul Catholic Church. He is also a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus.
In February 2022, his first book was published, COMING OUT and COMING HOME, a Catholic gay man's journey from marginalization to ministry, with a few miracles along the way.
(This biographical statement provided by Stan “JR” Zerkowski.)
Catholic (Roman) | Activist (religious institutions) | Author/editor | Kentucky | Lexington | Fortunate Families
“Stanley "JR" Zerkowski | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed March 30, 2023, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/stanley-jr-zerkowski.