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Dignity Philadelphia's
50th Anniversary:
Celebrating Our Past, Present and Future

On May 20 & 21, 2023, Dignity Philadelphia celebrated its 50th Anniversary, honoring Sr. Jeannine Gramick.  

Photos by Kelly Burkhardt

Q&A with Sr. Jeannine Gramick

Sister Jeannine Gramick was the Guest of Honor at Dignity Philadelphia’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, which took place in May 2023. In order to preserve the history of Dignity Philadelphia's founding and Sr. Jeannine's seminal role in its creation, the conversation was recorded and is shared below.

During the Q&A, Sr. Jeannine spoke about her role in the beginning of Dignity Philadelphia, including her friendship with Dominic Bash, and being set on the path of advocating for LGBTQ+ people in the Catholic Church. In conversation with Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, and Kate Carroll (Huffman) of Dignity Philadelphia, Sr. Jeannine also recounted her run-in with Cardinal Ratzinger and discussed her future hopes for LGBTQ+ people and the Catholic Church.

For more about Sr. Jeannine Gramick, please check out the following resources:

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Thank You To

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Founded in 1996, Tolsma Productions is a full-service video production and consulting company serving the nonprofit and business communities. Certified by the NGLCC as a LGBT Business Enterprise, Tolsma Productions is proud to support Dignity Philadelphia’s 50th Anniversary.

Thank You To Our Donors



Robert Bodnar

Michael Bradley
In Memory of Lorraine Bradley

Susanne Cassidy
In Honor of Sr. Jeannine Gramick

Leo Chang

Bob Cunningham
In Memory of Bill Clossey


Brian Fagan
In Memory of Frederick A. Brown


Barbara Gindhart
In Memory of Barbara A. Gindhart


Knock Restaurant & Bar

Michael Leiendecker

In Memory of Our Deceased Celebrants | In Honor of Henry Chau

Kevin Mahoney
In Memory of Father Ronald E.F. Hoskins

Dugan McGinley & Scott Rowlier
In Memory of all members who died of AIDS

Chuck Mills

Fr. Paul Morrissey, OSA
In Memory of Richard Cannuli, OSA and Ralph Monteiro, OSA

Emily Mullin & Liam Deihr
In Memory of Bill Quinn & Jimmy Calnan

Karen Murphy

Marc Radell

Br. Ben Regotti, OFM Cap
In Memory of Fr. Ron Hoskins

Michael Rocks
In Memory of Clyde Sams

Patricia Stubenbort
In Memory of Fr. Paul Stubenbort

Anne Tatreau
In Honor of Kate Huffman

Tom Yates

In Memory of Maurice Lapierre


List includes those who gave $100 or more as of April 22, 2023. We thank everyone for their contributions - no matter the size. We apologize for any unintentional omissions.

Dignity Philadelphia:
The Founding Vision, the Present Moment, and the Future

by Norman Simmons

As Dignity Philadelphia celebrates 50 years, we gain inspiration from the women and men who formed the early community and guided it during its those years. These people of faith set out on an amazing venture to explore what it means to be Catholic and LGBTQ. They changed their lives, our lives, and hopefully the lives of more LGBTQ people in the future.

The roots for Dignity Philadelphia go back to 1968, before even the first Dignity group in California started. John Politis, the first co-chair of Dignity Philadelphia, wrote:

“We were coming to home liturgies about once every other week for about six years before that [the start of Dignity Philadelphia]. We didn’t start on Sundays until 1974. We were advertising the liturgies on Tuesday and changed to Thursday nights and people referred to it as Tuesday night liturgy. We advertised by putting posters on poles in the gay areas of center city and west philly.”

The lesbian and gays who gathered for the home liturgies, were Catholic and Episcopalian. They cherished their ecumenism and lay leadership. Politis said they were inspired by the small Christian communities in Latin America.

Meanwhile in 1973, Sr. Jeannine Gramick, who was serving as a chaplain for Dignity Baltimore, published her article, “Myths around Homosexuals,” in the publication Intellect. One myth that she debunked was that homosexuals were pedophiles. Also, Sr. Jeannine would minister to the newly formed Philadelphia Chapter of Dignity.

In 1974 Dignity USA, the National Dignity organization, appointed John Politis and Bob Kahn as co-chairs of Dignity Philadelphia. They oversaw a year of progress with the Chapter. They joined the crusade (started by Barbara Gittings and the Gay and Lesbian Task Force of the American Library Association) to demand more books for lesbians and gays at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Also, they formed a committee to draw up a constitution for the Chapter.


In 1974, when Fr. Robert Nugent addressed Philadelphia City Council in support of the gay civil rights bill, the Archdiocese spoke against gay civil rights, and the bill did not pass.

In 1975, the president and vice-president met with the chancellor of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, but the results were negative: the Archdiocese gave no recognition of the Dignity/Philadelphia nor allowed the Chapter to use church property. 

The Archdiocese would ban Fr. Nugent from celebrating the Eucharist in Philadelphia. He and Sr. Jeannine left Philadelphia to found New Ways Ministry in Maryland.

Dignity members held protests to draw attention to discrimination. When the opportunities for lesbians and gays to socialize were few, Dignity hosted Halloween and New Year’s celebrations–sometimes with other LGBTQ groups. A member coached a baseball team. Some gathered to watch movies in their homes. The Chapter offered workshops to educate people on HIV/AIDS, made an AIDS quilt, and displayed memorial panels for Sunday Liturgy.

The vision of these Dignity Philadelphia pioneers bears these significant marks:

  • Roots of the community pre-dates the founding of Dignity chapters in Philadelphia and elsewhere

  • Chapter includes gay men, lesbians, and married couples with children

  • Ecumenical, includes Episcopalians, Catholics, even a Protestant of Jewish heritage

  • Lay leaders hold responsibility for running the Chapter

  • Membership tends to be middle-class

  • Members actively fight for gay civil rights

  • Ordained priests celebrate liturgies, despite Archdiocesan disapproval.

The vision of these founding women and men is a gift not just to us, but to the Church of Philadelphia.

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes but the passing on of the flame.” Pope Francis shares with us this insight from Gustav Mahler (Querida Amazonia, 2020). As we consider the following questions and dream of the future of Dignity Philadelphia, what is the flame that we will we pass on?

How does the founders’ vision open our future as a Chapter? 
What are the challenges of the present and the next years? 
How might we respond to those challenges? 
Do we take responsibility to hand the flame to a new generation and the next 50 years of Dignity Philadelphia?


Please send your comments on the founding vision, the Chapter’s challenges, and your hopes for the future to hello@dignityphila,org.

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