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March 2024

Christ in the Wilderness by Moretto da Brescia (Alessandro Bonvicino), c. 1515-1520, Metropolitan Museum of Art

"The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.

He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. (Mark 1:12-13)

Message From Our Associate Director

Dear friends,

On the First Sunday of Lent, the Church gave us the Temptation of Christ in the Desert from the Gospel of Mark focusing on the culmination of Christ's forty days in the wilderness. Our Savior's time in the desert serves as the archetype to which preceding symbolic acts pointed and as an allegory of how we, too, must spend time in the desert, so that we may be ready for our own passion, death, and resurrection. The stories of Noah, the Exodus, and Jonah's preaching to the Ninevites specifically come to mind as examples that point to Christ's time in the desert as a preparation for eternal life, but there are other examples in Sacred Scripture, and I encourage you to seek them out for further reflection. It is for all these reasons, though chiefly in imitation of our Savior, that the Church gives us forty days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to draw us body and soul into the preparations for the Triduum when we will celebrate His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. 

However, our time in the desert is not meant to defeat us nor is it meant to punish us. Rather it is meant to strengthen us. You see, suffering exposes wounds or weaknesses in our lives and relationships. When suffering occurs, it indicates an area in our lives where we are clinging to a person or thing in a way that is not according to the ordering of creation that God has proposed. And though many of us see suffering as a punishment for some evil done, the truth is that suffering is meant to make us turn back to God. It helps us to invite the Love of God — the Holy Ghost — into that painful area, so that we may "grow in inner freedom, love, peace and holiness, dying to sin in order to belong more completely to God and partake of risen life in Jesus Christ" (Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB, Homily for First Sunday of Lent, Year B). Out of the refining fire comes forth the purest of gold. 

So instead of asking, "Why is this happening to me?" we need to ask, "What is God asking of me by this suffering?" This fundamental shift in how we normally look at adversity leads us to find transcendent meaning in our suffering and grants us hope and purpose in the midst of our toil. Additionally, such a view helps us to address both the immediate surface causes of our suffering and the deeper chronic causes. For example, you work a sore muscle now, even though it hurts, to bring about immediate and long-term healing. And asking what the consistent pain is asking of you, instead of whining about it, leads you to buy a new office chair. With the immediate and longer-term suffering ended, you now find more joy in your work.

Finally, just as Christ could rely on the assistance and protection of the Holy Ghost during His desert sojourn, which began just after His baptism, so too can we, by our Baptism, be assured of the presence and protection of the same Holy Ghost as we suffer through and overcome the obstacles to become the saints God has called each of us to be. 

God bless,

Father Colin Blatchford

Associate Director



  • Mark Your Calendar for Our 2024 Conference
  • Featured Conference Speaker: Fr. Paul Check
  • Courage Chaplain, Fr. James Ruggieri, Appointed as Bishop
  • Monthly Prayer Intentions for Courage and EnCourage
  • Stay Connected With Fellow Members Near and Far

General Resources

  • Find Support Anytime, Anywhere in Our Online Chat Groups
  • Encountering the Love of God Through Suffering
  • A Guide to Help You Grow in Your Spiritual Life
  • Fr. Blatchford Discusses Courage and Lots More on Podcast


  • Setting Boundaries Helps to Maintain Chastity 
  • "A Gift for Himself"
  • "True Identity: From LGBTQI+ Activist to Christ"


  • How to Respond to a Child with Same-Sex Attractions
  • Jesus, I Surrender My Loved One to You

For Spanish Speaking Members and Friends

  • March Newsletter in Spanish 

Pastoral Resources

  • Pastoral Care for Women With Same-Sex Attractions
  • Make Plans Now to Attend the 2024 Clergy Study Day
  • Chaplains, the Courage Office is Here to Support You

Gender Identity Discordance

  • Fr. Tad Pacholczyk on "The Church and Transgender Issues"
  • New Catholic Book on Gender Ideology Equips the Faithful



Mark Your Calendar for Our 2024 Conference

Are you thinking about attending the conference for the first time?

We are keeping people like you in mind as we plan a special session for first-time attendees on the opening night of the conference. You’ll be able to meet both Courage and EnCourage veteran members and learn what to expect at the conference. We are looking forward to meeting you in person!

Featured Conference Speaker: Fr. Paul Check

To speak on "Liturgy and Belief"

Father Paul Check was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1997. In 2008, he succeeded Father John Harvey as the executive director of Courage, a role in which he happily served through 2016. Appointed by Cardinal Raymond Burke in 2020, he is now the executive director of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Father will be joining us for the last two days of the conference, offering his reflections on Sunday morning. We are looking forward to a good dose of inspiration and a joyful reunion with him at the conference!

Fr. Paul Check on "The Secret of Life" at the 2015 conference. His message begins at 16:45, after he discusses the state of the apostolate.

See Fr. Check's talks and writings in our website resource collection

View the "Fr. Paul N. Check" playlist on our YouTube channel

Courage Chaplain, Fr. James Ruggieri, Appointed as Bishop

We were excited to hear that Father James Ruggieri, the chaplain of both the Courage and EnCourage chapters in Providence, Rhode Island, has been appointed by Pope Francis as the bishop of the Diocese of Portland, Maine. We offer him both our congratulations and our prayers as he is consecrated to assume the role of shepherd for the Catholics of Maine on May 7.

Read about Fr. Ruggieri's appointment and ministry

Monthly Prayer Intentions for Courage and EnCourage

We have introduced a new opportunity for our members to be united in prayer this year. We invite you to pray each month for a specific intention related to our apostolate. We encourage you to consider praying for these intentions at your local Courage and EnCourage chapter meetings.

The upcoming monthly intentions are as follows:

  • March: For the conversion of humanity 
  • April: For a greater trust in God’s mercy

See complete list of monthly intentions

Stay Connected With Fellow Members Near and Far


Courage & EnCourage 

around the world

General Resources

Find Support Anytime, Anywhere in Our Online Chat Groups

Our online chat groups are a great place to connect with fellow Courage and EnCourage members from around the world. We have hundreds of participants, many from far-flung corners of the world, such as Vietnam, Germany, Nigeria, and Mexico, so people are joining the conversation at all times of the day.

There are three main chat groups: Courage, EnCourage, and Courage and EnCourage Together. Within each of these groups, there are private channels tailored to the unique needs of certain members. The Courage group has private channels for women and young adults, and the EnCourage group has private channels for EnCourage spouses and parents of those who experience gender identity discordance. 

We often get ideas about what to share in the newsletter from our members in the chat groups, who frequently share favorite resources with each other. In the General Resources section of this month's newsletter, we will be highlighting some of these items. 

Learn more about our chat groups and join today

Encountering the Love of God Through Suffering

Chat group members shared that they found inspiration in Father Mike Schmitz's message at Word on Fire's 2022 Good News Conference. He "reflects on the relationship of suffering to love, and how the deepest pains can help us to see the expansive love the Father has for us. … The cross, born out of love and filled with suffering, reveals that God is close to us in our brokenness."

View Father Schmitz on "The God of Our Brokenness"  

A Guide to Help You Grow in Your Spiritual Life

Frequent attendance at Mass, prayer, meditation, and spiritual reading are key elements of the goals of both Courage and EnCourage. A favorite tool that many of our members like to use to assist them in these practices is Magnificat

"Magnificat is a monthly publication designed for daily use, to encourage both liturgical and personal prayer. It … offers beautiful prayers for both morning and evening inspired by the treasures of the Liturgy of the Hours, the official texts of daily Mass, meditations written by spiritual giants of the Church and more contemporary authors" and much more.

Learn more and subscribe to Magnificat

Fr. Blatchford Discusses Courage and Lots More on Podcast

Father Colin Blatchford, our associate director, was a guest on The Tangent, a show on the Veritas Catholic Network. One of the show's hosts is Father Sam Kachuba, the pastor of the parish where Father Blatchford is in residence. They have a wide-ranging conversation about how Father got involved in Courage, the apostolate of Courage and EnCourage, the goodness of the Church's teachings on sexuality, and how we are all called to holiness in the company of fellow sinners.

Listen to Fr. Blatchford on The Tangent

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latest opportunities, news, resources, and inspiration.

Then spread the good news 

by liking, reposting, and sharing. 


Setting Boundaries Helps to Maintain Chastity 

Dr. Peter Kleponis of Integrity Restored specializes in helping individuals overcome pornography and sexual addiction. Those Catholic Men (a blog focused on men's formation) shared an excerpt from his book, Integrity Restored: Helping Catholic Families Win the Battle Against Pornography, that explains how "preventing future pornography use requires one to set clear boundaries." He defines a boundary as "a limit that allows the good in and keeps the bad out." Dr. Kleponis elaborates on how a person can set boundaries in five areas of life: people, places, things, technology, and situations. 

Read "Boundaries: 5 Tips to Maintain Chastity"

"A Gift for Himself"

"Greg," a Courage member, wrote a short work of fiction for Courage's The Upper Room blog about an encounter with a friend who had found peace after the misery of reaching rock bottom by pondering Christ crucified. It begins: 

It was strange that my friend invited me to his new home today out of all days. Especially after what happened three years ago. That was not a moment I want to remember. A dark and ugly scene of desperation and sadness. I quickly put those thoughts aside as I knocked on the door. I hoped that things were looking up for him. …

Continue reading "A Gift for Himself"

Christ Crucified with Toledo in the Background (cropped), by Domenikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco). Explore the entire painting, close up, with commentary, on Google Arts & Culture.

Visit The Upper Room blog to read more from

Courage and EnCourage members and chaplains

as they share their stories of God's work in their lives. 

"True Identity: From LGBTQI+ Activist to Christ"

As a young man, James Parker was a gay rights activist. But since surrendering his life to God, he has been an active member of Courage, once serving as lay moderator for the London Courage chapter and now for both Courage and EnCourage in Perth, Australia. In an episode of the Parousia Podcast, he talks about his journey to Catholicism and how he works to support people who experience issues with sexuality, gender, and identity. 

Watch or listen to "True Identity: From LGBTQI+ Activist to Christ


How to Respond to a Child with Same-Sex Attractions

Susan Cianco wrote a helpful piece for Human Life International on how Catholic parents can respond to the discovery that their child experiences same-sex attractions. She speaks of the importance of parents learning what the Church actually teaches about chastity and homosexuality. She emphasizes that "the most important thing you can tell your child is that you love him and that he will always be your beloved child." But at the same time, "supporting them as our children and as children of God does not mean that we must approve of all their actions. … [T]hrough it all, just as Jesus loves us despite our sinful actions, so must we love our children despite their sinful actions." The piece concludes with a discussion of how invaluable it is to find faithful support like that which is found in EnCourage.

Read "Responding to Same-Sex Attraction as a Catholic Parent"

Jesus, I Surrender My Loved One to You

Many EnCourage (and Courage) members find consolation in the powerful Novena of Surrender from Italian Servant of God, Fr. Ruotolo Dolindo (1882-1970). A key part of the novena is the repetition of the prayer, "O Jesus, I surrender myself to You; take care of everything!" The novena is readily accessible online and can be found in audio form in popular Catholic prayer apps like Amen and Hallow.

One of our EnCourage chapters tells us that they close every meeting with reading just one day of the Novena, followed by everyone taking turns, one by one, to insert the name of their loved one into the prayer in the place of "myself." For example, a father who has a son named John who identifies as gay would say, "O Jesus, I surrender John to You; take care of everything!"  

2-page Novena of Surrender | Foldable booklet | Color PDF w/ background info

For Spanish Speaking Members and Friends

March Newsletter in Spanish 

Read the March newsletter in Spanish

Subscribe to the Spanish language newsletter

Courage Internacional website in Spanish

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Couragerc.org/español | Contáctanos

Para suscribirse al boletín en español | Archivo

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Pastoral Resources

Pastoral Care for Women With Same-Sex Attractions

Father James McTavish, FMVD, MD, STL, contributed an article to Homiletics and Pastoral Review that aims to help clergy accompany Catholic women who experience same-sex attractions who are striving to live chastely. The introductory abstract reads:

The first part [of the article] provides some essential background elements to help understand female same-sex attraction. The second part of the article offers some practical suggestions for pastoral support of women with same-sex attraction.

An especially valuable part of the essay is the extensive quoting of two articulate and insightful Catholic women who live with same-sex attractions. 

Read "Same Sex Attraction in Catholic Women who Desire to Live Chastely"

Make Plans Now to Attend the 2024 Clergy Study Day

Consider also staying for the Courage & EnCourage Conference on July 25-28

Chaplains, the Courage Office is Here to Support You

Chaplains, the work you do with our Courage and EnCourage members is the backbone of the apostolate. Please know that the Courage staff and many of our members pray for you daily.

We try to host a quarterly meeting for all chaplains to provide space for fraternity and a chance to discuss current events in each chapter or region. At the meetings, chaplains can get ideas on how to solve common problems and better support their local chapter.

On our website, we have brochures and promotional cards for you to print and share with your local parish, diocese, and chapter. Do not hesitate to make use of these, and feel free to contact the office if you need help with these documents.


Should you have any need for additional support from the office, you are always welcome to reach out to us at office@couragerc.org. If you’d like to speak with the associate or executive director, you may email Bonnie.

Truth & Love, an initiative of Courage International, is a multifaceted Catholic resource for anyone seeking the tools to support men and women who experience same-sex attractions.



Conference videos


Gender Identity Discordance*

Fr. Tad Pacholczyk on "The Church and Transgender Issues"

Father Tad Pacholczyk, the widely respected Senior Ethicist from the National Catholic Center for Bioethics, gave a clear presentation on the topic of gender identity discordance as part of a series filmed before a parish audience. The video description reads:

"It can be perplexing to sort through the questions and new cultural currents swirling around transgender issues. Many people, including many Catholics, find themselves at a loss when challenged to coherently engage the topic of gender dysphoria within the broader context of what it means to be a human person."

Father provides helpful guidance as he discusses the current cultural situation, offers theological and medical perspectives, and makes recommendations for how lay people and those involved in pastoral care can manifest compassion while upholding the truth.

Watch Fr. Tad on "The Church and Transgender Issues"

Visit our YouTube channel for lots of helpful content like this video, 

especially in the Gender Identity Discordance playlist.

Subscribe, like, and share to spread the word.

New Catholic Book on Gender Ideology Equips the Faithful

Loving Gods' Children: The Church and Gender Ideology, by religious liberty and pro-life attorney, John Bursch, was released by Sophia Press last year. The publisher's description reads:

In this timely and incisive book, John Bursch helps explain what the Catholic Church teaches about the human person and why modern culture’s embrace of “gender ideology” is not only wrong but terribly dangerous for parents and families, female athletes, medical professionals — and especially those experiencing gender confusion. Drawing from Church documents and extensive scientific research, Bursch answers numerous questions that confront Catholics living in a culture that promotes gender fluidity. He covers a range of topics including how to approach the use of pronouns in the workplace, whether transgender individuals can receive the sacraments, and ways to accompany those struggling with gender confusion.

Purchase book, Loving God’s Children: The Church and Gender Ideology

Watch John Bursch discuss book on EWTN Live

Read interview with John Bursch about book in the National Catholic Register

Courage and EnCourage and Gender Identity Discordance

While the primary mission of Courage and EnCourage remains supporting people living with the experience of same-sex attractions and those who love them, we thought it could be helpful to our readers to occasionally set aside some space in our newsletter to address this topic. For more resources, on the Truth & Love site, go to Resources > Health & Well-Being > Gender Identity Discordance.


* For an explanation of the expression, "gender identity discordance," and coverage of the subject, see the Handbook for Courage and EnCourage Chaplains starting on page 81. 



Courage Women's Retreat

March 14–17, 2024

Pittsburgh area in Pennsylvania

Information and registration

Samson Healing Retreat for Men

March 21–24, 2024

Hammonton, New Jersey

Conducted by our friends at The Kings Men.

General information | Registration

Courage & EnCourage Retreat

March 22–24, 2024


Information and registration

Courage Men's Sports Camp XXIV

May 23–26, 2024

Southeastern Pennsylvania

General information and testimonies 

More information: cmacsportscamp@gmail.com 

Clergy Study Day

July 24, 2024

University of St. Mary of the Lake Conference Center in Mundelein, Illinois

Watch for details in events section of website.

Courage & EnCourage Annual Conference

July 25–28, 2024

University of St. Mary of the Lake Conference Center in Mundelein, Illinois

Watch for details in events section of website.

Watch our Events Calendar regularly for updates.

NOTE TO CHAPLAINS: You are encouraged and more than welcome to participate in all Courage & EnCourage events. Please feel free to reach out to the event organizer to see how you can be involved.

Photo credits:

Disclaimer: Courage does not necessarily fully endorse all of the ideas included in resources that are not produced by Courage, but we still like to share items that we and our members have found to have considerable helpful content.

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