A Rhode Island Gay priest’s story with a turn

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March 3, 2011
By: Joe Siegel/TRT Reporter
Reverend David Martins is the pastor of Saint Therese Old Catholic Church in downtown Providence.

The church is not affiliated with the Catholic Diocese of Providence. It is a part of the North American Catholic Church and is an LGBT-friendly congregation.

Saint Therese Parish gathers in the chapel on the first floor of Mathewson St. Church.  The 80-member congregation is a mix of gays and straights. The church also welcomes homeless people to come and worship.

“They all look the same to me, which is nice because all they look the same to God,” said Martins of his diverse congregation.

Martins, who is gay, grew up as a Catholic.

Martins went to Catholic school as a child, was involved in parish youth groups and even served as an altar server. His father is a Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church.

Martins realized that he wanted to become a priest, so fresh out of high school, he joined a seminary.

At the time, Martins knew he was attracted to other men. Some of the priests knew it too, but “it almost didn’t matter,” Martins noted, since all seminarians were called on to be celibate.

However, seminary life at Providence College was something he wasn’t suited for. The seminarians were monitored closely by the priests. There was no privacy.

“You live in a fish bowl,” Martins explained, noting the priests would listen in on their students’ conversations.

Martins experienced what he called a constant state of paranoia. The pressure became overbearing.

“I couldn’t take it anymore,” Martins said. “It felt very liberating to leave.”

Looking back, Martin believes his mistake was entering the seminary at too young an age. He needed more time to live his life and experience the world before making such a serious commitment.

Martins eventually landed a job as a bartender in Providence and became very close to the LGBT community.

Martins enjoyed the socializing with other gays but eventually became disillusioned with the experience and wanted something else in his life. He also wanted to quit drinking, which had become a serious problem.
“I felt empty inside,” Martins noted. “I wanted to make a difference.”
Martins decided to embrace the Catholic Church again.

“Once you’ve had a faith experience, it always stays with you,” Martins noted Being a pastor has been very rewarding for Martins.

The congregation members share their feelings about their relationships and “ask me to pray for friends,” Martins explained.

When he isn’t preaching from the pulpit, Martins serves as an OUTspoken Coordinator for Youth Pride, Inc. (YPI), the state’s largest organization which serves the needs for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning youth.

“The kids are great,” Martins said. “It’s a great position.”

Martins is trying to get the word out about Saint Therese through social media sites such as Facebook. He doesn’t want to draw people from other churches, preferring to attract people who may have felt alienated from religion in general and are seeking a welcoming place to pray.

“I would love to see the parish grow,” Martins said. “I couldn’t be happier with it.”

For more information about Saint Therese Old Catholic Church, go to the church web site at www.saintthereseocc.org or call 401-263-4296.