Meet Thomas | Eden Invitation in India (& Beyond)
Picture the scene. It’s 5:00 a.m. on a Thursday morning. You pull yourself out of bed after a mere three hours of sleep, as you typically don’t finish your shift at work until the wee hours of the morning. You grab a cup of coffee and pull up your computer screen to see the smiling faces of friends on the other side of the world, many of whom having just finished up a day of work and are enjoying their evening. How on earth do you stay motivated to maintain this routine, week after week?
The majority of our Eden Invitation community members can be found in the United States and Canada. But we also have a number of members spanning the globe, from India and Indonesia to Australia and Argentina. And for the international members of EI, this experience is quite familiar. It certainly requires a great deal of commitment—and a detachment from sleep. But for those who join us from around the world, it’s worth it.
Eden Invitation member, Thomas, lives in India and has been part of our community for the past year. Living in a place where issues related to gender and sexuality are often considered taboo, he knew that he needed support from others who could relate to what he was going through. After hearing one of our founders, Anna Carter, speak at a virtual conference, he realized that Eden Invitation was what he was looking for.
“In India, LGBT things aren’t spoken of,” says Thomas. “I didn’t have anyone who could relate to what I was talking about. [When I heard about Eden Invitation,] I was like, ‘That exists?’”
“The other batch is the more progressive type, fighting for legalizing gay marriage and of a more secular mindset,” he says. “Those aren’t people you can really speak to because they aren’t coming to listen to your story. They’re coming to gain someone in their army.”
“I think there’s a third batch of people who are struggling,” he adds. “They are too scared to come out. They know they can only come out to these two segments: one who wants them in their army and the other who will brush them off. There’s a lot of fear.”
It is because of this split that Thomas finds the “both/and” vision of Eden Invitation to be so compelling. For someone seeking to live an integrated life as a Catholic experiencing same-sex-desires and/or gender discordance, it brings immense hope.
“I’m both gay and Catholic,” says Thomas. “I think people aren’t aware that’s possible, at least in India. The advantage of the ‘both/and’ is finding that it is possible.”
“A lot of messages (in Eden Invitation) are people saying, ‘I’m struggling,’ yet, they chose to embrace the message of the one, holy, catholic, apostolic Church,” he adds. “They know there is a place for them. In a large part of the world, you have to choose; I’m Catholic or I’m gay. But there is the third way.”
For Thomas, who is very involved in an active and vibrant local Catholic community, there is still a unique blessing in being part of Eden Invitation. He is grateful for the opportunity to be open about his experience, knowing he is understood.
“For so long, I’ve been in this (local Catholic) community, but I’m not able to fully lay it out there because of fear,” he says. “I’ve seen others open up, and I see how they’ve been shamed and how people are awkward with them now. I don’t think I have the energy to go through that. So, I have this area that is not being ministered to. With (Eden Invitation), there was so much openness and I felt at home.”
But the fact that, for him, our community remains exclusively virtual is a challenge. So far, he’s been unable to come to the States for any of our in-person gatherings. And the closest community member to him is still a two-hour time difference. Thomas hopes that, in time, the international Eden Invitation community will grow, providing more opportunities for people to connect, face-to-face.
“There’s this fear right now that I’m connecting with people so far away… I’m going to see an entire group of Eden Invitation meet together, grow together, and I’m going to be twelve hours away,” he says. “I know I need this, but it’s a struggle.”
Serving as an adult mentor for teens in his local Catholic community, Thomas has had a number of young people share with him their experience of same-sex-desires and/or gender discordance—without knowing anything about his own. So, although he laments the lack of “in person” community, he hopes that the teens he serves will find support and fellowship in the Church.
“A lot of times, there are youngsters who will open this area of their life to me and they ask me, ‘How do you get this so well?’” he says, with a smile. “One thing that keeps coming to me in prayer is to be grateful for them. They’re an Eden Invitation India Hearth Group coming up.”
Giving back—especially to movements that have been a blessing in his life—is something Thomas prioritizes. With this, he is currently in formation to become a volunteer within the Eden Invitation community.
“We have to give back where we’ve grown from,” he says. “That’s something I’ve always believed. You can’t just take from a group or community… We’re all called to tithe our time talent and treasure back into places we’ve grown through.”
Please continue to keep our international community members in your prayers. We ask the Holy Spirit to expand our mission in whatever areas it is necessary, that all our brothers and sisters throughout the world would know that they have a home in the Church.