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Career and workEdit
Born in 1942 and educated in Catholic grade and high schools in Philadelphia. She moved to Baltimore in 1960 to join the School Sisters of Notre Dame. She taught mathematics in high school in the 1960s and was an Associate Professor of Mathematics at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland in the early 1970s.
Having graduated with an M.Sc. degree from the University of Notre Dame, she later proceeded to complete a Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania. Whilst at Pennsylvania Gramick became friends with a gay man and began a church ministry to lesbian and gay people. She organized religious services for people with a homosexual identity who had left the Catholic Church because of prejudice against them. Gradually the people she met came to understand that God loves all persons, regardless of one’s sexual orientation, and that the Catholic Church began to welcome them with compassion and love. She has conducted spiritual retreats and pilgrimages to holy places and shrines for lesbian and gay people, their parents, families, and friends.
Gramick helped to begin three organizations for Catholic lesbian and gay people. In addition, she co-founded New Ways Ministry, a Catholic social justice center working for justice and reconciliation of lesbian/gay people with the institutional Catholic Church.
Gramick has traveled throughout the English-speaking world to address groups about sexual identity. She advances the judgment of the American Psychiatric Association that a homosexual identity is not a sickness but an alternative sexual orientation. Consequently, she promotes dialogue, discussion, and education to eradicate myths and stereotypes about lesbian and gay people. She advocates the acceptance of gay and lesbian people as full and equal members of religious, civil, and social groups. She believes that only if all people are treated with dignity and respect will there be peace and harmony in the world.
Gramick has written and edited numerous articles and books. Her books include Homosexuality and the Catholic Church, Homosexuality in the Priesthood and Religious Life, The Vatican and Homosexuality, Building Bridges: Gay and Lesbian Reality and the Catholic Church, and Voices of Hope: A Collection of Positive Catholic Writings on Lesbian/Gay Issues. Building Bridges was translated into Italian and published as Anime Gay: Gli omosessuali e la Chiesa cattolica.
Since 1971, Gramick has worked for justice and peace for sexual minorities. For approximately 20 years her religious community, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, assigned her to this church ministry, despite complaints from Catholic fundamentalists. Because of opposition to her work from conservative Catholics and consequent political considerations in her church, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared in 1999 that she should no longer be engaged in pastoral work with lesbian and gay persons. In 2000, her religious congregation, in an attempt to thwart further conflict with the Vatican, commanded her not to speak publicly about homosexuality. She responded by saying, "I choose not to collaborate in my own oppression by restricting a basic human right [to speak]. To me this is a matter of conscience." In 2001, Gramick transferred to the Sisters of Loretto, another community of Catholic nuns, which supports her in her ministry of education and advocacy on behalf of lesbian and gay people.
Many groups have recognized her work in this pioneer ministry. Some of these groups include the National Coalition of American Nuns, the Loretto Community, the Paulist Community, Call to Action; Dignity USA, the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College, Pridefest America, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and the American Psychological Association. She received the 2005 Peace Prize from the Santa Claus Foundation in Turkey for her work with sexual minorities. She was named a 2006 Laureate of the International Mother Teresa Awards for her role as a human rights activist.
She has served on the national boards of the National Assembly of Women Religious, the Religious Network of Equality for Women, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the Women's Ordination Conference. She is currently an Executive Co-Director of the National Coalition of American Nuns. She is strongly committed to justice and peace for humanity.
Gramick is the subject of a documentary film In Good Conscience: Sister Jeannine Gramick's Journey of Faith, by the Peabody and Emmy award-winning director, Barbara Rick.
- New Ways Ministry
- Psychological Association
- National Catholic Reporter Article
- In Good Conscience website