Father Unni explains his choice

Four years ago, a methodical search for a new place of worship led a group of gay Roman Catholics to the Rev. John Unni, the youthful priest at St. Cecilia’s Church. The search committee was blunt: Would the priest accept an influx of gay and lesbian parishioners?

“He told us, ‘All are welcome,’ ’’ said John Kelly, now head of the St. Cecilia Rainbow Ministry.

Kelly and other parishioners credit Unni with managing the merger of the predominantly gay congregation from the Jesuit Urban Center, which closed in 2007, and with keeping gays and lesbians in the Catholic Church, despite the uneasy balance between the church’s message of love for all and its strict doctrine against gay relations.

Father John, as his parishioners call him, says he is trying to live the words of Jesus Christ, as he has seen them lived out.

Unni was 16 when his father died. The St Theresa Parish community in his hometown of North Reading responded with meals delivered to the family’s door, with rides to practices and rehearsals and whatever help they could offer a broken family.

“People lived out the Gospels,’’ Unni, 49, said in an interview yesterday evening. “That’s when I learned what church was.’’

– John Arsenault


For one priest, the choice is clear (Boston Globe)