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Longtime music director says she was fired by Catholic Church because she's married to a woman

Terry Gonda
Courtesy of Terry Gonda

Terry Gonda says she is devoted to the Catholic Church, despite being fired on Wednesday from her job as a part-time music director at a suburban Detroit parish because she is in a same-sex marriage.

In a June 12 email, Father Michael LeFevre, the current pastor of St. John Fisher Chapel University Parish in Auburn Hills, told Gonda that she was going to be fired.

LeFevre emailed her that the Detroit Archdiocese had called him because it had received a communication about Gonda's marital status.

Gonda and Kirsti Reeve were legally married in 2011, following an unofficial wedding ceremony in 2003.

"When asked, I confirmed that you and Kirsti had informed me of your marital status some five years ago," wrote LeFevre. "Now the Archdiocese is choosing to activate its morality clause to terminate your employment."

The email instructed her to participate in a meeting on Wednesday, where Gonda said she was fired.

"Against my parish council, against my pastor's desire, against the community's desire, I was removed from my position," said Gonda.

Gonda said her marriage has never been a secret, even to successive pastors at the parish where she's worked for 36 years, first as part-time assistant music director starting in 1984, followed by a promotion to part-time music director in 2014.

Gonda said she has deep feelings of hurt, sadness, anger and betrayal over her firing. But there's also hope.

"I am filled with what I would term as grace," said Gonda. "I think I need to speak up and ask these leaders to consider what they're doing. I would love to work with them to build a bridge to a new way of being a healthier church."

Gonda said she has a deep love of the Catholic Church and has no bitterness toward the leaders of the Archdiocese of Detroit whom she believes are doing what they think is best for the Church.

But she said their actions are causing pain and heartache and causing many to consider leaving the Church and to ask why there needs to be a choice between individual dignity and protecting the institution.

"I have deep sadness because this is my passion," said Gonda referring to her work as music director. "But this is not my main income."

Gonda said she has been employed as a civilian at U.S. Army TACOM since 1987. But it's a different story for people whose work for the Church is their livelihood.

"They are now wondering if they are next," said Gonda. "So people are either choosing not to get married, they feel they're denied that; or if they have, they feel that there's now a bullseye on them, that they are next."

Gonda said she's received overwhelming expressions of support from her parish and beyond for her music ministry and for the positive example her and Reeve's marriage has set. 

In a written statement, the Detroit Archdiocese said, "As a longstanding practice, out of respect for the privacy of those involved, the Detroit Archdiocese does not comment on personnel matters."

Virginia Gordan has been a part-time reporter at Michigan Radio since fall 2013. She has a general beat covering news topics from across the state.
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