Casey Lopata, Founder of Fortunate Families, Dies

Casey Lopata
Casey Lopata

Families With Dignity and DignitUSA are deeply saddened by the loss of our longtime member and colleague, Casey (Casimer) Lopata. Casey passed away peacefully on May 1, 2021, surrounded by his loving family.

Casey and his wife Mary Ellen became members of the Dignity/Integrity Rochester community soon after their son James came out as gay. In his effort to understand and hopefully better Church teaching and practice regarding LGBTQ+ people, Casey earned a Master of Divinity from St. Bernard’s Institute. He and Mary Ellen traveled to countless conferences and gatherings, listening and talking about the challenges faced by Catholic parents and families of LGBTQ+ people due to these teachings. They eventually founded Fortunate Families, which provided support and a forum for Catholic parents to advocate for their LGBTQ+ children. Casey and Mary Ellen presented at numerous DignityUSA conferences, regional gatherings, and Chapter events.

Linda and Tom Nelson were among Fortunate Families’ first Board members, helping the Lopatas get the organization off the ground. They said, “Casey was our mentor, our role model, and our dear friend.  It is impossible to explain what he meant to the families he led, to the LGBTQ+ community who were blessed with his support and advocacy, and to the Catholic Church whom he educated about the nature of ‘family.’

“Casey walked the path early, telling us that we were ‘fortunate families,’ leading other parents who were so grateful for his message that our LGBT children are, and should be, affirmed as beloved children of God.  He and Mary Ellen created a foundation for Catholic parenting of LGBT daughters and sons that has grown roots and branches that continue to bear fruit.

“We remember with gratitude his articulate way of expressing the truth about our kids, his deep compassion, and his ministry whose legacy continues today as Families With Dignity works to follow his example of speaking truth to power. Thank you, Casey!”

Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, remembers Casey as a “model ally” of LGBTQ+ people. “Casey’s fierce love for all his children, including his gay son, expanded to include thousands of LGBTQ+ Catholics and their families,” she said. “He loved his faith, but knew Church teaching was failing, even harming, too many people. And he and Mary Ellen were tenacious in their commitment to ensuring that Catholic parents had support in loving and affirming their LGBTQ+ kids and grandchildren. They raised up these important voices, and always took time to listen to families’ stories and show them a positive path forward. Their work and their lives uplifted countless individuals and families. I consider them role models and beloved friends. Casey’s hugs and softball stories brightened many days! He loved deeply and was much loved in return.”

Casey and Mary Ellen were among the co-founders of Equally Blessed, a coalition consisting of Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry. This group worked to amplify the voices of Catholic advocates for LGBTQ+ equality and ensured a pro-LGBTQ+ presence at international Vatican-sponsored events such as World Youth Days and World Meetings of Families. Casey and Mary Ellen always ensured that there were events and statements that focused on Catholic parents.

For Casey’s full obituary and details on services, visit Anthony Funeral Chapel. The funeral, Friday, May 7 at 10 am ET, will be livestreamed on the Southeast Rochester Catholic Community YouTube page. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, memorial gifts can be made to Families with Dignity, noting the gift is In Memory of Casey Lopata, or by mail to Families with Dignity, c/o DignityUSA, PO Box 376, Medford, MA 02155.

Families With Dignity and DignityUSA offer our deepest condolences to Mary Ellen, the entire Lopata family, and to Casey’s many beloved friends.