Gillea Allison is a rarity, someone who has rejoined the Catholic Church due to Pope Francis. She writes at Vox about her politics and her path back to Catholicism of a sort:
For me, finding truth elsewhere meant finding a different kind of home in politics and in the candidacy of Barack Obama. In 2006, one of my best (Jesuit-educated) friends sent me a copy of Dreams From My Father, then-Sen. Obama’s memoir. I couldn’t put it down. His honesty, prose, and self-reflection were unlike any I had seen in a politician; his years spent on the South Side of Chicago in organizing in Catholic churches caught my attention. His compassion for others and understanding of injustice — drawn from personal experience — guided his interest in politics and felt to me like the real deal (and, I would argue, it still does). I started paying attention to Obama’s candidacy from abroad, and in September 2008 I moved back to the United States to volunteer for him in Colorado without a dime. A version of faith, one could say.
In the 2008 and the 2012 campaigns, I found an organization dedicated to empowering its people and providing an opening to the political process. In candidate and now President Obama, I found a leader who embodied what I had loved about the church and my Jesuit education: the notion that by loving our neighbor, seeing our similarities instead of our relatively smaller differences, and coming together, we will in fact change the world. We didn’t have to accept things the way they were; rather, it was our responsibility to question and make those things better. The Obama campaigns felt to me like the truest articulation of people over politics, of love over power — and after my falling out with the Catholic Church, they restored my faith in leadership and the potential for institutions to evolve.
I keep it pretty practical, but there’s certainly been a reigniting of my spirit. I volunteer at Xavier’s soup kitchen, which feeds hundreds each Sunday. I am a godmother to my best friend’s son — a responsibility that now carries new weight and meaning. I go to church whenever I can. It’s beautiful, and I’m often struck by the priests’ wisdom and humor.
By and large, however, it is the community that fills my heart. A few Sundays ago, we celebrated a dedicated parishioner’s 90th birthday. The priest presented her with a lovely bouquet; the entire congregation sang “Happy Birthday.” You could feel the love — it’s that simple.
But this reawakening comes with distinct challenges. As a monthly donor to Planned Parenthood, I am often at odds with persistent church policies on social issues. But we must avoid the American tendency to pull the church into our political battles and project our political dynamics onto figures like Pope Francis, the absurdity of which was abundant during his US visit. (An example: when the New York Times recapped his speech to Congress on A1 by stating, “Both sides could walk away taking vindication from parts of his message. But the liberal references in his speech were explicit and extended while the conservative ones were more veiled and concise.”).