Washington D.C., Sep 29, 2016 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Expansion and further welcoming outreach are the plans for the next head of Courage International, a Catholic apostolate for people with same-sex attraction.

“I look forward to welcoming more courageous men and women in the name of the Church, to hear the stories of how God has been acting in their lives and relationships, and to walk with them along the way to holiness that the Church proposes for our happiness and fulfillment,” said Father Philip G. Bochanski, the apostolate’s new executive director.

Fr. Bochanski told CNA Sept. 28 that he is most impressed with the “spiritual fatherhood” that the apostolate’s chaplains show to Courage and EnCourage members. “My plan at this point is to continue their good work and do what I can to expand the reach of our local chapters,” he added. “Today we are present in about two-thirds of the dioceses of the United States, and in 14 countries overseas, but there are many more places in the universal Church that could benefit from our presence and our pastoral work.”

The apostolate was founded in New York City in 1980 when a small group of Catholic men with same-sex attraction and wanted to live chaste lives according to Catholic teaching met with the priest Fr. John F. Harvey, the apostolate’s first director. The group’s five goals are chastity, prayer, fellowship, support and service. The group also has a ministry outreach to parents and spouses, called EnCourage.

Fr. Bochanski was ordained a priest in 1999 for the Philadelphia archdiocese. He was a pastoral associate in several Philadelphia parishes and a chaplain for the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters, the Catholic Medical Association’s Philadelphia guild, and the Courage apostolate’s Philadelphia chapter. He became associate director of Courage last year. He has helped implement the apostolate’s “Courage Study Days” to help form priests about Catholic teaching on homosexuality, how to be clear and compassion in presenting Catholic teaching, and how to provide authentic pastoral care to men and women with same-sex attractions. He has helped oversee existing and new chapters of Courage and EnCourage, a ministry outreach to parents and spouses.

“Courage and EnCourage are, and always have been, about bringing people together for mutual support and encouragement, and about building people up to embrace God's call and be formed as disciples,” Fr. Bochanski said. “We are not out to ‘fix’ anyone or to replace anyone's personality, to put heavy burdens on anyone or to make anyone feel terrible about their lives or their desires,” he added. “As the Church does for every person (regardless of whether their sexual attractions are for the same or the opposite sex), Courage invites each member to embrace chastity in mind, heart and body, and to move away from relationships and behaviors that are not chaste.”

“Along with this invitation comes a promise to support each member as he or she comes to understand chastity more deeply and to live it out more fully,” he said. Fr. Paul Scalia, chairman of the Courage board of directors, praised Fr. Bochanski’s “great pastoral experience” and his familiarity with the apostolate’s work. “He has already distinguished himself as a great promoter of the apostolate and we are confident he will continue and build upon the good work of his predecessors,” Fr. Scalia said.

The priest succeeds Fr. Paul Check, who had served as executive director since 2008. “Fr. Bochanski already has much experience in the work of this vital apostolate and I have every confidence that he will give great service in the years ahead,” Fr. Check said. Fr. Check himself succeeded Fr. Harvey in 2008. Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Conn. recently named him as the rector of St. John Fisher Seminary Residence in Stamford. Fr. Check will serve on the Courage board of directors.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia released Fr. Bochanski to take on his new role. “There’s no better way of showing my support than releasing one of our finest priests, Fr. Philip Bochanski — a perfect candidate to take Fr. Check’s place,” Archbishop Chaput said. Fr. Bochanski said he is conscious of how questions of homosexuality and sexual identity have become an important issue both in the Church society. “I will be looking for opportunities to participate in these discussions,” he said. “Although secular cultural and moral norms seem to be shifting more rapidly than ever before, the truth of the Faith does not change.”

He advised Catholics to make sure they are well-informed about what the Church teaches and look for ways to “speak the truth in love.” They should “share the good news that living chastely and finding our true identity as sons and daughters of God is the way to real happiness and authentic relationships.”

The Courage apostolate’s leadership will be In Phoenix, Ariz. Jan. 9-11 for its “Truth and Love” conference for clergy, religious and laity involved in pastoral care. The Courage website is https://couragerc.org.