Dear Pope Francis,
In a few short days you will be coming to the U.S. and millions of American people are excited for your arrival, including me.
Last month I received in an invitation to the White House to witness your arrival ceremony. This opportunity still has me in shock, as I know there are many people out there who deserve to be in your presence.
Though I may not be able to meet you, shake your hand or give you a hug, I do want to send you a message.
Thank you for welcoming me back to the Church.
Your words of love, compassion and acceptance inspired me to explore my faith in a way I had never done before. As an openly gay man, I have struggled. Not in gaining people's acceptance or respect, but internally.
My fears and doubts once clouded my ability to see clearly. There was a time I believed that the Church would never accept me for who I am and that I could never find happiness in life as a gay Catholic. Heroes like my mom, my spiritual advisors and you have helped me on my journey to discover that I can be happy and practice my faith.
Today, I'm a proud Catholic.
Sunday masses have become routine, praying has become meaningful, and parishioners have embraced me.
I've never been so proud to call myself a Catholic and to practice my faith.
You made all of that possible. It is my firm belief, along with many others, that you are the Pope the Catholic Church has been waiting for... the one we have needed.
For the first time in forever, I see our community stronger than ever. That's the result of spreading love and respect.
While change doesn't happen overnight, you have brought a lot of changes in the past two years. These changes are only the beginning of a shift I'm seeing in our Church.
I'm excited for my future as a Catholic. While you have not given a stamp of approval on gay marriage nor changed the Church's teachings, you have continued to share words of compassion and less judgment. Hearing your words has affected me, and that's why I have returned to the Church.
Benvenuti, Papa Francesco! In bocca al lupo.
My name is Aaron Jay Ledesma.
I'm from Houston, Texas.
How to vote
Vote-by-mail ballot request deadline: Varies by state
For the Nov 3 election: States are making it easier for citizens to vote absentee by mail this year due to the coronavirus. Each state has its own rules for mail-in absentee voting. Visit your state election office website to find out if you can vote by mail.Get more informationTrack ballot status
In-person early voting dates: Varies by state
Sometimes circumstances make it hard or impossible for you to vote on Election Day. But your state may let you vote during a designated early voting period. You don't need an excuse to vote early. Visit your state election office website to find out whether they offer early voting.My Election Office
General Election: Nov 3, 2020
Polling hours on Election Day: Varies by state/localityMy Polling Place