Students and campus personnel from Jesuit colleges and universities across the U.S. gathered at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, last month for a weekend conference about LGBT issues at their school.
Entitled “IgnatianQ,” the meeting was organized by GU Pride, Georgetown’s LGBTQ student organization, but was also supported by the university’s administration, campus ministry, and LGBTQ Resource Center, the first of its kind on a Catholic campus. In an interview with The Hoya, the campus newspaper, Thomas Lloyd, president of GU Pride, explained the need for such a meeting:
“IgnatianQ is a very unique space. There are very few people who understand what it means to do LGBTQ work in a Jesuit context and there are unique challenges, concerns but also rewards … for me personally doing LGBTQ work has been how I’ve made my meaning. . . .
““I’ve always said the most important part of LGBTQ work in this [Jesuit] context is to affirm that we have a duty to LGBTQ students because our context demands it. It’s part of supporting the whole person. It’s part of being a universal church and a universal community, and a university community,”
In another Hoya article, Fr. Greg Schenden, SJ, campus chaplain, echoed the Jesuit grounding of this conference:
“The purpose of this student-led conference is to help students from Jesuit universities grow in their faith and appreciate their worth as human beings. These values are central to the Jesuit commitment to cura personalis — care for each person in their uniqueness.”
Jesuit values were the focus of one of the keynote speakers, Dan Cardinali, who is an openly gay 1988 alumnus of Georgetown and now the director of Communities in Schools, the largest dropout prevention organization in the country.
According to a news report on the conference in The Hoya, Cardinali described his struggle with sexuality while a student, and then explained how, while he lived as a Jesuit for a while after graduation, he came to understand a positive Catholic approach to LGBT people:
“As a Jesuit, I was gifted with a set of opportunities to give back to the world. It prepared me for what I do now. I realized that being gay and being Catholic … can go together, as long as we believe in the dignity of [the] human person. Overtime, we would be able … to have the courage that [it] takes to make changes. . . .
“If you believe that God is in the world, and that he never abandons, it is our life journey to discover that. There are tools to discover that, and once we made that discovery, it will prepare us for the world in unimaginable ways.”
Other speakers included Elizabeth Donnelly, a Catholic philanthropist who offered her experience on speaking about women’s equality in the church as a model for speaking on LGBT issues; Deacon Ray Dever, a father of a transgender woman, who described his family’s experiences in a Bondings 2.0 blog post last December; and Lisbeth Melendez-Rivera, the director of Catholic and Latino/a Initiatives at the Human Rights Campaign.
Among the participants at the conference were a group from Santa Clara University, a California Jesuit school. A news story in their campus newspaper, The Santa Clara, summarized the experience of their delegation to the event:
“Students had the opportunity to collaborate and brainstorm ways to get more support, resources, visibility and acceptance for LGBTQ groups at their respective schools. This allowed representatives to network and share strategies for improving student engagement.
“ ‘It was cool to see how progressive some universities are and how some universities didn’t have any resources at all,’ said sophomore Adrian Chavez. ‘Santa Clara seemed to fall more in the middle of it, leaning progressive.’ ”
The Georgetown meeting was the 2nd annual gathering of its kind. The first meeting was held at Fordham University last year, under the theme, “Finding God in the LGBTQ Jesuit Campus Community.” The theme of the this year’s meeting was, ““Forming Contemplative Communities to Ignite Action.”
Georgetown sophomore Samuel Boyne, a participant at IgnatianQ, summed up his reaction to the meeting for the campus newspaper:
“I think that IgnatianQ was an essential event to host at Georgetown. As a school dedicated to educating its students on being men and women for others, the messages for which the conference stands for coincides with our Jesuit values. Specifically, as it is vital for students to come together in an environment like this to discuss the intersection of faith and the LGBTQ community. . . . Overall, the opportunity to speak openly about these issues is a definite step forward.”
Catholic college campuses are among the most important leaders of LGBT equality in the Catholic Church. The IgnatianQ conference is just one more example of how they are paving the way for a brighter future.
To read more about news of LGBT issues on Catholic campuses, click on “Campus Chronicles” in the “Categories” box in the right hand column of this page, or you can click here.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
dotCommonweal: “Ignatian LGBTQ & Ally conference turns two”
The Hoya: “Georgetown to Host IgnatianQ”
The Georgetown Voice: “Georgetown to host allied Catholic universities at second annual IgnationQ conference”