This weekend, some 1,800 students and school leaders have gathered for the Ignatian Family Teach-In to learn about justice and advocate for change. This year, more than ever, LGBT justice has become a constitutive part of the Teach-In’s activities, and inclusion is a baseline posture.
Among the many breakout sessions, five sessions will address issues related to gender and sexuality. Last night, Jack Raslowsky, president of Xavier High School in New York, led a large conversation about LGBT issues on campus.
Today, there are four more sessions. Jane Bleasdale of the Institute for Catholic Educational Leadership at the University of San Francisco will explore the experiences of Black, Latinx, and LGBT students in Jesuit high schools and discuss how Catholic education could move from mere tolerance to real inclusion. Isiah Blake and Erick Krebs from The Spectrum, a race justice organization at Xavier High School, New York, will host a conversation on race, sexuality, and manhood, asking, “If Jesus didn’t feel the need to qualify his love, why do we?” Jane Barry, a graduate of Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry will lead a training on how Catholics can put mercy into action and be better allies for LGBT people.
New Ways Ministry’s Glen Bradley and I will be leading a session titled “Courageous Love: Responding to the Criminalization of LGBTQ Identities.” We highlight the more than 70 nations in the world where homosexuality is criminalized, including ten where being gay is punishable by death. Catholics in the United States must respond more proactively where LGBT people’s lives are threatened, and our workshop helps explore ways this response could be offered based on the church’s tradition. New Ways Ministry has previously presented at the Teach-In, including on transgender issues in Catholic contexts and creating inclusive campuses.
Sponsored by the Ignatian Solidarity Network, the Teach-In annually gathers students and staff from North American Jesuit high schools and colleges.
This year is my eighth Teach-In, having attended as a college student myself, and I am once again inspired being among so many students, staff, alumni, and others committed to “mercy in action,” this year’s theme. But today, perhaps because of the election last week, I am especially struck by this reality: inclusion here is a baseline from which one deviates, not an end towards which one aims.
What I mean by this is that for these students and young adults like myself, being inclusive of every person is a given. Being human, the lived reality of our inclusion is, yes, imperfect. We each fail to be inclusive, and sometimes we miss altogether to what genuine inclusion calls us. But even if imperfect, there is a basic posture of welcome and of acceptance among attendees. They are eager to educate and transform those people and institutions who do not practice this posture of inclusion, particularly in the church.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, which featured a letter from gay University of Notre Dame alum Jack Bergen, these uncertain times have left many of us afraid and grasping to make sense of what is happening. But being amid 1,800 students and other Catholics who are so energized to “go set the world on fire” by unapologetically loving each and every person helps convince me anew that love always trumps hate.
–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 12, 2016