Maryland’s Jack Andraka is only 16 years old, but already he has broken ground in cancer research — and Catholic culture.
The Vatican recently awarded him for scientific efforts, but others, including Andraka, note the importance of this award, given that this prodigy is also openly gay.
Andraka received the International Giuseppe Sciacca Award for developing a pancreatic cancer early-detection test. The award is presented in Rome to young people who have made outstanding progress in their given field, and is named after an architecture student who died at 26.
The Advocate reports on Andraka’s cancer research for which the young man has won many other awards and media appearances:
“Andraka’s test for pancreatic cancer is significant because this is one of the deadliest forms of the disease, difficult to detect before it has affected other organs. He is in negotiations with a couple of biotech firms to refine and market the test, which would likely be available to the public in five to 10 years.”
In an interview with a Baltimore-area radio station, Andraka, a native of Anne Arundel County, spoke more about the cultural step that has been taken by the Vatican awarding a young gay man. He is quoted by WBAL as saying:
” ‘It’s really amazing to be recognized by the Vatican, especially as a gay scientist. I mean this would be unheard of just a few years ago. To be part of this bridge of progress is really amazing…’ ”
“It just shows how much the world has grown to accept people that are gay and are LGBT. It’s really amazing.”
Andraka not only advocates for more LGBT inclusion in the Church, but in scientific fields as well where he claims diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity is lacking. To hear Andraka speak about LGBT inclusion, among several other topics, you can watch a video interview with him here.
Pope Francis has asked for open doors to the LGBT community. The Vatican’s recognition that LGBT people contribute countless gifts to our world when it comes to Andraka should be followed up with more positive outreach and dialogue. Hopefully, this one award foreshadows many good developments to come.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry