Two Catholic colleges have taken positive steps to being more inclusive campuses for their LGBTQ students.
Sacred Heart University Hosts LGBTQ Celebration
Sacred Heart University (SHU) recently held a celebration of LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and staff as a way of assuring them that they are welcome in this Catholic space in the wake of the Vatican’s ban on same-gender blessings in March. The event was titled “As You Are.”
John J. Petillo, president of the university located in Bridgeport, Connecticut, spoke at the campus event, along with Michelle Loris, chair of Catholic studies and associate dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. Bridgeport’s Hamlethub reported:
“While the Vatican’s decision on same-sex marriages disappointed the LGBTQ+ community and its allies, Sacred Heart leaders say the University remains steadfast in its support of LGBTQ+ individuals. ‘Sacred Heart is a community of faith, which will continue to welcome and respect each and every person. Driven by our Christian mission, we will continue to be a community of welcome and respect. Together, and only together, can we grow in the richness of God’s gifts and love,’ said Petillo. . .
“’Not every Catholic university would hold an event aimed at celebrating and affirming the LGBTQ community. But our University is distinct and unique. It stands for inclusivity and embraces all people with love. It stands against any form of hatred or prejudice, no matter the source,’ said Loris.”
Senior minister at the United Congregational Church of Bridgeport and SHU Chaplain Rev. Sara D. Smith also gave remarks:
“’As an out lesbian clergy, I am very proud of the statement SHU is making. Dr. P[etillo], it could very well save lives. I want the LGBTQ students to hear it from me—I know the hearts of these people who have spoken, and they are sincere. They are the beginning of safe zones and allies that will be created here on campus for all of you,’ Smith continued. She called on others in attendance to join her in proclaiming to the LGBTQ+ community, ‘You are created and loved by God—as you are.'”
Safe zones are places where campus groups discuss and learn about LGBTQ prejudices, assumptions, and identities. Attendees at the event had the opportunity to sign up for safe zone ally training for the SHU LGBTQ+ community.
U. of Portland Ends Campus Ministry Advisor for LGBTQ Group
At University of Portland in Oregon (UP), the Gay Sexuality Partnership (GSP) has removed a constitution clause mandating the club to have an appointed Campus Ministry advisor.
The GSP club was founded closely with Campus Ministry 13 years ago. There is no other campus club with a similar advisor requirement. The Beacon reported:
“According to the Director of Campus Ministry Fr. Jim Gallagher, the requirement’s purpose was to establish a healthy relationship between the two groups. ‘It may seem controlling, and the idea there was to acknowledge the importance of the group on campus, to acknowledge some ways that there can be misunderstandings between members of the church and members of the LGBT community, and wanting to make sure that there’s that clear connection,’ Gallagher said. ‘It was meant to be an investment in how important the group is for our campus ministry.’”
Despite the change, GSP leaders want to continue to have a strong relationship with Campus Ministry.
GSP President Aubrey Putansu said students’ well-being should be prioritized no matter their religious background, commenting:
“There are many students who are Catholic or any other religious identity who fall into the LGBT community, and that intersection is something that’s really important and needs to be supported. They might not have been supported where they come from and I think that UP can offer a space to heal from that.”
Fr. Gallagher admits that the church can improve:
“There is a place in the church for everyone, including those in LGBT groups. I think the church, and Campus Ministry, can do a better job of accompanying and creating this space for members of the LGBT community.”
This post is part of Bondings 2.0’s “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking here.
–Beth Mueller Stewart, May 7, 2021