Boston College Opens New Exhibit Exploring History of LGBTQ Catholics

Boston College has opened a new exhibit exploring the history of LGBTQ Catholics, and it hopes to tell a different story than the common narrative of antagonism between the church and the queer community.

The exhibit, titled “Here All Along, Here to Stay: LGBTQ Catholics in the United States,” was produced by Boston College Libraries and the School of Theology and Ministry. It is displayed at several locations across campus, as well as online (available here). Campus newspaper The Heights reported:

“O’Neill Library’s version of the exhibit begins with a space to encounter others through the written testimonies of current students and alumni of the School of Theology and Ministry, who expressed their experiences of faith as LGBTQ Catholics. Next is a timeline of pivotal moments in the journey of LGBTQ Catholics in the United States during the past century, followed by a list of important figures.

“The exhibit concludes with the naming of various support resources for LGBTQ Catholics, the mention of some parishes (including St. Ignatius of Loyola on the corner of BC’s campus) that have forged LGBTQ outreach ministries, and a reference to the exhibit’s foundation in the Ignatian spirituality of the Jesuit tradition.”

Included in the timeline and resources is the work of Sr. Jeannine Gramick and New Ways Ministry, as well as figures like Sr. Luisa Derouen, Bishop John Stowe, and Fr. Bryan Massingale. Particularly compelling are those stories from LGBTQ students on the Story Wall.

Steve Dalton, the head librarian for the School of Theology and Ministry, explained to The Heights how this exhibit came into being:

“The exhibit’s planning team, said Dalton, consisted of ‘ten BCL staff members, an associate dean and two students from the STM, and a member of the parish staff at St. Ignatius of Loyola Church.’ Dalton’s words, featured in a Sept. 21, 2021 article of the BCL newsletter, also provide an explanation of the idea behind the exhibit.

“‘While viewing blackatbostoncollege [a BCL exhibit last year inspired by an Instagram account of the same name] at the Theology and Ministry Library (TML), James Reding, an openly gay student of BC’s School of Theology and Ministry (STM), envisioned a similarly toned exhibit, but one dealing with the experiences of LGBTQ people within the Catholic Church,’ said Dalton.”

For his part, Reding commented:

“Within the Church, there are still numerous people who would deny or belittle my place in it as an LGBTQ Catholic. . .I hope the exhibit sparks new conversations. The time has come – in fact, more than come – for conversations that take LGBTQ Catholics seriously, at our word. It must begin with our witness and our stories.'”

To view the online exhibit, click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 16, 2021

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