A Catholic university’s support for LGBTQ students was expressed recently through the Catholic liturgy.
Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington State hosted its annual Lavender Mass this month, an event held around National Coming Out Day as a celebration “focused on affirming and supporting LGBTQ+ campus community members through faith.”
A press release from the university described further the intentions behind the Mass, explaining:
“This religious gathering provides a space for people who may have felt they had to choose between their LGBTQ+ identity or their faith, as well as a space to heal from trauma, an introduction to Catholic mass, or an invitation to community. While it is a Catholic service, people of all faiths and spiritualities are invited to celebrate the Catholic and Jesuit values of Gonzaga University, while still recognizing the struggle to truly love one another without conditions. . .
“Over the years, students from many faith backgrounds have said Lavender Mass is significant to them because they see campus coming together to strengthen our beloved community. We must continue this work by creating an inclusive space and recognizing the work still to be done.
Notably, the celebrant for the Mass was Jesuit Fr. Pat Conroy, who is a former chaplain to the U.S. House of Representatives. His homily referenced the failure of Catholics who attend Mass to then go live out the exhortations they hear from Jesus, so the Lavender Mass and other moments like it are reminders of what should be done in faith.
Gonzaga’s official efforts for LGBTQ advocacy started in 2004 with the creation of the Lincoln LGBTQ+ Resource Center, the first of its kind at a Jesuit institution. Besides the Lavender Mass, Gonzaga’s other two key components in terms of LGBTQ outreach are “Out to Lunch with Allies,” a monthly meal for the campus community, and efforts to make campus more inclusive, such as housing options and a chosen-name policy, according to Matthew Barcus, the program manager for LGBTQ+ education and support.
Gonzaga University’s efforts provide a hopeful model of what it can look like for Catholic spaces to support and love their queer members. Not only do these events foster a safe space for LGBTQ persons, but they are also a witness of the beauty of the Catholic faith. For many with queer identities and sexualities, Catholicism has become a faith of oppression, exclusion, and harm. The LGBTQ community at Gonzaga is advocating to shift this narrative to show a Catholic faith that authentically follows the examples of Jesus–a faith centered on solidarity, accompaniment, and love.
—Elise Dubravec, New Ways Ministry, November 1, 2021