Georgetown is hosting the second annual IgnatianQ Conference, a Catholic forum intended to promote dialogue on LGBTQ issues in relation to Jesuit values, from March 27 to March 29.
The conference is organized by a number of student and campus groups including GU Pride, the LGBTQ Resource Center and the Office of Campus Ministry. The forum will consist of keynote speeches, panel discussions and breakout sessions hosted by experts on LGBTQ issues, faith leaders and Georgetown alumni. Last year’s conference was held at Fordham University.
This year’s keynote speakers include Vice President for Mission and Ministry Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., renowned writer on Catholic issues Elizabeth Donnelly (SFS ’78) and Communities in Schools President Dan Cardinali, whose organization works to prevent students from dropping out of school. Most of the conference’s larger events will take place in the Healey Family Student Center, with the smaller breakout sessions occurring in either Healy Hall or Maguire Hall. This year, the discussion topics will center on sexual identity at Georgetown, the history of LGBTQ alumni, community goals, sexual assault, interfaith discussion and campus resources for LGBTQ students.
GU Pride President Thomas Lloyd (SFS’ 15) led the initiative to bring IgnatianQ to Georgetown last spring after sending student representatives last year’s conference at Fordham University, including members Phil Tam (MSB ’14) and Eric Nevalsky (SFS ’16). The conference, run by a group of Fordham students, reached out to Jesuit colleges and universities to submit proposals for the 2015 conference. Lloyd and GU Pride submitted a proposal detailing Georgetown’s access to space, finances and faculty support May 11, 2014, and were selected as the winner May 14.
Lloyd said that Georgetown makes for a good home for IgnatianQ because it has a history of welcoming LGBTQ students, specifically as the first Jesuit and Catholic institution to create an LGBTQ resource center. He said he wants to share Georgetown’s culture with other LGBTQ students around the country and be the standard for forums of discussion. Students from Jesuit schools around the country will travel to attend the conference at Georgetown.
“Georgetown really offers its LGBTQ students a lot of resources, a lot of support, a lot of hope,” Lloyd said. “We really have a great community and we wanted to share elements, parts of our history, parts of our success with other universities.”
Lloyd added that the conference facilitates necessary discussions about the difficulties of advocating for LGBTQ rights in a Jesuit space.
“IgnatianQ is a very unique space,” Lloyd said. “There are very few people who understand what it means to do LGBTQ work in a Jesuit context and there are unique challenges, concerns but also rewards … for me personally doing LGBTQ work has been how I’ve made my meaning.”
The Roman Catholic chaplain of Campus Ministry, Fr. Greg Schenden, S.J., emphasized that the conference reflects Jesuit values through cura personalis, as it helps to open up a conversation about spirituality within the LGBTQ community.
“Cura personalis is care, not just for the whole person, but everybody,” Schenden said. “It’s not something you can simply say that ‘cura personalis is for this group over here, but not this group over here.’ No, cura personalis entails the entire human person [and] also our entire community here at Georgetown.”
Schenden said that he was excited for the conference and lauded its theme of “Contemplatives in Action,” a tenet of Jesuit values. By adopting this theme, attendees are encouraged to reflect on their lives and community.
“That goes back all the way to Ignatius himself,” Schenden said. “It always has an outward movement to the large community. And especially for Ignatius it was always where the needs weren’t being met … fostering the notion of contemplatives in action in our community here at Georgetown is a cool thing.”
Lloyd also stressed the conference’s role in finding commonalities between Jesuit and LGBTQ values. He explained that the conference honors and respects the LGBTQ community as members of the Georgetown community.
“I’ve always said the most important part of LGBTQ work in this [Jesuit] context is to affirm that we have a duty to LGBTQ students because our context demands it. It’s part of supporting the whole person. It’s part of being a universal church and a universal community, and a university community,” Lloyd said.
GUPride board member and IgnatianQ coordinator Campbell James (SFS’17) said he wanted to bring IgnatianQ to Georgetown to create an opportunity for students from all over the country who are interested in LGBTQ issues to network with one another.
“It’s going to be really, really, interestingm fun, networking-filled weekend,” James said. “It’s a lot of work that’s going to come to fruition and to have students from all over the country at Georgetown. That’s what I think is really important about LGBTQ work, creating a large network of solidarity and strength.”
The weekend will include Georgetown’s 10th Genderfunk Drag Ball on March 27, which will be held in the Healey Family Student Center’s social room.
Lloyd said that he wants the conference to set an example for all future IgnatianQ meetings, which will require a huge exertion of effort on the part of GUPride.
“We want to create a model of what LGBTQ work on Catholic campuses can look like.” Lloyd said. “The Georgetown name invariably raises the profile, which I think elevates the conversation.”
Schenden also said that he is excited for the conference because of the variety of faiths and experiences that will be represented. He pointed out that there is a chance for Georgetown students to learn more about other groups of people.
“[It’s great] to have the different faith traditions all represented and speaking on this topic,” Schenden said. “Especially for the LGBTQ community, [it’s] a great opportunity for the larger community here at Georgetown.”