Georgetown will host the IgnatianQ Conference, a national conference that explores LGBTQ issues in the context of Jesuit values, in March, after GU Pride received approval to host the event from the Office of Mission and Ministry and the Office of Student Affairs this week.
The inaugural conference was held at Fordham University last April and attracted about 120 LGBTQ students from a quarter of all Jesuit universities across the country, including Georgetown, the University of San Francisco and the University of Seattle. GU Pride President Thomas Lloyd (SFS ’15) said that he expects to nearly double the number of attendees this year.
“We really need to network because there’s a huge disparity in how LGBTQ students are treated in each of their universities,” Lloyd said. “And it’s not necessarily about changing the policies of those universities, but this weekend itself will provide an outlet for students who don’t have access to the number of resources that we have access to.”
After attending the conference last spring, Lloyd spoke with LGBTQ Resource Center Director Shiva Subbaraman and Vice President for Mission and Ministry Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., about bringing IgnatianQ to Georgetown, and both administrators expressed their support. According to Lloyd, GU Pride faced no pushback from the university, and O’Brien and Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson offered their blessings.
“[Fr. O’Brien] Iprovided some guidance about what Campus Ministry would like us to address in the conference, which he identified as the notions of faith and justice, and interreligious understanding, which Georgetown does particularly well,” Lloyd said.
A board of Fordham students selected the bidding committee to choose the next university to host the conference. The committee selected Georgetown in July.
Last spring’s conference theme was “Finding God in the LGBTQ Jesuit Campus Community.” Next March, the theme will be “Forming Contemplative Communities to Ignite Action.”
“The joke is that, at Fordham, they were looking for God. At Georgetown, we found God. He’s here. Now, it’s about what we do next and how we go forward. And it’s drawing upon Georgetown’s rich history of student activism and programming around LGBTQ issues,” Lloyd said.
Fr. Gregory Schenden, S.J., a Catholic chaplain at Georgetown who has worked with GU Pride in organizing IgnatianQ, said that the conference will reflect Jesuit values.
“The purpose of this student-led conference is to help students from Jesuit universities grow in their faith and appreciate their worth as human beings. These values are central to the Jesuit commitment to cura personalis — care for each person in their uniqueness,” Schenden wrote in an email.
Lloyd said that one of his goals for the conference is to expand its reach.
“Moving forward, what we’re going to do is establish a national advisory committee for the conference, pulling from student leaders at each of the schools who attend the conference this year,” Lloyd said. “Whereas last year, it was Fordham-directed, part of bringing the conference to Georgetown is making it more sustainable and raising its national profile.”
At Fordham, the conference was entirely student-run. According to Lloyd, funding for Fordham’s conference came primarily from academic departments, rather than from the university’s Student Affairs.
“[IgnatianQ] was wonderfully organized by Fordham students and was well-attended by our own students and by those from other Jesuit colleges and universities across the country,” Fordham’s Vice President for Mission and Ministry Msgr. Joseph Quinn wrote in an email. “We all saw it as a graced opportunity to evidence Fordham’s active commitment to creating and sustaining a campus environment that is truly open to and welcoming of LGBT students and their allies.”
Invitations for this year’s iteration went out earlier this week to LGBTQ students at other Jesuit universities, as well as at Catholic University and Notre Dame.
“This gathering is unique in that there aren’t that many spaces where we can explore the intersections of faith identities and LGBTQ identities and I think it will draw in national attention that will showcase this, not only to other Jesuit schools, but to all schools with a religious affiliation,” Lloyd said.
The conference will include a series of workshops where students from various universities can present about programs, ministries or instances of activism at their respective schools. Lloyd said that he also hopes to include panels of LGBTQ Georgetown alumni, including those who attended the university before the creation of the LGBTQ resource center.
Students can register for the conference, which will take place March 27 to 29, on the IgnatianQ website, and Lloyd said that scholarships will be available for registration fees and travel. These scholarships will most likely be funded by the Tagliabue Initiative for LGBTQ Life, an initiative that was established in 2011 by Paul Tagliabue (C ’62), the chair of the university’s board of directors, and his wife, Chandler.
Lloyd said that he is excited to collaborate with LGBTQ students from other Jesuit universities, both to showcase the progress that LGBTQ activism has made at Georgetown and discuss initiatives that are ongoing at other universities.
“It’s a way for us to learn from these other schools. It’s not just about exposure, it’s about learning,” Lloyd said. “There are ideas that we still have a lot to learn from.”