Creating Inclusive Catholic Schools for the LGBTQIA+ Community
On June 28-30, 2019 the Catholic Educational Leadership program and the McGrath Institute for Jesuit Catholic Education hosted the Creating Inclusive Catholic Schools for the LGBTQIA+ Community Summit in the USF School of Education. The event brought together over forty current and aspiring school leaders from across the United States, and coincided with San Francisco’s Pride weekend.
Over the two-day summit, members of the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies attended workshops on equity and inclusion in Catholic schools for the queer community. Sessions included “Hiring, Supporting, and Retaining LGBTQIA+ Folks,” “Law and Policy,” “Understanding the Ministerial Exception,” “Starting and Sustaining a Gay/Queer Student Alliance,” and more. The summit concluded with attendees joining the University of San Francisco community to participate in the San Francisco Pride parade.
Many of the summit participants were members of QEIRS (Queer Educators in Religious Schools), a national community of social justice activists based in San Francisco and supported by the McGrath Institute for Jesuit Catholic Education.
Participant Mary McKeever shared the following reflection about her time at the Summit:
“Coming together that weekend invoked many responses in me and served to lay the groundwork for much more thought on my role as an administrator in a Catholic school. Hearing people’s personal stories and witnessing the ease with which people interact around a common theme was both refreshing and inspiring. I was particularly moved by the realization that there were many people at the summit whose role was to support the LGBTQIA+ community, who themselves identified as heterosexual, yet felt strongly enough to lend their support as allies. This was particularly touching, and I believe it sent a powerful message of hope.
This sense of community was a constant throughout the weekend, and a reminder of the inclusion that underscores all that we do. For true inclusion to take place, there must be understanding and openness, and a willingness to learn. The inclusion that I sensed over the weekend was not one of merely ‘tolerance’ or ‘assimilation,’ but rather the real inclusion that comes from what Dr. Kevin Stockbridge called the ‘interaction between individual differences.’ Although the heterosexual community may not truly understand the struggles of our LGBTQIA+ friends, gathering together a diverse group of learners and educators certainly made genuine inclusion possible. Inviting us to come together, rather than simply host a summit for the LGBTQIA+ community, reflects the ministry of Jesus; His work was carried out through personal interactions, where He constantly reminded people that their witness to God would be seen in the way they interacted with others.
Along with the solidarity I felt, I was also struck by the willingness of so many people to share their stories and their experiences. Although I cannot truly identify with the struggles of those who have been isolated, hearing their accounts made me even more aware that there is still work to be done if we are to truly be supportive and inclusive.
To acknowledge that there is work to be done as we move toward a society of inclusion and true solidarity underscored much of the summit's mission. Yet its value also lay in the hope and togetherness that was at the core of everyone's experience there - powerful as it mirrored the simplicity of Christ's call to love.”