It was an event that fostered connection and hope—and moved some student to tears. On the weekend of April 21 to 23, students from 14 Jesuit colleges and universities came to Fordham for Ignatian Q, a conference emphasizing community, spirituality, and ways of achieving full inclusion and belonging for LGBTQ+ students on their campuses. The conference has been hosted at various schools in the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) since it was founded at Fordham in 2014.

The messages conveyed during keynote speeches, breakout sessions, a Mass, and other events made for a conference that was, in the words of one organizer, “amazing.”

“I don’t even know how to describe it. Everyone was crying. It was more than I could have ever hoped for,” said Ben Reilly, a senior at Fordham College at Rose Hill and chair of the Ignatian Q Planning Committee. “It seems to have breathed life into the conversation around LGBT life on campus and LGBT student community, and the importance of community both at Fordham and across our AJCU family.”

Speakers were unsparing in describing the obstacles to LGBTQ+ equality. The weekend began with a keynote at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle, next to the Lincoln Center campus, by Bryan Massingale, S.T.D., a gay Catholic priest and the James and Nancy Buckman Chair in Applied Christian Ethics at Fordham.

He spoke of the necessity of dreaming as a step toward creating a just society in which people no longer face intolerance and violence because of gender identity or gender expression.

“That dream is under attack—blatant attack, disturbing attack,” he said, citing laws against “life-saving, gender-affirming medical care” and discussion of LGBTQ topics in schools, among other things. “There are serious efforts underway,” he said, “to create a world in which we don’t exist.”

He decried the idea that “God does not love us and we are not worthy,” saying “we have to dream of a world and a church where that lie is put to rest.” During his address, he prompted everyone in the pews to turn to one another and give affirmations including “you are loved” and “you are sacred.”

Visibility, Understanding, Acceptance

Saturday’s keynote was delivered at the Rose Hill campus by Joan Garry, FCRH ’79, a nationally recognized LGBTQ activist and former executive director of the gay rights organization GLAAD.

“The LGBTQ movement for equality needs all of you—badly,” said Garry, who serves on the executive committee of the President’s Council at Fordham. She urged the students to be activists who foster greater inclusivity at their colleges and universities and provide a model for other LGBTQ students who may be struggling.

“Visibility drives understanding, and understanding drives acceptance,” she said. “When you are ‘out,’ you model authenticity and honesty, and you show people the way. We illustrate that one does not have to be controlled by the expectations of others, and do you know how big that is? That’s a superpower.”

The event was supported by Campus Ministry and the Office of Mission Integration and Ministry. Father Massingale celebrated Mass at the Lincoln Center campus on Sunday, and for some students, it was their first time attending Mass since coming out, Reilly said.

Also on Sunday, in a keynote at the Lincoln Center campus, James Martin, S.J., the prominent author and editor at large at America magazine, said the openness of more and more LGBTQ people in parishes and dioceses ensures that the Catholic Church will continue to become more open to them.

“As more and more people are coming out, more and more bishops have nieces and nephews who are openly gay. That just changes them,” he said. “And that’s not going to stop.”


Chris Gosier is research news director for Fordham Now. He can be reached at (646) 312-8267 or [email protected].