I was inspired to start the group by the Spirit during the fall 2013 Call To Action conference in Milwaukee. There I met tons of young adults passionate about Catholic social justice, particularly about LGBTQIA equality in the Church. Most of the people I met were out of college already. I realized still being a student at Catholic college gave me a critical advantage to reach out to other progressive young adult Catholics.
When I arrived back on campus, I told some of my close friends about this idea to start a ministry to gay students and their allies. Everyone was supportive and one even agreed to help me lead to group.
I knew that the best way to make something like this last at my school was by linking it to an already existing office on campus. I’ve seen new clubs try to form at my school and die after the leader graduated. I am a rising senior and I want this ministry to survive beyond my time at the university.
First, I took the idea to the Nondenominational Christian Fellowship which I was very involved with. I thought maybe we could launch a new small group bible study around this topic. The leader did not say no, but she did not say yes either. She feared idea was too topical for their inductive method of bible study.
Disappointed, I took the idea to the office of Service and Justice where I had many connections. The director regretted to tell me that the group was too religious in nature to fit with their mission which focuses primarily on poverty.
I almost gave up after those two rejections, but a gay friend of mine suggested taking the idea to Campus Ministry. I did not have much experience in that office and feared they would be too conservative too take on this ministry. But the staff member I spoke with said yes!
He had been to a conference for Jesuit university staff that Fall, and he was challenged by a speaker who asked, “What are you doing to reach out to your gay students?” He had already asked the Campus Ministry board for approval to start some kind of outreach, but he had been too busy since the approval to organize anything.
By the time I got approval, it was already the end of the fall semester. Over winter break, my co-leader and I brainstormed ideas or meetings structure, advertising, and weekly discussion topics. In the first few week of the spring semester, we worked on advertising through Campus Ministry. They printed posters we worked on together and hung them on campus as well as using digital and online ads. By end of the semester, most of the campus community recognized us by name.
Although we were known on campus, we did not get a large attendance. We think our meetings were too late in the evening for most people (8:45pm-10pm), plus most people already had their clubs and commitments planned out before they knew about Affirmations. Grated these things, I was satisfied with the amount of our regular members.
Here’s some demographics of the group:
- Number of Regular Participants: five
- College year: One graduate student, two seniors, one junior, one sophomore
- Race/Ethnicity: three white, one black, one Hispanic
- Sexual Orientation: two straight, two bisexual, one queer
- Gender: one male, four females
I am hopeful that the group grow in diversity and number in the upcoming Fall semester, especially with gender. My school is known for having a majority of white women, but I know there are gay men and transgender people on campus—so why aren’t they coming?
As for our meeting structure, we are pretty casual. We eat snacks, do Highs-and-Lows of the week, discuss a topic relating to spirituality, sexuality, and/or gender, then close in prayer. I would like to incorporate some scripture, but I have no idea how.
I would greatly appreciate any suggestions for our growth in the comments! Also feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more of my story, check out my blog about being a bisexual Christian.