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  • Writer's pictureJulia Erdlen

The Mights of LGBTQ+ Students

I have had the great joy of working to support LGBTQ+ young people in a variety of faith-affiliated spaces over the past few years. I am wildly impressed by them, but sometimes working with these precious young people who are harmed by the Church I am part of breaks my heart.

My queer students tell me things like ‘I thought you might be a safe person’ or ‘I’m worried I can’t be involved in campus ministry if I’m out’ or ‘What if I’m just fooling myself, and the official Church teaching is right, and I can’t date this partner or use these pronouns?’

I am always so sorry that they have to be so courageous, and that they have to worry about coming out to their campus minister. I often want to shield them from the realities that sometimes the church and the world will sometimes be just awful to them. And sometimes they say exactly what I used to think about myself and about God when I was in college, and it’s so word for word I am moved to tears. That these LGBTQ+ young people want to share their stories with me is a gift. Quite frankly, I don’t understand how any church leaders can see young people wanting to serve God, and then show them the door if they bring a partner around or break out new pronouns.

I can’t snap my fingers and fix the Catholic Church, much as I want to. But I can, and do, tell them that they will always have a place in any program I run. That they can lead and be brilliant and it’s my job to give them opportunities to do so. That God loves them, not in spite of their queer identity but in the fullness of exactly who they are.

I can say it as often and as loud as I can, but they have to dive in, in prayer and conversation and in community, to understand and know for themselves that God is with and for them. And I tell them I will be right there by their side, on the joyful days and the challenging ones. They can sit in my office with a rainbow flag on the wall, get a cup of hot cocoa, and we can talk it through.

The most challenging part of my ministry is that I plant seeds, but don’t always get to see what grows. But sometimes I get to see the fruit of all these conversations with my students:

“Wanna meet my girlfriend?” my student asks, with no trace of worry or hesitation in her voice.

A grin spreads across my face, and what I think and say aloud is identical.

“I would love to!”

Never do I feel more affirmed in my vocation than in these moments. I get to play a small part in building the Kingdom of God, where no one lives in fear of condemnation or exclusion because of who they are and who they love.

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