|USD's Immaculata. A beacon on a hill.|
Saturday night marked an important spiritual milestone: I was confirmed as a Catholic. My initial acts as a Catholic were taking part in communion for the first time and being sealed with the Holy Spirit.
And now having been official for only three days, I'm taking action in another way. By speaking out against the hatemongering currently taking place around my alma mater, the University of San Diego.
Here's the jist, as explained on A USD for Everyone's website:
A particular alum at USD has expressed outrage that USD is hosting LGBT friendly events on campus. In accordance with California law and continuing to foster an inclusive community, USD administration has approved these events. You can read more about the events and why here. Note: some of the comments in this article are hateful.
Unfortunately, some USD alum have retaliated in poor form, by threatening to stop donating, calling the President’s office, and sending emails.
Many of us are alums who have worked together at USD to ensure that our alma mater was an inclusive community. Our jobs didn’t end as students. As alums, we have the responsibility to ensure USD remains a place for everyone.
Upon reading the hate speech surrounding the LGBT event in question and being nauseated, I did what any passionate alum and Catholic would do. I wrote a letter to the President of the university.
I'm posting my letter to President Lyons for a couple reasons:
- It's important to me that people understand that not all Catholics are hateful bigots. I take seriously the vow I made to uphold my religion, and this is how I'm doing it - by trying my hardest to espouse the values set forth by Jesus.
- To encourage others to speak out in favor of equality and social justice, regardless of the opposition.
- To get the word out and raise awareness. There's much work to be done. To take action, click here.
Dear President Lyons,
As a USD alum and newly-confirmed Catholic, my faith, values and passion for social justice compel me to email you. My heart swells with pride that my alma mater is so progressive and open-minded to host LGBT events; it breaks that some of our fellow Catholics do not see it as so.
I was confirmed at Old St. Patrick’s Church in Chicago this past Saturday. For the past seven months, I have attended RCIA classes and prepared for my initiation into the Catholic faith. During this time, I learned one lesson above all others. We are all God’s children. We must accept and love one another and show compassion toward our fellow man.
The hate speech over this LGBT event is appalling and unfounded. Jesus hung out with prostitutes and lepers. He was a radical. He took in those whom society had cast out. He was a champion of social justice. To me, being a follower of Christ means fighting for human equality and living in His example. It also means striving to embody the true nature of the Church and Catholic faith: the love of all mankind.
While I respect the Magisterium, I find the official Church teaching on issues of homosexuality and gender identity to be inconsequential. My conscience and faith in Christ will not allow me to treat or view the LGBT community as inferior. USD and my Chicago parish accept these children of God, and so should the rest of the Church.
I understand that the Catholic Church is a slow-changing entity. It will likely be a long time before official doctrine accepts and welcomes LGBT members with open arms. But I deeply believe that this will eventually happen. Until it does, USD must forge ahead. USD must continue to be a beacon of hope for members of the LGBT community, whether they are Catholic or not. USD must remain a force for positive social change.
Part of USD’s noble mission and vision is “to create a diverse and inclusive community and to prepare leaders dedicated to ethical conduct and compassionate service.” USD is a place for everyone. It is a place that teaches ethics and compassion. This mission is not easy, but nothing worth fighting for is.
It’s USD’s open-mindedness that made me fall in love the first time I set foot on the campus. Aside from its visual beauty, it was clear that USD was a progressive place where the importance of social justice reigned supreme. Higher education at its very best – teaching and demonstrating the values of Christ in applicable, real world contexts.
The day I moved into the dorms in Fall 2004, there were protestors at the gates, livid that USD welcomed homosexual students. I felt proud to embark on a journey of education and faith at a Roman Catholic institution that welcomed my LGBT brothers and sisters, regardless of opposing pressure.
USD’s mission for social justice drew me into the faith, and ultimately led to my confirmation this past weekend. Beside me at the altar was my confirmation sponsor – my best friend of eight years whom I was randomly paired to live with in USD’s dorms. So while I’m writing in plea, I also want to say THANK YOU. USD has done so much for me in matters of education, faith and lifelong friendships. Caving to pressures of hate and division would eliminate that same opportunity for present and future students who value compassion, justice and brotherly love.
When I confirmed my Catholic faith on Saturday night, I knew there was work to be done and that I was not joining a perfect institution. But there is so much beauty and good within the Church, and as Catholics, we must strive to emulate the beauty of Jesus’ teachings. USD is a light in the Catholic world, and its good work makes me proud to call myself an alum and member of the faith.
President Lyons, may God bless you and the University of San Diego during this time of trial and always. (And don’t forget that we are Toreros – we fight bull.)
“Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.” – St. Francis de Assisi
Alessia Maniaci, current Young Alumni Network Fundraising Committee member, Class of 2008