“You Belong Here” at Core of Flag Raising Message
St. Jerome’s University raised the Pride flag on campus this morning in a ceremony held at the university’s flag pole. A small gathering of colleagues mindful of social distancing measures, were in attendance while other members of the SJU community watched the event online. SJU’s Interim President Dr. Scott Kline noted in his remarks that SJU recognizes the importance of belonging to a community and that raising the flag says to the LGBTQ+ person “you belong here”.
The following is an excerpt from his speaking notes from that event:
I would like to begin by introducing my colleagues, who will be helping me this morning.
- Dr. Toni Serafini, Chair of the Department of Sexuality, Marriage, and Family Studies
- Dr. Diana Lobb, a member of our Contract Academic Staff and Representing the SJU Academic Staff Association
- John Arnou, Director of Student Affairs
- Martha Fauteux, Director of Campus Ministry
- Meaghan Hymers, President of the St. Jerome’s University Students’ Union
I want to open my brief remarks with the following declaration: “All are welcome in this place.”
We, the St. Jerome’s University community, are here this morning to mark the first day of Pride Month by raising the Progress Pride Flag, which will fly until the end of June.
In recent days, I have often been asked why St. Jerome’s is flying the flag. The answer, put simply, is because we are a Catholic university called by the gospel to serve one another in love, truth, and justice.
As a Catholic university, we are guided by the virtue of hospitality. Practically, this means that we ought to be welcoming guests, including strangers, the socially marginalized, and people who may not share our worldview. The virtue of hospitality calls us to be open toward others, including their ideas and experiences. Something happens when we are open to others: we are reminded that God’s creation is diverse, and we have much to learn from one another.
Hospitality done well is never easy. It can be demanding, confusing, and it always a lot of work. Sometimes hospitality requires that we overcome deeply entrenched barriers designed to keep "the other” out. At St. Jerome’s, we aspire to be a community where “the other” can seek refuge, a safe place where they can feel supported and valued as a person with human dignity. For the St. Jerome’s community, raising the flag says to the LGBTQ+ person, you belong here.
This sense of belonging to a community is so important today. We have all heard stories about university students experiencing challenges with mental wellness: feeling overwhelmed and alone. What is perhaps less widely known is that young people in their 20s who identify as LGBTQ+ are four-to-five times more likely to engage in self harm, including suicide, than their non-LGBTQ+ peers. In this regard, welcoming the LGBTQ+ person sends the message: you matter to us. Moreover, we reach out to struggling students because we have people in place, in our Office of Student Affairs and in our Campus Ministry, who can help them in their journey of discovering who they are and who they want to become. Students struggle, we want them to feel welcome and supported at St. Jerome’s.
At St. Jerome’s, we sing a hymn at many of our university events called “All Are Welcome.” The first few lines go like this:
Let us build a house
Where love can dwell
And all can safely live,
A place where
Saints and children tell
How hearts learn to forgive.
It ends with the chorus,
All are welcome, all are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.
Let that be our prayer.