New organization opens eyes

Oct 6 • Features • 976

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Understanding human sexuality in the context of Catholic Church teaching is not an easy assignment.

When we look at the diverse cultures and wide spectrum of religious beliefs in the world, the task becomes even tougher.

This is why the LIFE — Love is for Everyone — group was formed.

Chad Gauthier, a senior information systems major at Gannon University and president of LIFE, said that the organization is committed to supporting and educating people who have identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ).

Deacon Steve Washek, psychology instructor Barbara Townsend and the Rev. Shawn Clerkin are advisers for the newly formed group. There are approximately 55 members in LIFE — including students, staff and alumni of the LGBTQ community and their supporters.

The difficulty in identifying with sexual orientation can include a fear of the loss of family support, the loss of friends and the fear of being bullied.

Because of these difficulties, LIFE strives to provide a safe environment for students, faculty, and alumni who wish to express the hardships they have encountered and may encounter in the future.

The group is focused on the developmental growth and support of both members and non-members who may have issues that need healing or require advice on understanding the diverse human sexual identity.

“I’m very excited that the group was finally formed,” Gauthier said. “It’s been in the works for almost a year. I am really excited that we can get started.”

Gauthier said that the continued mission is a result of the response to the Prayer Vigil to End Hatred—a prayer service promoting an end to hatred and bullying—which Campus Ministry sponsored for a second time on Tuesday.

At the first prayer service in 2011, Gauthier said that many students approached him and asked if there was anything they could do to help the cause.

Gauthier said that he felt the call to both respond to and continue the work of a student, Cody Bienkowski, who graduated from Gannon two years ago. He asserted that the many meetings with Campus Ministry proved to be worth it when the approval was granted.

LIFE’s plans include actively bringing understanding for those who are unfamiliar and inexperienced with the LGBTQ community. It is also in the process of creating service projects to affirm the commitment of Gannon in giving to the community.

Gauthier said that he believes that there is a lot that the group can do to improve the atmosphere of campus and make it friendlier to LGBTQ individuals.

“We’ve only had two meetings this year so far, but everyone who has come has been very enthusiastic, excited and supportive,” Matt Kridel, LIFE member, said. “As we become more well-known on campus, I can see a lot of other students hopefully joining us.”

You do not have to be LGBTQ to be a member—the only requirement is that you treat each and every member of the group and community with respect and dignity.

As society has changed, and the need for greater understanding becomes more necessary, Gannon strives to take steps to ensure a safe, friendly environment to all members of its community.

If you are interested in more information about the group or want to join you may contact Chad Gauthier at chadgauth@gmail.com, Deacon Steve Washek at washek003@gannon.edu or Rob Lopez at lopez010@gannon.edu.

DIANE CASSARLY

cassarly001@gannon.edu

Rob Lopez contributed to this story.

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