An interview with Bryan Ricketts and Lily Crawford
Founded in 2013, PrismND is Notre Dame’s answer to the expressed need for an official LGBTQ group on campus. “Beloved Friends and Allies,” A Pastoral Plan for the Support and Holistic Development of GLBTQ and Heterosexual Students at the University of Notre Dame and the basis of PrismND reads: “[T]he University also adheres to the Church’s teaching concerning homosexual actions. As a result, ‘Homosexual persons are called to chastity’ and to ‘friendship,’ and should cultivate ‘the virtues of self‐mastery that teach them inner freedom’ (CCC, 2359). Indeed, each and every student at Notre Dame is called to nothing less …
“With the American Bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family, the University defends that ‘Generally, homosexual orientation is experienced as a given, not as something freely chosen. By itself, therefore, a homosexual orientation cannot be considered sinful’ (Always Our Children, USCCB, 1997).”
The Irish Rover spoke with Bryan Ricketts and Lily Crawford, president and vice president, respectively, of PrismND, in the hopes of sharing with the Notre Dame community more about its mission and activities, and to address directly some misconceptions about this club.
Irish Rover:What is the mission of PrismND?
PrismND: As outlined in “Beloved Friends and Allies” (found at friendsandallies.nd.edu) and our mission statement (found at prism.nd.edu), we are a student organization dedicated to supporting and serving LGBTQ and ally students at Notre Dame. In the fall of 2012, a university review of services for LGBTQ students and allies was initiated. At its completion, it was determined that the current state of Notre Dame did not adequately serve this population, and the document, “Beloved Friends and Allies,” was written.
Which campus need does PrismND address?
PrismND was created to serve the LGBTQ and ally students on campus whose needs were not being met prior to “Beloved Friends and Allies.” Students had little opportunity to share experiences, the campus had a marked lack of awareness of what it meant to be LGBTQ at Notre Dame, and students could not find opportunities to explore their sexual identity or gender identity and how it fit in with their Catholic faith. Removing the barriers to finding support for the whole person underlies the mission of “Beloved Friends and Allies” to reemphasize Notre Dame’s Catholic identity in regards to LGBTQ issues.
Does PrismND follow and support the Catholic Church teachings on homosexuality (e.g. no same-sex marriages, chastity in all relationships, etc.)? What does it mean to be an ally?
Our Catholic identity, which is articulated in “Beloved Friends and Allies,” is the foundation for our organization’s mission to support LGBTQ and ally students. The Church’s teachings have been a guiding force as we strive to provide for the needs of students at Notre Dame; therefore, we invite all students to be allies and help us support our fellow classmates. An ally is someone who doesn’t identify as LGBTQ but is dedicated to providing a safe, inclusive, and welcoming environment here at Notre Dame. Our focus is on the student body and what students, and specifically our members, need. The outreach to the whole student body includes the students who are allies, and we provide programming and events specifically for them; however, they are welcome to attend any PrismND event regardless of focus. We recognize that Notre Dame is a unique and special place, so we make sure to tailor our organization to the specific needs of this campus.
What events is PrismND planning for this year?
PrismND achieves these goals through educational programming, general campus awareness, and the formation of a strong community that supports all students. Community is formed through the implementation of peer-to-peer support in events of a social, educational, or spiritual nature. For example, our Spirituality Committee has planned retreats, prayer services, and discussions around LGBTQ life and Catholic identity and hopes to continue these events this year.
Throughout the year, we will be advertizing for our programs on posters around campus and on social media. We hope to continue the conversations we started last year through events like Stand Against Hate Week and have some fun, too (like at the Welcome Back Picnic earlier this year). We strive to create a safe space through all of our events, meetings, and programs and make sure that everyone feels welcome and included here. We want to combat the negative feelings students might have and ensure that Notre Dame can be a home for everyone.
The club logo has a rainbow, as do many of the posters around campus. This can be interpreted as a connection to the national pride movement. Is this the connection that you are intending to make?
Our club logo, the rainbow shamrock, is meant to allude to the traditional symbol of the LGBTQ community. As an easily recognized representation of the community of people who identify as LGBTQ, the rainbow shamrock is a sign to students that we are a welcoming and inclusive organization. While nationally the rainbow can be representative of many things, here at Notre Dame, we use it as a sign of the LGBTQ community and have chosen to include it in our logo to signify our support for each student’s individual identity.
Will PrismND celebrate National Coming Out Day (Saturday, October 11) as it did last year? This is recognized on a national level and has recently included the agenda of directly or indirectly lobbying for the legalization of same-sex marriage.
As part of our mission to support all students, we want to provide a welcoming space where everyone is free to express their whole self. Included in this goal, we strive to support students who choose to come out and we seek to give them a safe space to do so. Our continual offering of coming out related events is born out of our commitment to support all students. We do this programming to combat the negative self image so often felt by students whose only experience with LGBTQ issues has been one of disapprovement and silencing. By allowing all students to “come out” and giving them the space and support to understand and explore their identity, we are able to show them that their humanity is something to be respected and valued.
Did PrismND as a club, the president, or vice president sign the Students Against Students for Child-Oriented Policy (SCOP) petition?
Lily and I did not sign the petition, nor did PrismND. Back in April, Lily and I wrote a letter to the editor [of the Observer] to explain PrismND’s position: “We are not opposed to the existence of SCOP, nor to the discussion it intends to have. Rather, we condemn the part of the discussion that degrades the lives of those who identify as GLBTQ in order to further its purpose. Moving forward, we hope that those who conduct any discourse on marriage keep in mind that behind the issue are GLBTQ-identifying people who hold God-given dignity. Any rhetoric that diminishes or disrespects the dignity of GLBTQ individuals harms all involved.”
The officers who signed the anti-SCOP petition did so as individual students, and their choice to do so does not reflect the stance that PrismND promoted in our materials (i.e. the open letter) or in our meetings. We support the diversity of thought within our membership because dialogue is the spark of fruitful conversations; however, we remain grounded in the Catholic foundations of respect that continue to inform our presence on campus and specifically our open letter about SCOP.
Are there any final comments or messages that you would like to share with the Notre Dame community?
All in all, our mission is to support the Notre Dame community and provide for its needs. When students come to us, we meet them at every stage of their journey of faith, identity, and personal discovery. We plan, through our programs and events this year, to continue to fulfill the goals laid out in “Beloved Friends and Allies,” as advised by LGBTQ and ally students. PrismND is committed to serving the LGBTQ and ally population on campus, as well as all students.
John VanBerkum is a junior philosophy major. He encourages everyone to read “Beloved Friends and Allies” for a better perspective on this club and Catholic teaching. John can be reached at email@example.com.