Nursing sophomore Andre Rosario is bringing the religious and LGBT communities together.
As a practicing Catholic and openly LGBT student, Rosario is rebooting the Queer Christian Fellowship on campus. While the LGBT Center will play a role in its re-establishment, the QCF will fall under the umbrella of the Christian Association.
QCF was first established at Penn in 2006 but folded in 2011 due to declining student involvement.
“Like all of our student organizations, the QCF sort of waxed and waned depending on interest,” LGBT Center Associate Director Rebecca Schept said. “In 2011, there were a bunch of students who were really passionate about it and when they graduated, there was no one to carry the torch.”
Rosario decided to grasp that torch after he was one of eight Penn students attending the Creating Change Conference — the nation’s largest annual LGBT conference, held in Houston this past January. Schept and LGBT Center Director Bob Schoenberg challenged the students they brought to take an idea from the conference and bring it to life at Penn.
“I was interested in going to the conference because I knew that this year’s conference would have a lot of workshops about LGBT outreach in religious communities,” Rosario said.
Upon his return, he took up Schept and Schoenberg’s challenge and was determined to bring back the QCF. He spoke to administrators at the LGBT Center, the Christian Association, the Newman Center and the Office of the Chaplain to see how he could revive the QCF. Rosario added that he developed a close relationship with Newman Center Assistant Director Jeff Klein, who spent a great deal of time listening to his plans.
“I have a lot of admiration for Andre for taking a leadership role in bringing together Christians in the LGBT community ,” Klein said. “I think that college is a great time for finding yourself and Christianity obviously has a very important role in that but I know that figuring our own sexuality is a big part of that as well.”
Also during his return, the Christian Association was also hoping to restart the QCF, but was unsure how they could make it a reality.
“We were sure that there were students at Penn who were concerned about the [intersection of their faith and sexuality], but we didn’t know how to start,” Engineering senior and Christian Association Program Assistant Intern Scott Danielsen said. “So when we first got in contact with Andre and he made it clear that there was more interest out there, we were prepared to help him.”
Danielsen and Rosario hope that QCF will provide an environment where students can freely discuss both their sexuality and Christian beliefs, two things that usually don’t go hand in hand, Danielsen added.
“Sometimes in the LGBT community you find stigma around religion and sometimes in the religious community you find stigma around LGBT identity,” Schept said. “So the QCF will be helpful for those who find themselves at the intersection of these communities at Penn.”
“My hope is to create a community where people will feel comfortable sharing personal stories and asking questions that they might not be able to ask elsewhere,” Rosario added.
Rosario also said that any Penn students interested in the Queer Christian Fellowship can attend the first meeting this evening at 8 p.m. in the basement of Harnwell College House.
“It’s going to be a discussion group and a support group,” he said. “It’s open to any LGBT Christian, as well as any Christian allies or anyone who is really interested in talking about the intersection of faith and sexuality.”