St. John’s Preparatory School in Danvers, Mass., is an all-boys Catholic school founded by the Xaverian Brothers in 1907. Educating over 1,400 students in grades six to 12, St. John’s Prep is organized around cultural priorities that include seeing people as created in the image and likeness of God and seeking to empower all people as unique expressions of God’s love. The community emphasizes these priorities at the individual level, where enduring personal relationships accompany students on their journeys of self discovery.
Always Our Brothers and Sisters (ABS) was established at St. John’s Prep in September 1999 as a response to “Always Our Children,” a pastoral message published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1997.
The letter called for the universal church to love (not reject) and support (not dismiss) the LGBTQ members of the Catholic community, especially young people. Supporting ABS is one of the many ways St. John’s Prep expresses its Catholic identity, living out the Xaverian call for peace and justice through works of mercy.
Always Our Brothers and Sisters is moderated by three faculty members: Kara Brown, Sean McDaniel and Michael Leonard. Said the moderators to Outreach:
“The act of establishing an affinity group concretizes the experiences of individuals within the group. In the context of SJP as a grade six to 12 program, Always Our Brothers and Sisters provides the space in which LGBTQ students can be seen and heard—in some cases for the first time as their authentic selves.”
ABS meets weekly after school; while attendance varies, there are typically six to eight regular participants. To start, these participants check in, a regular protocol designed to invite each person to shape the meeting, and then open a discussion exploring a variety of topics related to the LGBTQ experience.
In addition to these weekly meetings, ABS members enjoy a number of on-campus activities, including admissions events, club day, ally week, the GLSEN Day of Silence and off-campus events like the Massachusetts Gender and Sexuality Alliance Leadership Council. ABS is also connected to community organizations like North Shore Pride and Boston Youth Pride, and the group volunteers for Cadbury Cafe and the Over the Rainbow Supper Club, two local dinner programs for LGBTQ elders.
The leaders of Always Our Brothers and Sisters say this ministry is a learning experience. “ABS brings a ministry of presence to St. John’s Prep,” said the moderators. “It is vital to many students, and not just those who participate formally. In fact, we receive regular feedback from alumni who express how important it was simply to have a GSA at their school.”