The Washington National Cathedral will dedicate a plaque to Matthew Shepard next week, one year after Shepard’s remains were laid to rest in the cathedral.
For 20 years, his ashes were held in private without being interred, in fear that any memorial would be vandalized. After last year’s ceremony, representatives with the Beltway landmark noted that Shepard is among the most significant people interred there, alongside figures such as Helen Keller, various military heroes, and former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.
Observing the pilgrimages of mourners who came to pay respects, the church raised $30,000 to place a permanent marker in Shepard’s honor.
“It’s not just a burial site, it is a pilgrimage site in a lot of ways for a lot of people,” said representative Kevin Eckstrom in a statement. “We wanted to find a way to honor that experience, but also to help people to have something to see and touch and have a connection to.”
The plaque will be displayed in the cathedral’s crypt and reads: “Matt, rest gently in this place. You are home safe now, peace be with you and all who visit here.”
Shepard’s mother, Judy, reportedly worked with the church to ensure that her son’s memorial would acknowledge the plight of intersecting communities, including immigrants, minorities, and disabled people. The plaque will include Braille.
“We’ve given much thought to Matt’s final resting place, and we found the Washington National Cathedral is an ideal choice, as Matt loved the Episcopal church and felt welcomed by his church in Wyoming,” Judy Shepard said in a statement. “For the past 20 years, we have shared Matt’s story with the world. It’s reassuring to know he now will rest in a sacred spot where folks can come to reflect on creating a safer, kinder world.”
The National Cathedral is known for being particularly welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community. The site began hosting same-sex weddings in 2010 and has hosted transgender preacher Reverend Cameron Partridge.
Officials will hold a ceremony on December 2 to unveil the plaque, one day after what would have been Shepard’s 43rd birthday. Musicians and elected officials will be in attendance to pay their respects. Space will be limited, and members of the public can RSVP to the event. Should you miss their year’s event, annual ceremonies are planned every year through 2023.
Those future ceremonies will be sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies, controlled by billionaire presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg. As Out’s sister publication, The Advocate, previously reported, he has a mixed track record on LGBTQ+ equality.
Note: This story has been updated to clarify which U.S. presidents are interred at the National Cathedral. A previous version claimed several former heads of state have been laid to rest there, but just Woodrow Wilson has.