The Siena Symposium for Women, Family, and Culture is an interdisciplinary faculty group, founded at the University of St. Thomas in 2003 by professors of law, business, philosophy, theology and others interested in developing the new feminism called for by John Paul II in his 1995 Encyclical "The Gospel of Life." We have named the organization for St. Catherine of Siena, a medieval philosopher and theologian, whose love for the Church and impact on the culture of her time was acknowledged by the Church when Pope Paul VI named her a Doctor of the Church in 1970.
The Symposium has organized many conferences and workshops over the years; our activities have been sponsored primarily by the Ireland Fund, Beyond Career to Calling, a project of the Lilly Endowment Foundation; the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law and Public Policy; the Archdiocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life; and, most crucially the Center for Catholic Studies, without whose support the Symposium's genesis would not have been possible.
In the fall of 2010, the Executive Committee of The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity Board (SPSSOD) agreed to sponsor the Siena Symposium for a three year trial period, during which both the School of Divinity and the Symposium will explore the possibility and suitability of a more permanent affiliation. Co-Director of the Symposium, Dr. Deborah Savage, who is also a full-time faculty member at SPSSOD, will serve as the liaison between the two bodies.
Our affiliation with the SPSSOD facilitates a concrete exploration of the conviction expressed by Pope John Paul II in his Post-Synodal Exhortation, Christifidelis Laici ("On the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the church and in the World"), that:
In that same document, Pope John Paul II calls for widespread reflection on his Apostolic Letter to Women, Mulieris Dignitatem ("On the Dignity and Vocation of Women"), arguing that "this meditation on the anthropological and theological foundation of women ought to enlighten and guide the Christian response to the most frequently asked questions, oftentimes so crucial, on the place that women can have and ought to have in the Church society."
The Holy Father's profound insights on the need for a new feminism inspire us to seek a faithful and deep understanding of the nature of woman, of the complementarity of men and women, and finally, of the complementary relationship between the ordained priesthood and the laity. As John Paul makes clear, this investigation is necessary if we are to pursue – together – our common mission to return all things to Christ. That the SPSSOD has agreed to host the Symposium is a reflection of a shared wish to grasp its significance for the new evangelization and the life of the faithful.
Complementarity has implications and significance for human action in absolutely every aspect of society, from the law, to business, to politics, to education and beyond. We are persuaded that men and women are called to make history together and that, if that history is to constitute genuine progress toward authentic human flourishing, we must discover anew what it means to be truly human – rational creatures embodied as man and woman – with a shared responsibility to serve as stewards of the earth and its inhabitants.