The Siena Symposium for Women, Family, and Culture
"In transforming culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a 'new feminism' which rejects the temptation of imitating models of 'male domination' in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation.”
- Pope St. John Paul II
Evangelium vitae, 99 -
The Siena Symposium has spent a quarter-century dedicated to reshaping the dialogue on women, family, and culture. Learn about our groundbreaking work.
The Siena Symposium began in 2000 at the University of St. Thomas as a response to Pope St. John Paul II’s declaration, found most explicitly in his 1995 encyclical, Evangelium vitae, that it is up to women themselves to articulate a new and explicitly Christian feminism. Work is underway to establish a new presence for the Symposium at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Research and the social changes in the intervening years have led us to see the topic in the broader context of culture and its influence on family life and the life of faith. This vision is reflected in our formal name—the Siena Symposium for Women, Family, and Culture. The mission, too, has changed as we attempt to pursue a faithful and philosophically robust understanding of the nature and mission of both woman and of man, the genius unique to each, and the complementarity that characterizes their relationship. In his Letter to Women (1995, 8), St. John Paul II affirms the importance of this work, declaring that it is this very complementarity that gives us our mission: to create not only families, but human history itself. Scripture’s call to take dominion over all the earth is given to both man and woman; it is to be carried out wherever they live, work, or pray together, not only in the home, but in the public square, and in the Church herself. We consider it our special privilege to convey the teachings of the Magisterium on these matters, in both our academic research and presentations and to the community through conferences and a variety of events. Indeed, all of our efforts are ordered toward grasping and transmitting the truths of the Catholic faith and the profound wisdom it embodies on the meaning of man and woman. 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.
The Symposium began as an interdisciplinary faculty group and was subsequently formally established in 2003 by professors of law, business, philosophy, and theology at the University of St. Thomas. Since then, the Board of Fellows grew to include members of other professional disciplines as well as practitioners in the field. As our name implies, we have put ourselves under the protection of St. Catherine of Siena, whose love for souls and impact on the culture of her own time is well known.
The Siena Symposium is distinguished by its two-fold engagement with the questions at the heart of our mission: we pursue both academic research and publications, as well as community and educational outreach to our constituents. We bring the results of our scholarly work to the public by organizing and sponsoring events, workshops, and symposia intended to advance an understanding of this growing body of knowledge. The topics are not limited to anthropological questions but extend to the meaning of family life and the need to encourage economic, social, legal, and cultural institutions that more fully respect the person.