Inaugural Conference on Justice and Social Concerns to focus on faith and bioethics

Event features Lin Great Speakers Series, Art of Peace Award presentation

St. Mary’s University will hold its inaugural Conference on Justice and Social Concerns this spring, and the first installment is titled “Stewardship in Science: A Dialogue on Faith and Bioethics.”

The two-day program begins Feb. 16. Among the highlights will be the presentation of the Art of Peace Award on Feb. 17 at 11:20 a.m. and the Lin Great Speakers Series on Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. Both events will be held in University Center Conference Room A.

Jozef Welie, Ph.D., professor at Creighton University’s Center for Health Policy and Ethics, will kick off the program with his talk, “Of Microscopes, Pearl Earrings, and the Quest to Find God in All Things.”

Mary Elizabeth Cantu, founder and director of San Antonio’s Spare Parts Studio, will receive the Art of Peace Award, given annually to an artist in any medium whose life work has promoted peace, justice and understanding. Cantu, who also will host an art workshop on campus, distributes recycled materials to teachers and artists for use in their classrooms and studios.

University of Washington philosophy professor Stephen Gardiner, Ph.D., will deliver the Lin Great Speakers keynote address. Gardiner, the Ben Rabinowitz Endowed Professor of Human Dimensions of the Environment, will share his expertise about the reality of climate change, as well as our ethical responsibility to actively respond.

The first Conference on Justice and Social Concerns offers a place for dialogue on the broad field of bioethics, which includes stem cell research, genetically modified organisms, animal ethics, socioeconomic concerns, healthcare accessibility and climate change. Panel sessions with experts from these fields will invite participants to consider the facts and moral obligations of the topics, and to reflect on how the field of bioethics affects our global community and the common good.

In Laudato Si, the 2015 encyclical on “Care for Our Common Home,” Pope Francis offers us the following as both encouragement and a call to action: “I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”

Additionally, in his address to the Science and Life Association, Pope Francis reminds us that Christ is our light that illuminates the path for science, so that science is performed for the service of the world and not for the service of science itself.

Tuesday, Feb. 16
9:45-11 a.m.: “Of Microscopes, Pearl Earrings, and the Quest to Find God in All Things”
– Jozef Welie, Ph.D., Professor, Center for Health Policy and Ethics, Creighton University
11:10 a.m.-12:25 p.m.: Stem Cells: Immoral or the Key to Immortality?
12:35-1:50 p.m.: GMOs: Poison or Promise?

Wednesday, Feb. 17
9:20-10:10 a.m.: Animal Research: A Necessary Sacrifice for the Greater Good?
10:20-11:10 a.m.: Rising Health Care Costs: The Price of Staying Alive
11:20 a.m.-12:10 p.m.: Art of Peace Award presentation
– Mary Elizabeth Cantu, founder and director of Spare Parts Studio
7 p.m.: Lin Great Speakers Series: “Paris in a Perfect Moral Storm: Ethics, Climate Change and the Tyranny of the Contemporary”
– Stephen Gardiner, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy and Ben Rabinowitz Endowed Professor of Human Dimensions of the Environment, University of Washington

More about the Conference on Justice and Social Concerns
The annual Conference provides the St. Mary’s University campus community with the opportunity to engage with issues of social justice, faith, and personal and communal responsibility for the common good.

The Conference follows the direction set out from the Second Vatican Council to read, interpret and respond to the signs of the times (Gaudium et Spes, 4). The two-day event will be hosted each year by one of the University’s schools and will bring together experts from both academic and practical realms to lead the campus in dialogue around issues challenging our community locally and globally. The Conference will always include a keynote lecture supported by the Lin Great Speakers Series endowment.

Planned by a committee of students, faculty and staff, the conference is meant to invoke dialogue and even debate, recognizing the value of critical thinking and healthy tension. It provides an opportunity for all to encounter new perspectives and adopt methods for thoughtful critique and questioning. The value of a Catholic, liberal arts education is to learn to engage, to think critically and creatively, to have healthy dialogue, and to do so from a place of compassion and respect, rooted in love for one another and a desire to be agents of positive change in our world.


St. Mary's University, founded in 1852, is the first institution of higher learning in San Antonio and the oldest Catholic university in the Southwest. It offers 75 programs, including doctoral and law programs, and has a diverse student population of about 3,800 of all faiths and backgrounds. Its vision, as a Catholic and Marianist liberal arts institution, is to become one of the finest private universities in the region, a gateway for graduates to professional lives as ethical leaders in Texas, the nation and the world.

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