A $1 million gift from alumnus Martin D. Beirne and his wife, Kathleen, will allow St. Mary’s University to endow the Beirne Director of its soon-to-be-established Center for Catholic Studies.

Martin Beirne
Martin Beirne

The Center will explore Catholic and Marianist views on the most pressing social policy issues. It also will examine the Catholic Church in society and culture, including issues related to the Church’s presence in the Southwest and the growing nationwide Hispanic presence in the Church and other Christian denominations.

A nationwide search will begin immediately, with the goal of having the director in place by August 2018. The interdisciplinary Center will be established upon the appointment of the director.

“The Center for Catholic Studies is becoming a reality, thanks to the Beirnes’ support,” said St. Mary’s President Thomas Mengler, J.D. “A director will guide our ambitious mission to become a hub of exploration into the Catholic intellectual tradition and its impact on knowledge, culture and faith. It’s truly a defining moment in our history.”

The inaugural director will work with groups across campus to support activities that integrate the Marianist heritage of the University and the mission of the Center. Students of all ages and Catholics from across Texas will have the opportunity to deepen their faith by exploring the fields of theology, philosophy, the sciences, social policy, law, the arts and culture and their intersection with Catholicism.

“Endowing the director position ensures that Catholic studies remains a priority to the mission at St. Mary’s and furthers Catholic intellectual thought among faculty, staff, students and the community,” said Martin Beirne, a 1969 graduate of the St. Mary’s School of Law and current chairman of the St. Mary’s Board of Trustees.

More about the Center for Catholic Studies
Establishment of the Center for Catholic Studies is a key priority in the University’s Gateway strategic plan, adopted by the Board of Trustees in April 2013. The Center will have four principal features in serving students, faculty and staff; the Archdiocese of San Antonio; the Southwest; and the nation:

  • Promote the study and understanding of Catholic intellectual and social thought, as well as Marianist spirituality
  • Develop courses in Catholic Studies
  • Serve as a spiritual gateway for our community
  • Assist in the formation of faith for faculty, staff and students

St. Mary’s will play a lead role in advancing Catholic studies through recruitment of distinguished faculty in Catholic philosophy, theology, and other central areas of Catholic studies and culture. The University already has appointed faculty members to an endowed Chair in Human Dignity and an endowed Chair in Catholic Philosophy. Additionally, St. Mary’s has received funding to endow a Chair in Catholic Leadership.

Illuminated illustration depicts Day 1 of Creation in the St. John's Bible
Genesis illumination from The Saint John’s Bible

The Center will serve the region as a forum for Catholic intellectual thought, similar to the Cushwa Center at the University of Notre Dame. Offerings may include:

  • Lectures, including the expanded Catholic Intellectual Tradition lecture series for parishes, high schools and Catholic civic organizations
  • A dynamic Internet presence that engages the Catholic academic community as well as the broader Catholic community
  • An annual academic conference and publication of papers
  • Visiting scholars in residence
  • Course relief for St. Mary’s affiliated faculty to undertake Catholic Studies research projects
  • Travel and research stipends for St. Mary’s faculty to attend relevant conferences and workshops or undertake research
  • Escobedo Lecture Series examining the Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition through lectures given to Texas parishes, schools and other events

In addition, St. Mary’s has hosted the archdiocesan Assembly since 2015, welcoming 4,000 archdiocesan members from 17 counties. The University also is partnering with the Society of Mary for the U.S. Province and the Archdiocese of San Antonio to transform Holy Rosary Parish into a dynamic parish with programs for youths and young adults.

St. Mary’s has a long history of involving its students, faculty and staff in service and civic engagement efforts, and the Center will continue this tradition.

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