Conference on Justice and Social Concerns

The Conference on Justice and Social Concerns provides our campus community with the opportunity to engage with issues of social justice, faith, and personal and communal responsibility to the common good.

2022 Conference | Feb. 21-23
Cultivating Community through Dialogue and Action: Synodality as Journeying Together

Day 1: Monday, Feb. 21 – Welcome and Conference Introduction

Welcome and Invocation
9-9:20 a.m.

  • Alicia Cordoba Tait, D.M.A.

    Associate Vice President and Beirne Director, Center for Catholic Studies

  • The Rev. John Thompson, S.M.

    Vice President for Mission

Session #1: Synodality – Journeying Together: Pope Francis’s Vision for a Synodal Church
9:20-10:10 a.m.

Synodality comes from the Greek word synodos which means walking together, in Latin concillium — an assembly, a gathering, a process of consultation, getting together and discussing, but most importantly taking about where the believer have seen the Holy Spirit acting; it is a moment of discernment.  At the heart of synodality, which Pope Francis is proclaiming are two elements:  First, synodality must involve the process of listening to the people, it is not just about leaders getting together and deciding on behalf of others; and secondarily, it is moment of discussing where they both have seen the Holy Spirit acting.  It is a moment of discernment because of the testimonies of the assembled recognizing the actions of the Holy Spirit that a decision is now made. Francis is deeply convinced that synodality is what God is calling the church to embrace at this time, that the church is essentially synodal.  Everything we hear and read from the Holy Father must be understood in terms of synodality.

  • The Rev. William J. Meyer, S.M., D.Min.

    Rector, St. Mary’s University

Session #2: The Gift and the Grace of Suffering
10:20-11:10 a.m.

Sometimes we find ourselves stuck in darkness as if we are in a “ditch” and we feel helpless. This presentation will discuss just such a story about feeling alone but through dialogue with God and those who believe in us, we can help ourselves and others overcome these dark and difficult times. Seeing all opportunities as grace, Mike’s story reminds us that difficult times have the power to change us for the better – especially when we recognize the work of the Holy Spirit within and around us.

  • Mike H. Bassett (J.D. ’87)

    Author of The Man in the Ditch

Mass (Assumption Chapel)
12:15-12:45 p.m.

  • The Rev. Jim Tobin, S.M.

Session #3: Keynote – Fragility of Conversation
3:15-4:30 p.m.

Genuine conversation is based on the possibility of mutual understanding. But, reaching mutual understanding requires a commitment to intelligent and careful listening. Failures of understanding, on the other hand, result in an increasingly absurd social situation in which the only thing that appears to get results is some kind of coercion. Resisting the seductive logic of coercion requires a hopeful embrace of the innate norms of intelligence, and a willingness, besides, to accept the consequences of being misunderstood. Indeed, the kind of mutual understanding finally possible among sinners involves us with the mystery of the cross and the theological virtue of hope.

  • Jeremy Wilkins, Ph.D.

    Associate Professor of Theology, Boston College

Day 2: Tuesday, Feb. 21 – Communities in Action

Session #4: Marianist Global Missions Part 1 – Africa
9:45-11 a.m.
Céline A. Jacquemin, Ph.D., moderator

Marianists located in Missions in Africa will discuss their work and its importance to the local communities. Various projects which will be highlighted are education, parent training, special needs students, single mom support and training.

  • Brother Valentine Chola Mulenga, S.M.

  • Brother Erik Otiende, S.M.

  • Brother Fredrick Ayoo, S.M.

Mass (Assumption Chapel)
12:30-1 p.m.

  • The Rev. Brandon Paluch, S.M.

Session #5: Marianist Global Missions Part 2 – Marianist Mission: Making a Difference One Student at a Time
2-3:15 p.m.
Jessica Gonzalez Uhlig, Ph.D., moderator

The Marianists through, Partnering with the Poor programs, have been serving the poorest of the poor in India and Eastern Africa for decades. Through education, job training, and empowerment programs, we help people lift themselves out of desperate poverty and into lives of hope.  Each year, we serve more than 12,000 people — mostly children and women.

  • Brother Alex Tuss, S.M.

  • Linda Hayes

    Director of the Marianist Mission

Session #6: The Importance of University Engagement with Community
3:30-4:15 p.m.

St. Mary’s University School of Law embodies the Catholic and Marianist ideals that have animated the University since its founding. As the only law school in San Antonio, and the closest law school to the Texas-Mexico border, the School of Law takes seriously its responsibility to accompany underserved communities; to develop a culture of public service in its students and alumni; and to foster a student body engaged with its surrounding neighborhoods, region, nation, and world.

This panel will discuss the St. Mary’s School of Law’s responsibility to develop a culture of public service in its students and alumni, and to foster a student body engaged with its communities. Its students, and graduates, are justice-ready: tenacious, skillful, compassionate advocates, ready to create a more-just community from day one. 

  • Greg Zlotnick, J.D.

    Director of Pro Bono Programs, St. Mary’s School of Law

Session #7: Marianists and Communities of Color in the United States
4:30-6 p.m.

Panelists will discuss and explore the Marianist role regarding social justice issues among African-American and Mexican-American communities. 

Panel 1: African American Marianists

  • The Rev. Tony Pogorelc

  • Sue Nash, Ph.D.

    Assistant Professor of Sociology, St. Mary’s University

  • Janet Armitage, Ph.D.

    Chair of the Department of Sociology, Associate Professor of Sociology, St. Mary’s University

Panel 2: Marianists and Mexican Americans

  • Edgar Velazquez

    Mexican American Student Activism, 1960-1969

  • Christopher Holman

    Zenith of Chicano Movement at St. Mary’s, 1970-1975

  • Gerald E. Poyo, Ph.D.

    Mexican American Studies: Prophet Voices and the Path Not Taken, 1966-1972

Discussion: What have we learned and what is the legacy?

Day 3: Wednesday, Feb. 23 – Religions in Service of Fraternity on Our World

Session #8: Christians, Muslims, and Mary
9:20-10:10 a.m.

The Vatican II document Nostra Aetate (1965) acknowledged that Christians and Muslims share a devotion to Mary. But did Christians always view Mary as a bridge figure? A few medieval Latins stressed concord between the two Marys, but others raised the Virgin on military standards in battles against Muslims. This talk will consider the shared Mary of the Bible and Qur’an, plus her diverse roles in Christian-Muslim relations through history, where she has shifted back and forth from bridge to barrier and back again.

  • Rita George-Tvrtković, Ph.D.

    Professor of Theology, Benedictine University, Appointed Member, Pontifical Interfaith Commission

Session #9: Family Spirit and Hospitality at St. Mary’s University, Student Perspective
10:20-11:10 a.m.

St. Mary’s University is known for its welcoming spirit reflective of the Marianist Educational Characteristics of “Family Spirit” and the welcoming of all as a part of its Catholic mission and identity. During this session students from various religious backgrounds will share their experiences and opportunities of engagement with others.  

  • Pragyan K C

    Computer Science – Data Science major, Class of 2022

  • Elisa Aguilera

    Engineering Management major, Class of 2024

  • Sarah Uhlig (B.A. ’21)

    English Literature and Language graduate student

Mass (Assumption Chapel)
12:15-12:45 p.m.

  • The Rev. William J. Meyer, S.M.

    Rector, St. Mary’s University

Session #10: An Intra-faith Discussion: Rites and Cultures in the Catholic Churches of San Antonio
3-5:15 p.m.
Deacon Albert Sanchez, Director, University Ministry, moderator

“And who is my neighbor?” How are we to best serve and care for our parishioners and neighbors considering the current social, political, and economically challenging times?

  • The Rev. George C. George

    Pastor, St. Thomas Syro Malabar Church

  • The Rev. Charles Khachan

    Pastor, St. George Maronite Church

  • The Rev. John Mefrige

    Pastor, Three Hierarchs Melkite and Byzantine Catholic Mission

  • The Rev. Luong Uong, C.Ss.R

    Vietnamese Martyrs Catholic Church

  • Very Rev. Kevin Fausz, CM, VU

    Pastor, Holy Redeemer Catholic Church

The Lin Great Speakers Series: Interfaith Friend, Interfaith Kin: Reflections on Fratelli Tutti
7-8:30 p.m.

In his 2020 encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis stresses the idea of fraternity (brotherhood or kinship) as the basis for good interreligious relations. But what does it really mean to call the Religious Other my brother or sister? How does that affect interreligious dialogue and cooperation? Can a broader vision of human kinship help us to heal the various divides — interreligious, interracial, intercultural, interpolitical — plaguing America today?

  • Rita George-Tvrtković, Ph.D.

    Professor of Theology, Benedictine University, Appointed Member, Pontifical Interfaith Commission

2022 Conference

2023 Conference

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