Mission of the Edith Stein Project
The Edith Stein Project (ESP) is an annual
conference that addresses various issues of gender, sexuality, and human
dignity by exploring what it means to be authentic women and men.
Our goal for the conference is to promote fruitful
dialogue on issues of human dignity, with an emphasis on the dignity of women.
We foster a spirit of openness while remaining rooted in the Catholic Church’s
teachings on authentic personhood—to provide a forum for discussion that is not
reactionary, but positive and optimistic.
This conference addresses issues and concerns that
touch the very core of our being—whether you are religious or not, conservative
or liberal, committed to community service or preparing to enter the business
world, what we discuss here is relevant to your life.
Created in the image of God, we all seek
fulfillment, a “good,” happiness, and a sense of completion. In essence, we
seek to become more human. It is how we live our lives every day—in
relationship with others, ourselves, and God—that brings us farther from or
closer to this goal. We must reflect on these topics. Doing so
empowers us to make truly free and conscious decisions that
will reflect our inherent dignity and help us become the people we are meant
The Edith Stein Project challenges each individual
participating in the conference to take an honest look at our society, our
relationships, and our own decisions, perceptions, and ways of life. It is
important to examine the degrading attitudes towards our own dignity that are
often taken for granted and to question their root causes. We understand
that there are many economic, psychological, and social factors related to
these problems; however, we offer that their common cause is a general
misunderstanding of the true nature and dignity of the human person. This
misunderstanding has grave consequences for women and men, manifesting itself
in different forms of violence: domestic violence, abortion, rape, and
pornography. It even distorts women and men’s vision of their own feminine and
masculine worth, leading them to do violence against themselves in the form of
eating disorders, objectification and other problems.
We seek to invite speakers to the conference who
will articulate the truth about men and women in order to begin building a
coherent and consistent philosophical foundation for a “new humanism.” With a
clear articulation of the truth about themselves, humans can more confidently
define and work towards helpful political and cultural goals; they may also
discern authentic vocations that develop their masculine and feminine gifts,
rather than deny them.
This conversation is especially
fitting at Notre Dame, because it is a Catholic university that is committed to
the search for truth, the mutual importance of faith and reason, and the
formation of moral citizens for society.
History of the Edith Stein
In the fall of 2004, a group of undergraduate women
at the University of Notre Dame gathered to begin planning the first
conference, which was held in 2006, entitled "The Edith Stein Project:
Redefining Feminism". They felt strongly that this conversation needed
to take place here at the University of Notre Dame, where modern culture and
Catholicism intersect in a unique way.
In an apostolic letter titled "On the Dignity
and Vocation of Women", Pope John Paul II warns that "many women,
especially as a result of social and cultural conditioning, do not become fully
aware of their dignity." He also encourages all people to realize that
"The personal resources of femininity are certainly no less than the
resources of masculinity: they are merely different. Hence a woman, as
well as a man, must understand her 'fulfillment' as a person, her dignity and
vocation, on the basis of these resources, according to the richness of the
femininity which she received on the day of creation."
The conference has expanded and evolved since 2004
while remaining true to the Catholic Church’s teachings on authentic
personhood. Today, the conference strives to include both women and men in this
dialogue on our uniquely feminine and masculine human dignity.