Relationships and the call to love

Caroline Reuter, Layout Manager, and Madeline Gillen, Managing Editor


We all seek relationships. Although these relationships are sometimes necessarily fleeting due to the limits of time and space, can be torn apart by tragedy and invariably include sacrifice and hard work, most of us (except Scrooge pre-ghost visits) still actively seek them out.

Relationships are critical. They provide encouragement, constructive correction, diversion, healing, self-knowledge and companionship. The desire for intimacy with other persons is an essential part of who we are.

Through relationships with others we answer this call to love, which Blessed Pope John Paul II says is “the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.”

But how exactly can we—college students in the twenty-first century—answer this call to love?

On February 7-8 at McKenna Hall, 30 speakers invited by the members of Identity Project Notre Dame will seek to answer this question. They will be featured at the ninth annual Edith Stein Project, “Relationships and the Call to Love.”

As conference co-chairs, we select our presenters by virtue of their ability to elucidate the thought of philosopher Edith Stein, a brilliant academic in the twentieth century who faced challenges in her male-dominated profession. Edith Stein converted to Catholicism and entered the Carmelite order, taking the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She eventually died at Auschwitz, and was canonized in 1998 by Pope John Paul II. Her field was phenomenology, and she wrote extensively about the human person and human relationships.

Although romantic love will be a part of the conversation, we will also be focusing on how to love demanding parents, friends near or far, estranged siblings and the God who sometimes seems so distant.

If you or a friend is interested in any of the following topics, we cordially invite you to join us.

The effects of technology on relationships. Imagine if we were as insistent with our friends to put away their cell phones as is the scolding voice on the big screen before the start of any new movie? While there are surely many benefits to technology, negatives like bullying and addiction are easy pitfalls. Is there a way to use technology to help, instead of hurt, our relationships?

The concept of “alone time.” Is time alone an antiquated idea that should be disregarded in our fast-paced society?

Pornography. Octavia Ratiu, a PsyD candidate at the Institute for Psychological Studies will address its psychological effects. Mary Rose Somarriba, who, as a Michael Novak Fellow, spoke with an array of women who were victims of sex trafficking and forced into the pornography business, will speak to the links between sex trafficking and pornography. Also, come hear from a 2013 Notre Dame alumnus about his pornography addiction. He will talk about pornography as a false embodiment of love.

Do long-term relationships impede or “get in the way of” other typical ambitions of the college student? Donna Freitas will talk about the powerful—though often private—yearnings among men and women to find love during college despite the dominance of hookup culture as well as the desire for something other than hooking up during the college experience.

Will a romantic relationship or a wonderful friendship fulfill you? Or can God alone fully satisfy us?

Though these topics might be of interest to a wide spectrum of college youth, we also will be addressing many issues in a specifically Catholic context, exploring how faith can enrich our approach to modern problems. In particular, our conference is geared toward women.

It was recently announced that three young students—known for their purposes as Jane Doe 1, 2 and 3—have been granted the ability to intervene in Notre Dame’s lawsuit, which opposes the provisions demanded by the HHS Mandate. We hope that these Jane Does—and women like them—will come to the conference and learn, for example, the reasoning behind the Church’s stance on artificial contraceptives, abortifacients and sterilization. We invite all women, especially those who might not be familiar with exploring these issues in a Catholic context, to open themselves to engage with our presenters and participants.

For example, Notre Dame philosophy professor Adrian Reimers will discuss the Church’s teachings on women, drawing on two self-proclaimed Catholic feminists in his talk “Edith Stein and John Paul II on the Genius of Women.”

Pope Francis’ recent comments about women have stimulated conversation about their unique role in the world. We will be exploring Mulieris Dignitatem, the papal encyclical focused solely on women. In this document, Blessed 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.” The Edith Stein Project seeks to help women become more fully aware of their dignity.

Blessed Pope John Paul II answers the feminist demand for equality of the sexes, saying “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.” How can the differences between men and women be seen as gifts, and not limitations?

Related to these themes is the question of what it means to be free. Do unlimited access to contraception, participation in the thrills of the hookup culture and complete control over one’s fertility bring fulfillment? For men and women alike, freedom often seems to be defined as freedom from the sacrifices of long-term relationships or responsibilities at home. As we try to demonstrate throughout the conference, however, freedom lies in the ability to choose to live in a way that is self-giving, even when this is counter cultural. Living in the light of these truths—about ourselves, our bodies and the dignity of the human person—is a lifelong and demanding task.

Throughout the conference, as much as we hope to inform, we hope that this will be a very personal and engaging experience for all our participants. Fellowship with others and post-lecture conversations are an integral part of the conference. No one should explore these crucial topics alone, and we hope participants meet peers who likewise find these issues worth discussing.

As John Paul II said: “The person is a good towards which the only proper and adequate attitude is love.” Come join us to learn more about the nature of our relationships.

Registration is free for all undergraduate students, faculty, and staff at ND, SMC and HCC. Register and find the full conference schedule at

Caroline Reuter is a senior in Pasquerilla East and Madeline Gillen is a senior in Welsh Family Hall. Contact them respectively at and