International Thomas Merton Society


                    Vol. 8, No. 2                                  Fall, 2001


Seventh General Meeting a Success

    “Shining Like the Sun: Thomas Merton’s Transforming Vision” was the theme of the ITMS Seventh General Meeting, held June 7-10, 2001 at Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY.  About four hundred people attended the conference, which was held at the site of the first ITMS General Meeting, in 1989, and the home of the Thomas Merton Center, the largest repository of Merton’s papers and published works.  More than one hundred participants were first-time attendees who became new members of the ITMS.

     Major presentations included: “Reweaving Monastic Praxis: Merton & the Feminine,” the keynote address by Myriam Dardenne, OCSO; “Thomas Merton and the Ontology of Nonviolence” by Rev. Robert Barron; “Thomas Merton: Southern Churchman,” by Will Campbell; “Mercy within Mercy within Mercy,” the presidential address by Christine Bochen; “Thomas Merton and the Monastic Vision,” by Lawrence Cunningham with responses by Flavian Burns, OCSO and Bonnie Thurston; “Victor Hammer and Thomas Merton Panel,” with Jonathan Greene, Paul Holbrook, Gay Reading and Benedict Simmonds, OCSO; and a reading of “Sabbath Poems,” by Wendell Berry.

     The meeting also featured “Shining like the Sun,” a multimedia presentation by Kevin Burns; liturgies at the new Our Lady of the Woods Chapel, celebrated by Rev. John Giuliani, with music led by Kathleen Deignan, CND; meditation sessions led by Rev. Patrick Eastman and by Harriet Hope and Susannah Malarkey, OP; a memorial service for Robert Lax led by Arthur Biddle and Marcia Kelly; entertainment by Tim Hoover and Rusty Moe, by the Up Umoje Praize Gospel Group, and by the Dick Sisto Jazz Quartet; seven opening sessions, including the first ITMS session presented in Spanish; and twenty concurrent sessions and workshops. 

     Saturday afternoon of the conference was spent at the Abbey of Gethsemani, where the group participated in the monastic service of None, was greeted by Abbot Damien Thompson, heard the presentation of Professor Cunningham and his respondents, and had the opportunity to visit Merton’s hermitage and his grave.  The visit to the monastery was followed by dinner at My Old Kentucky Home State Park in nearby Bardstown.

     The site coordinator for the general meeting was Jonathan Montaldo, assisted by Dara Myers, Tommie O’Callaghan and Terry Taylor.  The Program Committee was chaired by Thomas Del Prete, and included ITMS President Christine Bochen, Judith Hardcastle, Dewey Weiss Kramer, Jonathan Montaldo, Tommie O’Callaghan, Patrick O’Connell, and Robert Toth.        

     The conference generated many enthusiastic responses from participants.  One wrote: “It’s been challenging – opening new avenues of thought and desire to pursue additional reading of Merton and others’ ideas and thoughts concerning him.”  Another commented, “This is my first and has been great. The visit to Gethsemani is the highlight of the meeting.”  Other responses included: “It has made me more in love with Merton, as a person and writer. In many ways he has changed my way of thinking and looking at everything”; “The sessions were all excellent. The kindness of the staff comforting”; “Excellent sessions. Well-planned; great extra-curricular activities. Planners are to be commended”; “Loved the international flavor this time with so many non-U.S. participants”; “Experiencing Bellarmine, the home of the Merton Center, and being part of ‘Merton enthusiasts,’ who are always so welcoming and accepting, from so many different places, was wonderful.”

     At the ITMS Town Meeting on Saturday morning at the conference, ITMS President Christine Bochen announced that the ITMS Eighth General Meeting would take place June 5-8 2003 at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada.  Christine Bochen will chair the Program Committee and Judith Hardcastle will be Site Coordinator; other members of the committee include Donald Grayston, Michael Higgins, Ross Labrie, ITMS President Jonathan Montaldo, Patrick O’Connell, Paul Pearson, Lynn Szabo, and Monica Weis, SSJ.

New Officers and Board

    The officers and Board of Directors of the ITMS for 2001-2003 were announced by outgoing president Christine Bochen at the Town Meeting on Saturday, June 9 during the ITMS Seventh General Meeting at Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY.  In accordance with the ITMS by-laws, the officers were elected by the Board and the members of the Board by the membership at large, from slates prepared by the ITMS nominating committee, Robert Grip, Ross Labrie and Mary Murray. 

     Officers are Jonathan Montaldo, president; Erlinda Paguio, vice president; Sidney Griffith, treasurer; and Barbara Cliff Stoodley, secretary.  Newly elected members of the Board are: Michael Higgins, Donna Kristoff, OSU, M. Basil Pennington, OCSO and Paul Quenon, OCSO; returning members are Victor A. Kramer and Bonnie Thurston; as past president, Christine Bochen will also continue to serve as a voting member of the Board.

     The new president, Jonathan Montaldo, recently retired as director of the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University and is currently faculty in residence at the Center.  He edited Entering the Silence, the second volume of Merton’s complete journals, and co-edited The Intimate Merton: His Life from His Journals with Brother Patrick Hart; his new edition of Merton’s prayers and drawings, Dialogues with Silence, will be published in the fall.  He served as site coordinator for the ITMS Seventh General Meeting.

     Erlinda Paguio, the new vice president, is Research Coordinator for the Office of Development at the University of Louisville.  She served three terms as ITMS treasurer (1993-1999) and has also been the ITMS representative on the Board of the Thomas Merton Foundation, on which she served as secretary.  She gave the Springboard address at the ITMS Sixth General Meeting in Waterloo, Ontario.

     Sidney H. Griffith, ST, professor of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, is serving his second term as ITMS treasurer.  He also serves as secretary general of the Institute of Christian Oriental Research at CU, and has written extensively on Merton and Islam.

     Barbara Cliff Stoodley, who is serving her second term as ITMS secretary, lives in Wilmington, DE.  She has served as facilitator for the “What Merton Means to Me” session at the ITMS Third General Meeting, as a member of the Program Committee for the ITMS Fourth General Meeting, and as mentor for the Daggy Youth Scholars at the ITMS Fifth General Meeting.

     Christine M. Bochen, immediate past president of the ITMS, is professor of religious studies at Nazareth College, Rochester, NY.  She edited The Courage for Truth, the fourth volume of Merton’s collected letters, Learning to Love, the sixth volume of the complete Merton journals, and most recently Thomas Merton: Essential Writings.

     Michael Higgins is president of St. Jerome’s University, Waterloo, ON.  He has previously served as an ITMS International Advisor and as Site Coordinator for the ITMS Sixth General Meeting.  He is the author of a number of books, including Heretic Blood: The Spiritual Journey of Thomas Merton.

     Victor A. Kramer, director of the Aquinas Center of Theology at Emory University, Atlanta, GA, is a founding member of the ITMS.  He is author of Thomas Merton, Monk and Artist and editor of Turning Toward the World, the fourth volume of the complete Merton Journals, and also serves as co-editor of The Merton Annual. 

     Donna Kristoff, OSU, is coordinator of the Cleveland Chapter of the ITMS and served as a member of the Program Committee for the ITMS Sixth General Meeting.  She is returning to the Board, on which she previously served in 1997-1999.

     M. Basil Pennington, OCSO is abbot of the Abbey of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA.  He is author of many books, including A Retreat with Thomas Merton, Thomas Merton, Brother Monk: A Quest for True Freedom and Thomas Merton, My Brother – His Journey into Freedom, Compassion and Final Integration.

     Paul Quenon, OCSO is a monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani and a former member of the ITMS Board (1995-1999).  A poet and photographer, he is the author of numerous articles and of Terrors of Paradise, a book of poetry, and co-author of Holy Folly: Short and Tall Tales from the Abbey of Gethsemani.

     Bonnie B. Thurston is professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  She is a founding member of the ITMS and previously served as ITMS secretary, vice president and president.

    ITMS President Jonathan Montaldo also announced the following appointments as chairs of ITMS standing committees: Tony Russo, coordinator of the Cincinnati Chapter of the ITMS, will head the Membership Committee; Erlinda Paguio will head the Shannon Fellowship Committee; Virginia Ratigan, professor of religious studies at Rosemont College, Rosemont, PA, will head the Daggy Scholarship Committee; Walt Chura, director of the Albany, NY ITMS chapter, will head the ITMS Retreats Committee; Monica Weis, SSJ, professor of English at Nazareth College, Rochester, NY, will chair the Publications Committee.

International Advisors

    ITMS President Jonathan Montaldo has announced that ITMS members from six nations on five continents will serve the Society as International Advisors for 2001-2003.  They are Fernando Beltrán Llavador, Salamanca, Spain; Waldecy Gonçalves, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Beth Goodwin-O’Neal, Merrickville, New South Wales, Australia;  Judith Hardcastle, Vancouver, BC, Canada; David Scott, Winchester, UK; and John Wu, Jr., Taipei, Taiwan, ROC.

     Fernando Beltrán teaches at the University of Salamanca, and is the author of La Contemplación en la Acción, as well as the translator of a number of Merton books into Spanish, most recently The Asian Journal.  He is serving his third term as International Advisor.

     Waldecy Gonçalves is the primary organizer of the Brazilian Chapter of the ITMS.  He is serving his third term as Intrnational Advisor.

     Beth Goodwin-O’Neal is a social activist and teacher who works with aboriginal Australians.  She was a featured speaker at the ITMS Fifth General Meeting, and is serving her third term as an International Advisor.

    Judith Hardcastle is the coordinator of the British Columbia Chapter of the ITMS, and will be serving as site coordinator for the ITMS Eighth General Meeting, to be held in June 2003 at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.  She is serving her first term as an International Advisor.

     David Scott is a poet and poetry editor of The Merton Journal, published by the Thomas Merton Society of Great Britain and Ireland.  He is serving her first term as an International Advisor.

     John Wu, Jr. speaks and writes extensively on Thomas Merton and Eastern thought.  He is currently preparing an edition of the letters of Thomas Merton and his father, John Wu.  He is serving his third term as an International Advisor.

Louies Awarded

     The 2001 Thomas Merton Awards, informally known as “Louies,” were presented by ITMS President Christine M. Bochen during the banquet on June 7 at the ITMS Seventh General Meeting at Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY. 

     The award, a bronze bust of Thomas Merton created by sculptor David Kocka, is given at each ITMS General Meeting in three categories.  The International Award is given to an individual who has made a significant contribution on an international level to the promotion of Merton’s writings and to the presentation of his ideas: this year’s winner is Andrei Kirilenkov.  The Thomas Merton Award is given to an individual who has written and published in the period between the General Meetings a work on Merton and his concerns that has brought provocative insight and fresh direction to Merton Studies: this year’s winner is Arthur W. Biddle.  The Society Award is given to a member of the International Thomas Merton Society whose distinguished service has contributed to the aims of the Society and to the furthering of its goals: this year’s co-winners are Edward Farley and Jonathan Montaldo.

·         Andrei Kirilenkov has been instrumental in bringing the life and work of Thomas Merton to the attention of the Russian reader, particularly through his ongoing translation work. In October 2000, Kirilenkov published a volume which included a Russian translation of Jim Forest’s biography of Merton, Living with Wisdom, and a selection of Merton’s writings including: Day of a Stranger, Merton’s Letters to Orthodox Friends, the last chapter of The Seven Storey Mountain, Merton’s Preface to the Japanese Edition of The Seven Storey Mountain, and an essay from Seeds of Contemplation (all translated by Kirilenkov). Forthcoming publications of Merton’s writings will include Seeds of Contemplation (translated by Natalya Trauberg), and Thoughts in Solitude, which Andrei Kirilenkov is translating.

·         Arthur W. Biddle, retired professor of English at the University of Vermont, received the award for his edition of When Prophecy Still Had a Voice: The Letters of Thomas Merton & Robert Lax.

·         Edward Farley, retired school administrator from Lowell, MA, has served as ITMS Chapters Coordinator since 1993, and is the founder and director of the Massachusetts Chapter of the Society.

·         Jonathan Montaldo served as the Site Coordinator for the ITMS Seventh General Meeting and has been ITMS Resident Secretary from 1999 until his recent retirement as Director of the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University.

Shannon Fellows Announced

    At the June 7 meeting of the ITMS Board of Directors, President Christine Bochen announced the names of the winners of the 2001 Shannon

    Fellowships.  They are: John Amuji, Mary Cummings, Judith Hardcastle, Malgorzeta Poks, and Patrick Samway, SJ.  The Shannon Fellowship program was established in 1997 in honor of the founding president of the ITMS to promote scholarship on Merton and his work.  Up to five annual awards, of a maximum of $750 each, are granted to scholars for research on primary-source Merton materials at the Merton Center at Bellarmine University or other archival collections.  This year’s selection committee included Michael Higgins, Erlinda Paguio, and Victor A Kramer, chair.

     This year’s fellowship winners and their projects include:

·         John Amuji, of the Gregorian University, in Rome, Italy, who will use his award to research “Seeds for a Contemporary Spirituality of Interreligious Dialogue in the Writings of Thomas Merton”;

·         Mary Cummings, an independent scholar from Bridgehampton, NY, who  will use her award to research “The Fertile Friendship of Thomas Merton and Edward Rice”;

·         Judith Hardcastle, an independent scholar from Vancouver, BC, Canada, who will use her award to research “Merton’s Pluralistic and Holistic Approach to Interfaith Dialogue”;

·         Malgorzeta Poks, of the English Teacher Training College, Poland, who will use her award to research “Thomas Merton and The Different Drummer of ‘The Other’ America: Voices that Resonate in Harmony”;

·         Patrick Samway, SJ, of St. Peter’s College, Jersey City, NJ, who will use his award to research “Editing and Annotating the Thomas Merton and Robert Giroux Correspondence.”

     The deadline for applications for Shannon Fellowships for 2002-2003 is March 15, 2002.  Awards must be used between July 1, 2002 and June 30, 2003.  Awards will be based on the quality of the proposal submitted and on the need for consulting archival materials at the site proposed.  Applicants must be members of the ITMS; they may join the Society at the time of application by including a check for $20, made out to “ITMS”, along with their proposals.  Current officers and Board members of the ITMS, as well as grant committee members, are not eligible for fellowships during their term of office.

     Application for Shannon Fellowships must include the following:

·         a detailed proposal of 500-750 words explaining the subject and goals of the applicant’s research and the rationale for consulting primary sources at the Merton collection selected by the applicant;

·         a letter of recommendation from a scholar familiar with the applicant’s qualifications and research interests;

·         a proposed expense budget: grants will cover costs of travel to and from collections; expenses for accommodations and food during time of research at archives; costs of photocopying;

·         disclosure of any other sources of funding awarded or applied for, with amounts received or requested.

     Applications are encouraged from established scholars, from researchers without academic affiliation, and from students and younger scholars, including those engaged in research for theses and dissertations.

     Completed applications for fellowships should be sent to the selection committee chair, Erlinda Paguio, 7317 Honiasant Ave., Louisville, KY 40214.  The committee’s decisions will be announced to the ITMS Board of Directors at their June, 2002 meeting and will be communicated to applicants shortly thereafter.

Daggy Scholarships Awarded

     Twelve young people were able to attend the ITMS Seventh General Meeting at Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY as recipients of Daggy Youth Scholarships.  These awards, in honor of the late Robert E. Daggy, long-time Director of the Bellarmine University Merton Center and resident secretary and second president of the ITMS, cover all registration, room and board expenses for attendance at ITMS General Meetings, and include a year’s free ITMS membership.  The Daggy Scholarship Committee included Virginia Ratigan, chair, Tim Fullerton, Mary Murray, Cristóbal Serran-Pagán, and Gary Young, CR.

     This year’s recipients included:

·         Christopher Adams, a double major in theology and philosophy from the University of Scranton, who was introduced to the works of Merton during his first year of study.  He describes himself as intrigued with Merton’s understanding of monasticism: “I would like to learn more about Merton himself, who seems to me to be an appealing symbol for modern monastic life, and a model for the individuals involved in its reinvigoration.”

·         Edward Butterfield, a 2001 graduate of the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA, was first introduced to Thomas Merton by his Philosophy Club mentor.  He has been enthusiastic about engaging in a rigorous reading and discussion program sponsored by the Club and intends to continue his study of Merton after graduation.  “Thomas Merton is a contemporary example of the search for enlightenment and communion with God, one which I think we can all benefit from.”

·         Jennifer Crowhurst, a student at The College of New Rochelle, NY, is a member of the college Pax Christi group, a peer minister in Campus Ministry and has recently completed the R.C.I.A. program.  She was introduced to Thomas Merton in a course titled The Catholic Experience and she “felt an instant connection.”  She has been reading avidly ever since and hopes to write her thesis on Merton.

·         Therese Cullen, a recent graduate of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN (Peace and Justice Studies/Theology minor), is presently parish associate for Evangelization at Sacred Heart Church in Memphis, TN.  She was introduced to Merton’s works in college and sees the relevance of his writings in her ministry in the parish:  “Merton puts flesh on the gospel in a way that touched the entire world and because he was so eloquently able to do that he has inspired thousands to do the same, myself included.”

·         Andrew Dits, a high school student at St. Vincent’s Academy in South Bend, IN, has been introduced to the study of Merton through his father (and their Chapter of the ITMS) and a life-changing visit to the Abbey of Gethsemani: “My stay at the Monastery and my exposure to Merton have guided me positively in my search through the spiritual and religious world.”

·         Rebecca Grausam, a student at Rosemont College, PA, in Philosophy and Religious Studies, began her study of Merton in her Sophomore year and wants to continue her study of Merton as she pursues her majors.  “I feel especially connected to Merton though our common interest in various world religions and in mysticism.”  She is particularly drawn to Merton’s honesty in discerning his religious vocation and feels that his example is important in the discernment of her own vocation in life. 

·         Angela Mora, a Political Science Major and Religious Studies Minor at Rosemont College, PA, is particularly interested in Merton’s writing in the area of Peace and Justice.  Coming from a Baptist background, “I had not expected to be so affected by Merton’s conversion to the Catholic faith, his vocation to the monastery, and the impact these decisions would have on millions, as well as on me during this semester of studying his works.  I have come to respect Merton and want to delve further into his books, poems, and journals.”

·         David Odorisio, a junior at La Salle University, Philadelphia, PA, is a Religion major with an avid interest in Eastern thought and mysticism.  When introduced to Merton, “I was intrigued that a Trappist monk was so interested in Eastern thought so I did more research.”  This research is the foundation on which David hopes to write his Capstone Seminar paper on Merton’s thought and spirituality.

·         Theresa Sullivan, a Theology Major at St. Joseph’s College of Maine, has been studying Thomas Merton in a seminar course in Liberation Theologies.  She has focused on the themes of war, violence, peace, freedom and love in a major paper that she wrote for the course.  She wants to continue studying Merton and feels that “his spirit is assisting me in my own calling.”

·         Theresa Walsh, a student at Alvernia College, Reading, PA, was introduced to the works of Merton during her first year.  Her  hours of reading, researching and speaking to others about Merton have encouraged her to delve deeper into his writings: “I believe that studying Merton will help to further my theological education and spiritual self.”

·         Justin Williams, an English major at Northeastern State University, lives in Tulsa, OK, where he was introduced to the works of Thomas Merton on retreat.  A practitioner of Zen for four years, “I am nourished by the study of Eastern and Western mystics.  Since my retreat I have been gifted by many invaluable opportunities, through Merton’s works, to become reacquainted with my root faith.”

·         Kristen Wisniewski, a Benedictine Oblate and religious education teacher in Assumption Parish, Morristown, NJ, was introduced to Thomas Merton through her spiritual director.  Not only does she share insights from Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day with her young students, but “a Peace and Justice ministry formed within my parish just recently and I hope I can help educate people as Thomas did (does) through his many books on peace and non-violence.”

     A special gathering of Daggy recipients along with conference speakers and ITMS leaders on Thursday evening of the conference provided an opportunity for the students to interact with one another and with Merton scholars in an informal setting.  The meeting was coordinated by Virginia Ratigan and Cristóbal Serran-Pagán. 

     Responses from scholarship winners indicated their appreciation and enthusiasm for the opportunity to participate in the General Meeting.  One wrote, “What was most amazing to me about the ITMS meeting was the way everyone was willing to talk about Merton and help me with the questions that I had.  I learned so much from the concurrent sessions and from individual conversations with fellow Daggy scholars and fellow ITMS members.  I thank you more than words can tell for this wonderful experience that I will treasure always.”

Flogge Collection Donated

     During the June 7 banquet at the ITMS Seventh General Meeting at Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY, A. J. Flogge formally donated his extensive collection of Thomas Merton materials to the Abbey of Gethsemani, to be placed on permanent loan to the Bellarmine Merton Center.

     The collection contains many rare, first-edition books; drafts of articles with Merton’s handwritten corrections (for instance, a thirteen-page manuscript entitled “Liturgical Renewal: The Open Approach” with twenty-eight changes in Merton’s hand); autographed materials such as the collection of Merton’s “Cold War Letters” signed to Mark Van Doren; published and unpublished correspondence, including letters of Merton as a student at Columbia University in which he solicits advertising for Jester and The Columbian yearbook; original calligraphies including an important calligraphy, one of his last, presented to the monks of the monastery of Christ in the Desert in New Mexico during the fall of 1968; work of John Howard Griffin, Evelyn Scott, Charles Simic, Victor and Carolyn Hammer, Louis Massignon and James Laughlin.

Edward Rice (1918-2001)

    Edward Rice, Thomas Merton’s close friend, godfather, and first biographer, and a distinguished author in his own right, died in Southampton, NY on August 18 after a long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease.  He was 82.       

     Born in Brooklyn on October 23, 1918, Rice attended Quaker schools, Poly Prep, and Columbia University, where he edited Jester, the college humor magazine, and began lifelong friendships with Merton and Robert Lax.  He was the founder, publisher and editor from 1953 through 1967 of Jubilee magazine, an award-winning Catholic monthly to which Merton was a frequent contributor. 

     After selling the magazine in 1967, he traveled the world as author and photographer, producing numerous magazine articles and some twenty books.  His memoir of his friend, The Man in the Sycamore Tree: The Good Times and Hard Life of Thomas Merton, was published in 1970, two years after Merton’s death.  His 1990 biography Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton was a best-seller.  Among his other books were The Church: A Pictorial History (1961), The Early Christians (1963), The Five Great Religions (1970), Mother India’s Children: Meeting Today’s Generation in India (1971), John Frum, He Come (1974), a book about cargo cults, an interest shared with Merton, and Eastern Definitions. A Short Encyclopedia of Religions of the Orient (1978). 

Carolyn Hammer (1911-2001)

    Carolyn Reading Hammer, 90, retired University of Kentucky librarian and widow of printer and artist Victor Hammer, died Tuesday July 24, 2001.  Mrs. Hammer was a collaborator with her late husband in the printing of many limited edition works, including a number by Thomas Merton, among them Prometheus: A Meditation, The Ox Mountain Parable of Meng Tzu and Hagia Sophia.  After her husband's death she continued publishing, and printed additional Merton works including Early Poems: 1940-1942.  She received the 1997 “Louie” award from the ITMS for the last of the Merton works issued from a Hammer press, Thomas Merton’s Four Poems in French (Anvil Press, 1996).

     Carolyn Reading began her work as a private press printer in the 1940s with another printer, Amelia Buckley.  At their Bur Press, they produced a series of books on themes relating to Kentucky, ranging from biographies to an illustrated architectural monograph.  Later, two other friends, Harriet Holladay and Mary Spears, added their talents to the enterprise.  She married Victor Hammer in 1955 and collaborated with him until his death in 1967.

     In 1956, Carolyn Hammer founded the King Library Press at the University of Kentucky, where she served as curator of rare books; she remained director of the press until her retirement in 1976.  With the participation of colleagues and student apprentices, the King Library Press has produced over twenty books, many of them on the Florentine wooden hand press donated to the university by the friends of Victor Hammer. 

     Mrs. Hammer was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Medallion Award for Intellectual Excellence from the University of Kentucky’s Library Associates, an honorary doctorate from Transylvania University, and the John Singleton Copley Award, for contributions to American art, by the National Portrait Gallery/ Smithsonian Institution.   

Merton Intensive Workshops

    ITMS President Jonathan Montaldo will be presenting a “Merton Intensive Workshop” on five days during the fall of 2001 at the Thomas Merton Center, Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY.  The workshop, a one-day systematic presentation of Merton’s literary work, will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and is limited to 19 participants.  Presentation by the instructor will be complemented by discussion and group work on specific texts. Cost is $75.00. 

     Dates for the workshops are: Oct. 13, Oct. 27, Nov. 10, Nov. 17, Dec. 8.  Checks payable to “Bellarmine Thomas Merton Center” should be mailed to Jonathan Montaldo, Thomas Merton Center, Bellarmine University, 2001 Newburg Road, Louisville, KY 40205, to reserve a place.  Requests for further information should be made by email to <jmontaldo>.

Merton and Czech Monasticism

    The writings of Thomas Merton have played a key role in the refounding of Cistercian monastic life in the Czech Republic.  According to an article by Margot Patterson in the July 27 issue of The National Catholic Reporter, it was a reading of The Seven Storey Mountain and other Merton works, which had been clandestinely translated into Czech, that led Fr. Karel Satoria, a priest of the Brno diocese who worked closely with the dissident movements under Communist rule, to decide to become a Trappist monk.   In 1991 he traveled with several companions to France, where he eventually joined the Cistercian community at Sept-Fons.  Now known as Fr. Martin, the priest said that before reading Merton, he had not even known there were religious orders devoted only to prayer.  Br. Eli, one of his companions who entered Sept-Fons at the same time, was also strongly influenced by reading Merton after growing up in an atheist family.   

     Sept-Fons, which eventually came to include fifteen Czech and Slovak monks, is now in the process of establishing the first Cistercian abbey in the Czech Republic since the eighteenth century.  The monastery, to be called Our Lady of Novy Dvur (New Court), is being designed by the famed minimalist architect John Pawson, with a nucleus formed by a seventeenth-century Baroque manor house.  Located in the Diocese of Plzen in western Bohemia, it is scheduled to open in 2002.  Donations to support the building of the new monastery may be sent to Rev. Simon Sansone, OCSO, Cistercian Abbey of Spencer, Inc., 167 North Spencer Road, Spencer, MA 01562. 

Merton and Eastern Christianity

    The Thomas Merton Foundation and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary will sponsor a one-day conference on “Thomas Merton and the Spirituality of the Eastern Church: The Jesus Prayer and Hesychasm” on Tuesday, October 16, 2001 at the Seminary. The conference will feature an array of international experts on Merton and the spirituality of the Jesus Prayer.

     In Eastern Christianity, the term Hesychasm (from the Greek word hesychia, meaning quietness) designates a contemplative tradition dating from the fourth century in Eastern Christian monastic life. Hesychast monks devoted themselves to unceasing mental prayer in order to achieve union with God. Such prayer involves the entire human being – soul, mind, and body. The most popular form of prayer of this type is commonly called the Jesus Prayer, also known as the prayer of the heart. It usually consists of the words, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

     Keynote speaker for the event will be Kallistos Ware, Bishop of Diokleia. He has charge of the Orthodox parish in Oxford, England, and is Spalding Lecturer in the University there. He is one of the translators of the complete text of The Philokalia into English, and has contributed substantially to the translation of Orthodox service books. Bishop Ware is the author of the book, The Power of the Name, The Jesus Prayer in Orthodox Spirituality. 

     Among the other experts scheduled to take part in the Conference are: James Forest, Merton biographer and head of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship; Frederica Mathewes-Greene, noted lecturer on the Jesus Prayer; Rama Coomaraswami, author of The Invocation of the Name of Jesus as Practiced in the Western Church; and Canon A. M. Allchin, a noted scholar of Merton and Hesychasm. 

     The day’s activities will include presentations by the individual speakers, a panel discussion, book signings, and an opportunity for those attending the conference to practice the Jesus Prayer.  To obtain registration information, contact the Thomas Merton Foundation at 502-899-1952 or visit the Merton Foundation web site at:

Call for Papers – Merton & Judaism

     In conjunction with the Thomas Merton Foundation Conference on “Merton and Judaism,” to be held in Louisville, Kentucky, on February 17-18, 2002, submissions are invited for possible inclusion in the volume of proceedings to be published shortly thereafter.  The volume is tentatively entitled Merton and Judaism: Holiness and Words, Spiritual Conversations.

     The book, which will be edited by Beatrice Bruteau and published by Fons Vitae Press in late 2002, will carry the presentations of the invited speakers at the conference.  The Merton Foundation is now soliciting additional papers that could not be personally presented at the conference but that will be considered for inclusion in the book.  Selection of papers to be included will be completed by November 1, 2001.

     Papers, with a suggested length of 1,500-6,000 words, should be written for an audience of the educated general public.  Possible topics include: The Nature of a Literary Service/Ministry: Merton, Jewish Authors; The Social Role of the Contemplative; Merton’s Correspondence with Various Jewish Leaders; Visits by Jews to Gethsemani and Conversations with Merton; Jewish Notice of Merton’s Social and Ethical Critiques of Contemporary Culture and Particular Issues; Parallels in Teaching About the Development of the Spiritual Life; The Nature of Holiness as seen by Merton and Judaism; Parallels in Interest in and Contacts with the Spiritual Traditions of the Far East; Merton’s Use of Jewish Stories and Spiritual Teachings; Reviews of Merton’s Books in Jewish Publications; Jewish-Merton Contacts in Connection with the Civil Rights Movement; the Merton-Jewish Exchange as Contribution to Interfaith Dialogue.

     All communications should be addressed to: Dr. Beatrice Bruteau, 3425 Forest Lane, Pfafftown, NC 27040; e-mail: bruteau

Merton Poetry Contest

     Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver will be the judge for the 2002 Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Prize.  Sponsored by the Thomas Merton Foundation, the annual contest is intended to encourage the writing of poetry that expresses, directly or indirectly, a sense of the holy or that, by its mode of expression, evokes the sacred.  The 2001 contest attracted more than 1300 poems by 545 poets.  Winning poems, judged on literary excellence, spiritual tenor and human authenticity, are published in The Merton Seasonal.  First prize is $500, and three honorable mention prizes are $50 each. 

     A maximum of two unpublished poems, of no more than 100 lines each, may be submitted to the contest, which has no entry fee.  A separate cover sheet with name, address, phone number and email address, along with the titles of the poems submitted, should accompany the entries.  All entries must be postmarked by December 31, 2001, and sent to The Thomas Merton Prize, The Thomas Merton Foundation, 2117 Payne Street, Louisville, KY 40206-2011.  Winners will be announced in March 2002.  

Books Sought Down-Under

    The newly formed Australian Chapter of the ITMS is looking for any extra copies of books by or about Thomas Merton to build up their library.  Donations may be sent to Beth Goodwin-O’Neal, 38 Harnett Ave., Marrickville, New South Wales, Australia 2020.

Recent Merton Events

    Thomas Merton Foundation Director Robert Toth presented a lecture in Louisville, KY on June 13 entitled “Thomas Merton: The Man and His Message,” sponsored by the Spiritual Formation Office of the Presbyterian Church, USA.

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    Lawrence Cunningham taught a course July 8-19 entitled “Thomas Merton: Contemplation and Action” as part of the Fifth Annual Summer Institute at the Center for Theological and Spiritual Development of the College of St. Elizabeth, Morristown, NJ; he also was the keynote speaker for the spiritual enrichment day at the Center on July 14.

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    Walt Chura is giving a course entitled “Spirituality, Protest and Peace: An Introduction to the Life and Writings of Thomas Merton” at Siena College, Loudenville, NY on Wednesday evenings during the fall semester.  Auditors are welcome.  For further information contact Siena College Office of Continuing Education: 518-783-2341.

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    On September 7-9, Walt Chura led the fifth annual Merton Silent Retreat at Pyramid Life Center, Paradox, NY.

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    The second Merton Foundation Art of the Spiritual exhibit presents more than 30 photographs of internationally renowned Kentucky photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard (1925-1972), who was a friend of Thomas Merton. The photographs will be exhibited from September 13 through October 28, 2001, at Artopia Gallery in Louisville. The exhibit, presented in conjunction with the Louisville Visual Art Association, is free and open to the public.

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    The Vancouver, British Columbia Public Library presents a three-week Merton series in September: the first session, Sept. 14, 7:00–8:30 p.m., will feature readings and reflections by authors Jonathan Montaldo, Michael Higgins, and Christine Bochen; Sept. 22, 10:30 a.m.–noon, Ross Labrie speaks on “Introducing Thomas Merton”; Sept. 29, 10:30 a.m.–noon, Donald Grayston presents a talk and slide show entitled, “Jesus Lama: Thomas Merton in Asia.”

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    On October 20, Robert Waldron will be conducting a Merton/Nouwen Day Retreat at St. Stephen Priory in Dover, MA. For further information, e-mail

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    On November 6-8, Fr. Patrick Collins will lead a retreat on the Spirituality of Thomas Merton at St. Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, IN.  For further information email:

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    On November 11-16, Walt Chura will lead an Elderhostel experience entitled “At Prayer with Thomas Merton” at Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY.  For further information, phone: 845-384-6660.

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    On November 16-18, Rev. Patrick Collins will lead a retreat on “Thomas Merton: Man, Monk, Myth” at the Cenacle Retreat House, Warrenville, IL.  Cost of the retreat, which includes two nights, five meals and tuition, is $150 single occupancy / $135 pp double occupancy. For further information, contact Cenacle Retreat House & Spirituality Center, P.O. Box 797, Warrenville, IL 60555; phone: 630-393-1231; website:; e-mail:

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    On December 14-16, Dr. James Finley will direct a retreat entitled “Intimacy with God; Teaching of Thomas Merton” at La Casa de Maria Retreat Center, Santa Barbara, CA.  For further information contact La Casa de Maria, 800 El Bosque Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93108; phone: 805-969-5031; website; www.lacasademaria. org.

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    On January 4-6, 2002, the second Thomas Merton San Diego Retreat will be held at Mission San Luis Rey, Oceanside, California. The theme is “Thomas Merton's Transforming Vision.” Featured presenter is Dotti Hulburt, along with ITMS president Jonathan Montaldo.  For further information contact: Pat Hulburt, 2727 De Anza Road #K36, San Diego, CA 92109; phone: 858-490-0507; e-mail: patriciahulburt

Chapter News

    The Reading Group of the Capitol Region (Albany, NY) Chapter discussed the first chapter of Zen and the Birds of Appetite at its September meeting.  For further information contact Walt Chura: wwchura

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    On Sept. 8, the British Columbia Chapter of the ITMS sponsored a retreat day entitled “Dialogues with Silence” directed by ITMS President Jonathan Montaldo.  The chapter will sponsor the following speakers in its 2001-2002 series, at the Canadian Memorial Church & Centre for Peace, 1825 W. 16th Avenue, Vancouver, BC: Sept. 17 – Paul M. Pearson on “Redeeming the Rhinoceros: The Healing Power of Night Spirit and the Dawn Air” (repeated Sept. 18 at University College of the Fraser Valley, 33844 King Road, Abbotsford, BC); Oct. 15 – Christopher Page on “Beyond More: Merton’s Nature Mysticism” (repeated Oct. 16 at Clearbrook Library, 32320 Dahlstrom Avenue, Abbotsford, BC); Nov. 19 – Monica Weis, SSJ on “Thomas Merton’s Journals: Looking, Musing, and Responding to Nature” (repeated Nov. 20 at Trinity Western University [Fraser Hall], 7600 Glover Road, Langley, BC); Jan 21 – Michael Ingham on “Thomas Merton and Interfaith Dialogue”; Feb. 18 – Thomas Del Prete on “Thomas Merton and the Education of the Whole Person.”  The chapter will also sponsor a conference on “Merton and Interfaith Dialogue: Transcending Religious Barriers” March 15-16, 2002 at Canadian Memorial Church & Centre for Peace; featured speakers and workshop facilitators will include Donald Grayston, Sidney Griffith, Edward Kaplan, Lynn Szabo and Bonnie Thurston.  For further information contact Judith Hardcastle, 705 - 700 Chilco Street, Vancouver, BC V6G 2R1; phone: 604-669-2546; fax: 604-669-2594 email:

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    The Cincinnati Chapter discussed Merton’s essay “Easter: The New Life” from Seasons of Celebration at its May meeting.  The August meeting featured a viewing of the videotape: “A Taste of Gethsemani: Trappist Monks Remember Merton.”  The September meeting included a discussion of meeting topics for the coming year and sharing by attendees of the ITMS Seventh General Meeting, focused on the Springboard Address of Rev. Robert Barron.  At the October meeting, the topic will be “The Healing Silence: Thomas Merton’s Approach to Communication.” The video  “Women Who Knew Merton” will be viewed at the November meeting.  Plans are also being made for the January 2002 Retreat at Gethsemani, to be led by Jonathan Montaldo.  For further information contact Tony Russo, 8087 Bridgetown Road, Cleves, Ohio 45002; phone: 513-941-5219; fax: 513-941-2029; e-mail: trusso@fusenet.

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    The Mississippi Chapter held a prayer retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani, June 18-22.  A second retreat is planned for June 24-28, 2002.  The August meeting of the chapter included a discussion of Merton’s book The New Man.  The chapter is collecting funds to add books by and about Merton to the Gethsemani retreat house library, and also plans to replace the wagon wheel at Merton’s hermitage.  For further information contact  John Staggs, 1604 Jefferson Street, Oxford, MS 38655; phone: 662-234-9537; email: merton

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    The New York Chapter will host ITMS President Jonathan Montaldo as the speaker at its meeting on September 29 at Corpus Christi Church in Manhattan.  For further information contact: Brenda Fairaday, 212-865-7261.

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    At its annual awards ceremony on November 16, 2000, the Thomas Merton Center of Pittsburgh presented its Thomas Merton Award to former California congressman Ronald V. Dellums.  Mr. Dellums is currently president of Health Care International and active in the AIDS crisis in Africa. The new Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Merton Center is Tim Vining, who assumed the position on September 1. He has been a leader of activist and community organizations, both in Pittsburgh and in Louisiana. For further information contact the Thomas Merton Center, 5125 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15224.

    Send all Merton-related news to:
    Pat O’Connell
    Box 3219
    Gannon University,  Erie,  PA 16541

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