International Thomas Merton Society


                    Vol. 11, No. 2                                  Winter, 2005

2005 General Meeting Program Set

    At its June meeting, the Board of Directors of the International Thomas Merton Society approved the program for the ITMS Ninth General Meeting, to be held June 9-12, 2005 at the University of San Diego, San Diego, CA.  The theme of the meeting is “Revelation of Justice, Revolution of Love: Merton’s Message for a New Millennium.”  Major speakers include Jim Wallis, John Dear, SJ, Sister Jose Hobday and Mother Antonia Brenner.  The program will also feature an address by ITMS President Erlinda Paguio, twenty-five concurrent sessions and workshops, meditation and worship sessions, and entertainment.

     Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners magazine and convener of the Call to Renewal, a national federation of churches, denominations, and faith-based organizations working to overcome poverty, will deliver the keynote address on Friday morning of the conference.  His books include Faith Works (2000), The Soul of Politics (1994), Who Speaks for God?  (1996) and Call to Conversion (1981), and most recently God’s Politics (2005).  He lives in inner-city Washington, DC with his wife Joy and their sons Luke and Jack.

    John Dear, SJ, a Jesuit priest and peace activist and former executive director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the largest interfaith peace organization in the United States, will present the springboard address on Friday evening.  He has written or edited twenty books on peace and justice, most recently Living Peace (2001), Mohandas Gandhi: Essential Writings (2002), Mary of Nazareth, Prophet of Peace (2003) and The Questions of Jesus (2004).  He currently lives in northeastern New Mexico where he is the pastor of six churches and founder of the New Mexico chapter of Pax Christi.

     Franciscan Sister and Seneca elder Jose Hobday, who will give a plenary address on Saturday morning,  is a pastoral minister in the Gallup, New Mexico diocese and a speaker and retreat leader throughout North America. She is the author of Stories of Awe and Abundance (1999) and Simple Living: The Path to Joy and Freedom (1998).

     Mother Antonia Brenner, who has worked and lived in Mexican prisons for the past twenty five years, will speak on Friday afternoon.  Mother of seven children and founder of a religious order for older women, Mother Antonia is known as the Mother Teresa of Tijuana for her prison ministry, which was featured in an article in the June 2004 Reader’s Digest.

    Opening sessions on Thursday afternoon of the conference will include a “First-Timers’ Orientation” with Bob Grip; “Daggy Youth Scholars’ Orientation” with Virginia Ratigan & Cristóbal Serrán-Pagán; “ITMS Chapters Workshop” with Ed Farley;  “Zen and the Nerds of Megabite: Conjectures of a Savvy Web Surfer” with Mark Meade; “The Way of the Dreamcatcher: Flowing Gracefully with Bob Lax” with Steve Georgiou; and “Merton, Catholic Relief Services, and Practical Peace Building” with William Headley.  Panels will include a monks’ roundtable with Abbot John Eudes Bamberger and Brothers Patrick Hart and Paul Quenon on Friday afternoon, and a roundtable on Merton and poet Czeslaw Milosz with Robert Faggen and Lillian Vallee on Sunday morning.  Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, will also speak on Sunday morning.

    Concurrent session topics include:
• “Merton, Activism and Pacifism”: Cristobal Serran-Pagan and Walt Chura;
• “Merton and Psychology”: Michael Sobocinski;
• “Merton and Racial Justice”: Malcolm Cash and Tricia Williams;
• “Merton on Healing and Wholeness”: Christine Bochen and Don Nugent;
• “Merton, Sapientia & Simplicity”: Paul Dekar and Gray Matthews;
• “Merton’s Challenge to Conformity”: Angus Stuart and Joshua Harrod;
• “Merton’s Companions in Spirit”: Jeffrey Cooper and Joseph Raab;
• “Merton’s Creative Evolution”: Paul Pearson;
• “Merton’s Engagement with Nature”: Lynn Szabo and Monica Weis;
• “Merton’s Friends through Peace and War”: David Golemboski and James Harford;
• “Merton’s Ministry of Letters”: William Apel and Lucien Miller;
• “Merton’s Poetry in War & Peace”: Patrick O’Connell and Debra & George Kehoe;
• “Merton’s Prophetic Response”: Doug Beardsley and Kristen Wisniewski;
• “Merton’s Silent Resistence and Dissent”: David Belcastro and Judith Hunter;
• “Merton’s Voice of Conscience”: Jeffrey Kiernan and John Collins.

    Workshop and performance presentations include:
• “‘A New World is Rising Where My People Shall Be One’: An Exploration through Poetry and Song of Racial Justice in the Work of Thomas Merton”: Jeff Olivet;
• “From Plain Song to Poly”: Delores Tate-Mayeski;
• “How Does Merton’s Message of Justice and Love ‘Quake’ and ‘Ground’ Me and My World?”: Bunny Stewart;
• “A Merton Concert”: Patrick Collins;
• “Merton’s Message on Peace, Social Justice and Nonviolence in his ‘Letter to Pablo Antonio Cuadra concerning Giants’”: John Berger and Tim McHargue;
• “Original Child Bomb: A Film of Meditations on the Nuclear Age”: Mary Becker;
• “Teaching Merton’s Message for a New Millennium”: Kathleen Deignan;
• “Thomas Merton: A Musical Life Narrative”: Ken Gray;
• “‘Translating’ ‘le point vierge’”: Chris Bunsey;
• “The Waters of Siloam: Silence, Solitude and Care-giving”: Joanne Kelley Flynn.

    Evening entertainment will include a complete performance of the Merton-Niles Song Cycle by Chad Runyon and Jody Black, vocalists, and Jacqueline Chew, pianist; and an original play by Mike Jennings entitled Letters from the Front: The Merton-Day Correspondence, performed by Mimi Ventresca and John Alexander. Music throughout the conference will be provided by Schola Ministries, directed by Kathleen Deignan.

    The program committee for the Ninth General Meeting is chaired by ITMS Past President Jonathan Montaldo, with Dorothy and Patricia Hulburt as site coordinators; other members of the committee include Christine Bochen, Robert Grip, Patrick O’Connell, ITMS President Erlinda Paguio and Paul Pearson.

    Registration materials, with further information on the schedule, costs and accommodations for the conference, were mailed to all ITMS members. Update information is available at the Merton Center/ITMS web site ( and at the conference web site:

Shannon Fellowships Awarded

     At the June meeting of the ITMS Board of Directors, President Erlinda Paguio announced the names of the 2004 Shannon Fellowships.  They are Katarzyna Bruzda, who will study Merton and the visual arts, and Elizabeth Goodwin, who will study humor in Thomas Merton.  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 David Belcastro, chair, Robert Inchausti and Donna Kristoff, OSU.

    The deadline for applications for Shannon Fellowships for 2005-2006 is May 15, 2005.  Awards must be used between July 1, 2005 and June 30, 2006.  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 $25, 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, David Belcastro, 818 Montrose Ave., Bexley, OH 43209; email:  The committee’s decisions will be announced to the ITMS Board of Directors at their June, 2005 meeting and will be communicated to applicants shortly thereafter.

Brother Patrick Celebrates Anniversary

    On June 6, 2004, Trinity Sunday, Brother Patrick Hart, OCSO celebrated his Golden Anniversary of monastic profession as a member of the Abbey of Gethsemani.  Brother Patrick served as Thomas Merton’s last secretary and since Merton’s death has been the liaison between the monastery and the community of Merton scholars and readers.  He has edited numerous works by and about Thomas Merton.

     At the anniversary mass, during which Brother Patrick renewed his vows, Gethsemani Abbot Damien Thompson addressed both Brother Patrick’s work in sharing the heritage of Thomas Merton and his own faithful monastic life: “Your companionship with him as secretary in the course of some of his most active years was a gift to the literary world, because he was a mirror of that age of conflict. . . .  The Lord has used you to further the message of Merton to a generation that still hungers for it.  But fifty years in the monastic life has more to commend itself than that.  Fifty years is a long time to persevere in any life, and is probably losing its value in a world that changes course so frequently, where divorce is rampant and career change rapid in order to avoid the boredom and monotony of the everyday.  Commitment is becoming an archaic word, one that may some day be a virtue of the past as the years of life become longer and longer.  However, commitment to the pursuit of union with God can never be temporary.  With all of Merton’s frailties, his message of pursuit of eternal union with the unconditional love of God never changed.  Your commitment to the religious life for fifty years communicates the same message, a message that is sorely needed in a Church that is besieged by scandal from within and attacks from without.  It’s the silent commitment of the religious life that never gives up, that perseveres to the end, that is the greatest antidote to those who think it can be destroyed.”

Naomi Burton Stone (1911-2004)

    Naomi Burton Stone, the longtime agent, editor and friend of Thomas Merton, died Tuesday, November 16, 2004, at the Mark Wentworth Home in Portsmouth, NH.  She was 93.  She was born in England on March 15, 1911, the youngest of seven children of Claude and Katherine (Dell) Burton.  She began working for the Curtis Brown Ltd. Literary Agency in the 1930s, and in 1939 moved to New York City to work in the agency’s American office.  In 1951 she married Melville E. “Ned” Stone and continued to work as a literary agent at Curtis Brown, representing authors including Ian Fleming and Ogden Nash as well as Merton.  In the early 1960s, she and her husband moved to York Harbor, Maine and Naomi became an editor at Doubleday, commuting between her home and New York until her retirement in 1971.  After her husband’s death, she moved to the Wentworth Home where she lived for more than 10 years.  Her journal-memoir, More Than Sentinels, was published in 1964.  Naomi Burton’s association with Thomas Merton began in the late 1930s when she served as agent for his various unpublished novels.  It was to her that the manuscript of his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, was delivered, and she continued to serve as his agent for most of the rest of his life, becoming his editor for later works published by Doubleday such as Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (1966) and the posthumous Contemplation in a World of Action (1971).  She served as one of the original three members of the Merton Legacy Trust, which oversees all matters related to Merton’s literary works.  Her correspondence with Merton is published in Witness to Freedom. Memorial contributions in her honor may be made to the Mount Irenaeus Franciscan Retreat, P.O. Box 100, West Clarksville, NY 14786, a retreat center operated by St. Bonaventure University and named after Fr. Irenaeus Herscher, OFM, the mutual friend of Thomas Merton and Naomi Burton Stone.

Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004) 

    Nobel Prize-winning poet Czeslaw Milosz, a friend and correspondent of Thomas Merton, died August 14, 2004 in Krakow, Poland.  Born in Seteiniai, Lithuania, on June 30, 1911, Milosz moved with his family to Wilno, Poland after World War I.  He began publishing poetry in 1930, and worked for underground publications in Poland during the Second World War.  In 1944 he married Janina Dluska; they had two sons.  After the war he initially joined the diplomatic service of the new Polish Communist government, but defected in 1951, living first in Paris and later in California, where he taught at the University of California, Berkeley.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1980 as one  “who with uncompromising clear-sightedness voices man’s exposed condition in a world of severe conflicts.”   After the fall of Communism he retired to Poland.  In addition to his poetry he is the author of a number of influential prose works, including The Captive Mind (1953), a critique of totalitarian ideology.   Thomas Merton began corresponding with Milosz in 1958 after reading The Captive Mind, which he considered “remarkable” and “important,” and they continued to exchange letters until the time of Merton’s death, exploring literary and religious issues and sharing work-in-progress.  Milosz visited Merton at Gethsemani in 1964, and they met again at Berkeley in 1968 when Merton was on his way to Asia.  Their letters are collected in Striving towards Being (1997), and reveal what editor Robert Faggen calls “a powerful relationship of mutual spiritual guidance.”

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

Copyright (c) The Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. All rights reserved.