The Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University

Pursuing the Spiritual Roots of Protest - 1964-2014

Pursuing the Spiritual Roots of Protest - 1964-2014
October 24th - 25th, 2014

You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.

—Thomas Merton

Fifty years ago this fall a handful of peace advocates gathered with the contemplative monk and writer Thomas Merton to discuss the “spiritual roots” that nurtured their calling and shaped their actions.

The era included the March on Washington and calls for nuclear disarmament. It was a time when fear of global destruction haunted everyday lives, and our country was in turmoil over race relations, war overseas, and poverty.   What can we learn today from a retreat of 50 years ago?

Join us as together we examine this important conversation that took place with Merton and explore its application today.

Speakers Conference Timetable Registration Information



Tom Cornell

Tom Cornell is a co-founder of the Catholic Peace Fellowship and served over thirty-five years as its national secretary. He is also a former member of the executive staff of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. He is a veteran of peace and civil rights movements, with many arrests (including Selma, Alabama, 1965) and one felony conviction for which he served a six month sentence at Danbury F.C.I. in 1968, and was subsequently pardoned by Jimmy Carter in  1977. Tom organized the first demonstration against the Viet Nam war in July 1963, and the first corporate act of resistance to the Viet Nam draft, the burning of draft cards, in 1965. He served as managing editor of The Catholic Worker from 1962-64. With his wife, Monica, he manages the Peter Maurin Farm in Marlboro, New York.  


Bob Cunnane

Bob Cunnane studied for the priesthood in Rome, and in 1959 he was ordained as a Stigmatine priest, an order dedicated to youth education and clergy formation. After leaving the priesthood in 1972 he became director of the Packard Manse Ecumenical Center in Stoughton, Massachusetts, near Boston, where he coordinated activism and outreach efforts until his retirement in 2000.


Erica Brock

Erica Brock has a degree in history from Ball State University in Indiana and is a member of the St Joseph House Catholic Worker Community in New York City. She is actively involved in the Fast Food Forward movement in New York City and has been involved in protests relating to Guantanamo prison, the military use of drones, and Wall Street. She is an associate editor of The Catholic Worker.


John Dear

John Dear is an internationally known voice for peace and nonviolence. A long time activist, popular lecturer, and movement organizer, John is the author of 30 books and hundreds of articles, including Living Peace, Jesus the Rebel, and The Nonviolent Life. He was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.   


Jim Forest

Jim Forest became a close personal friend and correspondent of Thomas Merton in the early 1960s and, as managing editor of The Catholic Worker, he worked closely with Dorothy Day. A founder of the Catholic Peace Fellowship, and former General Secretary of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, he is currently secretary of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship. Jim is the author of many books including the Merton biography, Living with Wisdom, and All Is Grace: A Biography of Dorothy Day. His latest book, Loving Our Enemies: Reflections on the Hardest Commandment is published by Orbis this fall.


Joe Grant

Joe Grant is Director of Programs for Just Faith Ministries, and is the creator of the Engaging Spirituality program. Joe received a Masters in Divinity from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. A native of Scotland and former missionary, Joe has ministered in Europe, Latin America and the U.S, has authored books on youth ministry, and was recognized with the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry award for Gospel Values of Peace and Justice. 


Kelly Johnson

Kelly Johnson is associate professor in the Religious Studies department at the University of Dayton. After earning a B.A. in theology and an M.A. in liturgical studies at the University of Notre Dame (1986, 1987), she spent several years in a Catholic Worker community and with the Peace People in Belfast, as well as teaching in Poland and Tennessee. While writing for her Ph.D. and teaching at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN, she helped to start a Catholic Worker house of hospitality. She is the author of The Fear of Beggars: Stewardship and Poverty in Christian Ethics.  


Gordon Oyer

Gordon Oyer, reared in the Anabaptist Mennonite tradition, learned early to question priorities that drive Western society.  His readings in nonviolence introduced him to writings of Thomas Merton, which in turn led him to appreciate Merton’s contemplative reflections and social critique.  He is the author of Pursuing the Spiritual Roots of Protest: Merton, Berrigan, Yoder, and Muste at the Gethsemani Abbey Peacemaker Retreat and past editor of Illinois Mennonite Heritage Quarterly and has written various articles on Mennonite history. He has an MA in history from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  


Joe Tropea

Joe Tropea is a public historian, writer, and filmmaker. He has been making films and videos for over a decade, he writes occasionally for City Paper, IndyReader, Baltimore Brew, and the history blog underbelly, and is Curator of Films & Photographs at the Maryland Historical Society. Hit and Stay is his feature directorial debut.


Conference Timetable:

Friday 24th October

Frazier Hall, Bellarmine University 

6.30 - 7.00 Refreshments
  "Hit and Stay"
7.00 Free and Open to the Public

The Louisville premier of the award winning documentary about Catholic draft board resistance in the Sixties.  
The filmmaker Joe Tropea will introduce the film and be available after the showing for
questions and answers.


Saturday 25th October

Hilarys, Horrigan Hall, Bellarmine University 

Registration is required for the 8.30 - 5.30 events

8.30 - 9.00

Registration and Coffee - Hilarys, Horrigan Hall

9.00 - 10.00 Gordon Oyer:

"Pursuing the Spiritual Roots of Protest: Merton, Berrigan, Yoder, and Muste at the Gethsemani Abbey Peacemakers Retreat."

10.00 - 10.30 Coffee Break
10.30 - 12.00 Panel Presentation and Discussion:
Tom Cornell, Bob Cunnane, Jim Forest
12.30 - 1.30 Lunch
2.00 - 3.00 Joe Grant:
"In the Eye of the Storm:
Reclaiming Spirituality as Engagement."
3.00 Break
3.30 - 5.00 Panel Presentation and Discussion:
Erica Brock, John Dear, Kelly Johnson.
5.30 Dinner - University Dining Hall
7.00 Frazier Hall
Free and Open to the Public

"Doing Nonviolence: The Spiritual Roots of Protest."

Presentations by Tom Cornell, John Dear and Jim Forest


Registration Information:

Print out and send the conference Registration Form or Register with PayPal

Fees including conference registration, refreshments and lunch and dinner on October 25th:

$50 (Reduced Student/Catholic Worker Rate - please include photocopy of student ID)
$95 for registrations after 10/17/14.


Checks (payable to Merton Conference) should be sent to:

                                        Dr. Paul M Pearson. Merton Conference,
                                        Thomas Merton Center, Bellarmine University,
                                        2001 Newburg Road, Louisville KY 40205.

Local Hotel Information: 

Best Western (Airport East) - 502-456-4411
Brown Hotel (Downtown) - 1-800-555-8000
Quality Inn and Suites (Bardstown Road) - 502-454-0451
Red Roof Inn (Airport East) - 502-456-2993
Americas Best Value Inn and Suites (Airport East) - 502-473-0000
Seelbach Hilton (Downtown) - 502-585-3200

(Special rates may be available for those attending events at Bellarmine University. Please ask when booking.)


* Laws Lodge, the conference/retreat center at Louisville Seminary does have rooms available, all with private facilities.  Bookings can be made at: 502 992 0220.

Further information about Laws Lodge can be found on the web at:


Further information about accommodation is available at:

Co-sponsored by:
The Catholic Peace Fellowship -
Interfaith Paths to Peace -