The Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University

Awakening the Creative Spirit


Fr. Michael Casagram, OSCO


Fr. Michael Casagram, OSCO is currently, Prior of the Abbey of Gethsemani and 54-year member of that community, where he has also served as its Vocation Director and  Novice Director. He is a founder of the Lay Cistercians of Gethsemani. He has worked as a beekeeper the whole time he has resided at the Abbey.  

Susan Classen


Susan Classen -- Green Burial initiative at Loretto community & care of creation Susan Classen is the director of Cedars of Peace, a retreat center on the grounds of the Sisters of Loretto Motherhouse.  A Mennonite, she did international development work in Latin America from 1981-2003.  Her passion for the earth grew out of experiences in Latin America where tremendous suffering caused by droughts, landslides, and hurricanes was met with resilience and creativity by her rural neighbors. 

Laurie Doctor 


Laurie Doctor is a painter, teacher and calligrapher whose work is in collections in the United States and Europe, including recent works in the permanent collection of the Berlin art museum, Akademie der Künste. Her work is based on language, image and contemplative practice. She offers workshops and lectures internationally, as well as practicing traditional performance art, native to Asian calligraphy, for Naropa University, where she taught for twenty years.

Joseph of Arimathea  Society


Joseph of Arimathea  Society -- ministry by Louisville area high school youth to bury & bear witness to those without family or the means for a funeral.

Will Peterson


Will Peterson -- A recent graduate of Notre Dame University and 2017 Daggy scholar, Will served as Peace and Justice intern, Newman Center at University of Kentucky after 2 years teaching at an under-resourced Catholic high school in  Memphis, TN. Inspired by Merton's "From Pilgrimage to Crusade" and his beliefs on Christian hospitality, he walked 75 miles as a member of "Modern Millenial Pilgrimage" from Lexington to the Abbey of Gethsemani.  

Dr. Melanie Prejean-Sullivan


Dr. Melanie Prejean-Sullivan -- developer, "Merton as Paradigm" curriculum for Cambridge University course Director of Campus Ministry at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky for 18 years. She holds master’s degrees in history, in counseling/student affairs, and in theological studies. She was previously an archivist, a museum collections manager, and a high school humanities teacher and counselor. A graduate of St. Meinrad School of Theology and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Dr. Prejean’s doctoral research focused on ways in which undergraduate students learn to articulate their own theologies and to observe the working of the Spirit in their lives.

Br. Paul Quenon, OCSO


Br. Paul is a poet, artist and photographer and was a novice under Thomas Merton at the Abbey of Gethsemani, where he remains a member of the monastic community. Thomas Merton was his spiritual director. His book Monkswear includes simple yet profound images of monastic life portrayed through poetry and photography.  His work incorporates humor, reflective passages and personal accounts that inspire readers to step out of the modern world and into one of gentle beauty. In Praise of the Useless Life, A Monk's Memoir was published in April 2017.  

Dick Sisto


Dick Sisto -- jazz vibraphonist whose original music is the soundtrack for Soul Searching, a film about Thomas Merton that aired on PBS.  As music director at Louisville's Seelbach Hotel, Sisto's Trio worked with numerous notable players. Dick is a frequent performer at jazz festivals and clubs. He's recorded 4 "charted" CDs and toured Great Britain five times. Lucky students have taken his master classes.

Frederick Smock


Frederick Smock -- Kentucky's current Poet Laureate, author of 5 collections of poetry including Pax Intrantibus, a meditation on the poetry of Thomas Merton, Director of Creative Writing and Associate Professor of English, Bellarmine University.

Shelby Thomas


Shelby Thomas -- developer of Thomas Merton Study Project  She created and piloted a Thomas Merton curriculum Spring 2018 for 5th/6th graders at St. James Elementary. She is a 2016 graduate of Hanover College.

Sr. Jeana Visel, OSB


Sr. Jeana Visel, OSB -- Dean, School of Theology Programs and Director , Graduate Theology Programs at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, St. Meinrad, IN. A member of the Sisters of St. Benedict at Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, IN, she earned a bachelor's degree in religious studies from Kenyon College and a master of arts in theology from St. John's University. She received a doctor of ministry degree from The Catholic University of America. Sr. Jeana paints icons and has taught a graduate course on icons. She has given presentations on the process and spirituality of painting icons. Her book, Icons in the Western Church: Toward a More Sacramental Encounter, was published by Liturgical Press in 2016 . She co-chaired the national "Women of the Church" conference.

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