Thomas Berry and "The Great Work"
October 30-31, 2019
Raised in North Carolina, Thomas Berry, C.P. (1914-2009), entered the Passionists in 1933. After defending his doctoral thesis at the Catholic University of America in 1948, he journeyed to China; the experiences there profoundly shaped Berry’s life and launched him into the study of Asian religions and cultures. During his years at Fordham University (1966-1981), Fr. Berry founded the Riverdale Center for Religious Research to facilitate reflection on modes of spiritual transformation through experiencing the great mysteries of reality. Particularly concerned about the growing ecological crisis, he wrote The Universe Story with Brian Swimme, later expanded into the Journey of the Universe project. At the age of 80, he returned to North Carolina, continuing to lecture and write as a cultural historian and later a “geologian” until his death in 2009.
Berry pioneered in-depth, study of religions in U.S. Catholic higher education, establishing a history of religions program in the Fordham University Graduate Department of Theology in 1966. He encouraged generations of scholars of Asian traditions, comparative studies, interreligious dialogue, and religious reflection on ecological challenges. While president of the American Teilhard Association, he expanded his vision, writing, and lecturing in the emerging field of religions and ecology, especially writing on the cosmology of religions. This conference celebrated Thomas Berry’s intellectual journey and "The Great Work,” underscoring his contributions to the study of religions and cultures, Teilhardian studies, religions and ecology, and the Earth community’s way into the future.
The October 30 opening session took place in Dahlgren Chapel, the reception and book signing took place on the second floor of Healy Hall, and the October 31 sessions will took place in Copley Formal Lounge.
This event was co-sponsored by Georgetown University's Office of the President, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, and Catholic Studies Program with the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University.
Wednesday, October 30, 2019
4:00 – 5:30 p.m. | Opening Session: The Life and Legacy of Thomas Berry
Location: Dahlgren Chapel of the Sacred Heart
Welcome and Moderator: John Borelli, Georgetown University
Keynote Address: Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, Yale University
Stephen Dunn, C.P., St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto
Kathleen Deignan, CND, The Kathleen Deignan, CND Institute for Earth and Spirit at Iona / Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue
Brian Brown, Iona College, emeritus
Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim
Thursday October 31, 2019
Location: Copley Formal Lounge, Copley Hall
9:00 – 9:15 a.m. | Welcome
John J. DeGioia, Georgetown University
9:15 – 10:45 a.m. | Thomas Berry’s Intellectual Journey: Cultures, Religions, Ecology
John Borelli, Georgetown University
Gerald Carney, Hampden-Sydney College, emeritus
Kusumita Pedersen, St. Francis College, emerita
Peter Phan (moderator), Georgetown University
10:45 – 11:00 a.m. | Break
11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. | Teilhard de Chardin, Thomas Berry, and the Journey of the Universe
Kathleen Duffy, S.S.J., Chestnut Hill College
Catherine Amy Kropp, Yale University
Dan Scheid, Duquesne University
Frank Frost (moderator), The Teilhard Project
12:30 – 1:45 p.m. | Lunch Conversation: Thomas Berry and “The New Story”
Brian Thomas Swimme, California Institute of Integral Studies (via Zoom)
Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim (moderators), Yale University
1:45 – 3:15 p.m. | A Vision Takes Shape: Laudato Si and “The Dream of the Earth”
Leo Lefebure, Georgetown University
Nancy Wright, Ascension Lutheran Church (Burlington, VT)
Heather Eaton, St. Paul University
Katherine Marshall (moderator), Georgetown University
3:15 – 3:30 p.m. | Break
3:30 – 4:30 p.m. | Concluding Discussion: “The Great Acceleration” and the Challenge of “The Great Work”
John Robert McNeill, Georgetown University
Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale University
John Grim, Yale University
John Borelli (moderator), Georgetown University
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Thomas Berry sits under a tree. Photo courtesy of Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, taken by Marnie Muller.