Thomas Berry and "The Great Work"

Thomas Berry sits under a tree. Photo courtesy of Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, taken by Marnie Muller.

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 briefly journeyed to China; these experiences 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 humans’ spiritual transformation in 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 speak and write as a cultural historian and later a “geologian” until his death in 2009.

Berry pioneered in-depth, positive 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 in comparative studies, interreligious dialogue, and religious reflection on ecological challenges. While president of the American Teilhard Association, he expanded his thinking, writing, and lecturing in the emerging field of religions and ecology, especially writing on the cosmology of religions. This conference celebrates Thomas Berry’s intellectual journey and his “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.

Please note that the October 30 events will take place in Dahlgren Chapel, and the October 31 sessions will take place in Copley Formal Lounge.

This event is 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

Location: Dahlgren Chapel of the Sacred Heart

4:00 – 5:30 p.m. | Opening Session: The Life and Legacy of Thomas Berry
Welcome and Moderator: John Borelli, Georgetown University

Keynote Address: Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, Yale University

Short Reflections:
Stephen Dunn, C.P., Passionists
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

5:30 – 6:30 p.m. | Reception and Book Signing: Thomas Berry: A Biography
Mary Evelyn Tucker, 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
Moderator: Peter Phan, Georgetown University

10:45 – 11:15 a.m. | Break

11:15 a.m. – 12:45 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
Moderator: Frank Frost, The Teilhard Project

12:45 – 1:45 p.m. | Lunch Conversation: Thomas Berry and “The New Story”
Brian Thomas Swimme, California Institute of Integral Studies (via Zoom)
Moderators: Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, 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
Moderator: Katherine Marshall, 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
Moderator: John Borelli, Georgetown University

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