Skip navigation

IONA College Logo | Go to Home Page

Thomas Berry Forum Events

  • Sister Kathleen Deignan, Convener of Thomas Berry Forum, Celebrates Jubilee as a Sister of the Congregation of Notre Dame.


    On Saturday, June 1, 2019, Sister Kathleen P. Deignan celebrated and was recognized for 50 years in religious life.

    Kathleen P. Deignan Sister Kathleen P. Deignan

    On Saturday, June 1, 2019, Sister Kathleen was among 6 Sisters in the Congregation of Notre Dame celebrating 50 years in religious life in a moving liturgy of song and prayer at the Eucharist celebrated with several hundred family, friends and colleagues. The gathering took place in Wilton, Connecticut at the motherhouse of the School Sisters of Notre Dame who shared their facility to host their sisters in faith. Sister Kathleen was essential to the founding of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College following the passing of Fr. Thomas in 2009.

    Sister Kathleen joined the faculty of the Department of Religious Studies at Iona in 1981 where she founded the Iona Peace and Justice Studies Program and the Iona Peace Institute in Ireland (1988-1995). She is also the founding director of the Iona Spirituality Institute which sponsors a variety of programs for spiritual development (1992-present). Sister is a GreenFaith Fellow, having completed a two-year post-doctoral training for religious environmental leadership in 2008 . She received her Master’s degree in the History of Christian Spirituality and her Doctorate in Historical Theology from Fordham University in New York, where she studied with her mentor, the late geologian, Father Thomas Berry, one of the great inspirations of her life and ministry.

    A sacred song writer and psalmist, Sister Deignan has composed over 200 sacred songs published in a dozen CDs by Schola Ministries, a project in service to the liturgical and contemplative arts. She is the author of Christ Spirit: The Eschatology of Shaker Christianity (Scarecrow Press 1992), Thomas Merton: When the Trees Say Nothing – Writings on Nature (Sorin 2002), and Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours (Sorin 2009).

  • Iona Students Meet Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker


    Iona students who completed the Yale course, "The Worldview of Thomas Berry," met Thomas Berry's official biographer and creator of the course, Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker, at the American Teilhard Association Meeting in New York City, May 4, 2019.

    Iona students who completed the Yale course, "The Worldview of Thomas Berry," met Thomas Berry's official biographer and creator of the course, Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker, at the American Teilhard Association Meeting in New York City, May 4, 2019.

    Students pose with Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker
  • Thomas Berry Forum Presents at Yale


    The Jeanie Graustein Lecture on Environmental Justice: "Thomas Berry: Prophet of the Ecozoic Earth Era"

    The Jeanie Graustein Lecture on Environmental Justice: "Thomas Berry: Prophet of the Ecozoic Earth Era"

    Sr. Kathleen Deignan and Br. Kevin Cawley delivered the Jeanie Graustein Lecture at the St. Thomas More Catholic Center at Yale University in New Haven Connecticut on Sunday, April 28, 2019. The Graustein Lecture is an annual event at Yale to celebrate care of Earth.

    Sr. Kathleen had given a full day Retreat on Saturday to the Campus Ministry staff at the Center and concluded the weekend with the Graustein lecture at the closing dinner.

    Br. Kevin and Sr. Kathleen offered a glimpse of the wisdom of Thomas Berry in light of the climate crisis facing the planet. The program began with a summary of the predicaments that threaten the continued conditions to life on the Earth such as carbon emissions passing the limits agreed to in the Paris climate accord, the loss of ice caps and glaciers leading to sea level rise, food insecurity, heat impacts on health, spread of disease vectors, wealth inequality, extreme weather events, and displacement of populations fleeing these impacts, all received early attention.

    The program was accompanied by images and texts with emphasis on the human toll of these challenges along with a link to global inequality that threatens current efforts at solutions. Participants were brought to see that the goals for carbon reduction set by the Paris accords were not within reach under current practice. We still need to reduce net carbon emissions to zero by 2050 in order to achieve a safe environment. Even if all countries kept their promises to reduce their carbon output, the Paris target of holding world temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius was not within reach. Current trends show a likely increase of 4.3 degrees leading to a cascade of catastrophic outcomes as the land-based ice cover melts and enters the oceans. Dr. Gavin Schmidt of the Goddard Institute at Columbia University has warned that even if we were to end all carbon emissions immediately, the planet still faces centuries of warming due to the impacts already "baked in".

    The work of Pope Francis in Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on Climate and the deep wisdom of Thomas Berry all formed a backdrop to the catalog of planetary degradation that remains ongoing and unabated in the business-as-usual model.

    Thomas Berry had the foresight decades ago to frame the human-earth relationship more gracefully. His principles for a mutually enhancing human-earth relationship are the foundation for moving the human project from its devastating exploitation to a benign presence. It is especially important that we give young people some indication of how the next generation can fulfill this work in an effective manner.

    The program included a brief video of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager, who has been on school strike for climate action in her country. Greta has subsequently inspired more than a million young people worldwide to take to the streets in 120 cities on March 15, to share their dismay about the lack of action by political leaders on climate change.

    Paul Hawken's project "Drawdown" was also noted. He has supervised a large group of young scientists and activists to publish the 100 best practices for removing carbon from the atmosphere and preventing further damage. Both Paul and Greta push back against the language of "hope". Greta tells leaders we don’t want your hope, we want you to act. And Paul Hawken notes that often: “…hope is the pretty mask of fear. You can’t have hope without fear, whether you’re aware of it or it’s subconscious. What we need to be is fearless, not hopeful.”

    Br. Kevin Cawley and Sr. Kathleen Deignan From left: Br. Kevin Cawley and Sr. Kathleen Deignan
    (Photo: Sr. Jenn Schaffer, O.P.)
  • Br. Kevin Cawley Addresses All Hallows Faculty and Administration on Care For Our Common Home


    The Annual Faculty Retreat for All Hallows High School convened this year at Iona College on April 5, 2019

    Kevin Cawley delivers his talk.

    The Annual Faculty Retreat for All Hallows High School convened this year at Iona College on April 5, 2019. Br. Jim Hamilton of All Hallows invited Br. Kevin Cawley to address faculty concerns regarding advocacy and care of Earth. The planning effort led to an extensive presentation on the current state of planetary crisis and a faith-based response. Br. Hamilton and the All Hallows administration hope the school can develop appropriate responses in curriculum and policy for the school community to move effectively as advocates for our Earth's environment. Br. Kevin outlined the current state of our planetary predicament using the Universe Story developed by Thomas Berry and joined this teaching to the recent encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato Si, On Care For Our Common Home.

    Participants met in Arrigoni Center for orientation, Eucharist, light breakfast and Morning Prayer preceding Kevin's remarks.  For his presentation, Br. Kevin outlined the planetary predicament, the climate crisis, related deterioration of the global environment, possible responses, current global advocacy efforts (especially the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement), and the timeline remaining for remediation. In addition to his role as Director of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona, Br. Kevin also serves as Main Representative for the Congregation at the United Nations in New York. These duties allow him a privileged window to the deliberations at the UN and their links to faith – based civil society advocacy.  The presentation was aided by images and video which brought a fresh perspective to the faith-based efforts in particular. The Edmund Rice Christian Brothers and other religious groups at the United Nations were active participants in the 3-year deliberations that developed the sustainable development goals.   Kevin linked selections from Laudato Si to the public efforts of the UN Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015.

    Audience members listen to the presentation.

    Pope Francis had lent his support to the SDGs with the publication of his encyclical in May of 2015 and his address to the General Assembly on September 25, 2015, the day the Resolution to adopt the SDGs was affirmed by the Assembly. Our April 5 presentation at Iona also related the appreciation of UN officials who were deeply grateful for the advocacy and support of faith-based civil society in the adoption of the Paris Agreement on Climate in December 2015. Particular attention at the All Hallows retreat was given to the recent surge in youth climate activism around the globe, especially in parts of Europe. March 15, 2019, saw over 1 million young people march for climate solutions in 123 cities following the inspiration of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden. The video of Greta's address to the UN Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland, in December 2018, proved unusually compelling for many young people and was a main feature of the presentation delivered on Friday at Iona.

    Photos by Kevin Cawley and Jim Hamilton
  • Berry Forum Joins Student "School Strike For Climate"


    On Friday, March 15, 2019, one of the largest climate actions in history linked hundreds of thousands of young people across the globe protesting lack of action on climate change.

    On Friday, March 15, 2019, one of the largest climate actions in history linked hundreds of thousands of young people across the globe protesting lack of action on climate change. Known variously as "school strike for climate" and "student strike for climate action," the movement began in Sweden and was inspired by teenager Greta Thunberg, founder of the Fridays for the Future movement. Greta, age 16, began her protest last August by cycling from her home in Stockholm to sit on the steps of the Swedish Parliament each Friday to protest lack of action on climate change by Swedish politicians. She carried one homemade sign announcing her purpose and on most Fridays sat alone, regardless of the weather. Her actions eventually caught the attention of social media and particularly resonated among other teenagers. It culminated in Friday’s school walkouts in countries around the world, including Germany, Belgium, the UK, France, Australia and Japan. The walkout is thought to be one of the largest climate actions in history. In the interval, Greta was invited to speak at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Katowice, Poland in December, the DAVOS Economic Forum in Switzerland in January and, finally, the meeting of the European Commission in Brussels a few weeks ago.

    “We have been born into this world and we have to live with this crisis—and our children and our grandchildren,” Thunberg said to the crowd gathered in Stockholm. “We are facing the greatest existential crisis humanity has ever faced. And yet it has been ignored. You who have ignored it know who you are.”

    Br. Kevin Cawley, Executive Director of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College, joined in support at the gathering of approximately 3,000 protestors, mostly high school age students, at Columbus Circe in New York City. They were comprised of the original school strikers as well as Zero Hour youth from the USA, and the Sunrise Movement. The crowd moved slowly northward and ultimately finished the afternoon on the steps of the Museum of Natural History where the demonstration ended several hours later.

    The demonstration brought to mind an early passage in Laudato Si by Pope Francis noting the urgency of our predicament: "Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded." (13)

    Those gathered on March 15 hope to continue to draw attention to the plight of the Earth with steady public pressure and greater and greater numbers of engaged young people to carry the message forward.

    (NYC event photos by Kevin Cawley) Protestors gather on the street. Protestors hold signs up and climb the outside walls at the Museum. Protestors gather at Columbus Circle with the Trump tower in the background. A protestor in a dinosaur costume with a sign that reads 'the dinosaurs thought they had time too!' A group of girls sit on the steps at the museum with a crowd of protestors all around. Protestors outside of the museum. A protestor sketches a scene in her notebook. Protestors at the museum, one raises his fits in the air.
  • Br. Kevin Cawley of Thomas Berry Forum Presents Program on Laudato Si and Climate Change


    Br. Kevin Cawley delivered the keynote for a gathering of the Metro N.Y. Catholic Climate Covenant on Saturday, February 23, 2019.

    Kevin Cawley headshot Photo: Kevin Cawley

    Br. Kevin Cawley delivered the keynote for a gathering of the Metro N.Y. Catholic Climate Covenant on Saturday, February 23, 2019 at Holy Name of Jesus Church on Manhattan's West Side. Nearly 100 participants assembled for a full morning of presentations and discussions. Approximately 16 parishes were represented at the "Care for Creation Workshop."

    The group heard from a number of parishes on their local efforts. Nancy Lorence of the Metro Catholic Climate movement was lead organizer for the day, assisted by a number of parish leaders including Sr. Carol DeAngelo of Catholic Charities of New York. The morning sharing and networking allowed local parish leaders to link and support each other in their leadership roles to bring Laudato Si to awareness in many locations.

    Kevin's remarks accompanied a slide presentation highlighting the current global crisis on climate change and responses by the Faith community to this global emergency. The thinking and teaching of Pope Francis in Laudato Si gave a framework to how humanity might best respond. The Universe Story, United Nations efforts, national initiatives, encouraging technology in renewable energy, local efforts at state and city levels in USA, the recent prominence of youthful climate activists globally and the writings of Thomas Berry all featured in a description of our predicament and possible ways forward.

  • Reading the Whole Book of Life: Ecclesiastes on the Search for Meaning


    The Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue and The Brother John G. Driscoll Professorship in Jewish/Catholic Studies at Iona College were host to master teacher and eco-theologian Lawrence Troster, Berry Forum Rabbi in Residence.

    The Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue and The Brother John G. Driscoll Professorship in Jewish/Catholic Studies at Iona College were host to master teacher and eco-theologian Lawrence Troster, Berry Forum Rabbi in Residence. His talk, entitled Reading the Whole Book of Life: Ecclesiastes on the Search for Meaning , focused on how the Book of Ecclesiastes (Kohelet in Hebrew) responds to the same spiritual and existential questions that many people face in their lives such as: What is the meaning of (my) life? Does God care about the world? Is there a pattern of existence or is everything random? Why do the righteous suffer? Is there some kind of existence after death?

    While previous sacred texts like the Torah asserted that the world adheres to a pattern that is intelligible and moral, the author of Kohelet perceives no evidence of this.

    Rabbi Troster's creative and original presentation used a fictional narrative of the life of the author of Kohelet, set in the 3rd century BCE, as told after his death by his student Joshua Ben Sira and incorporates poems, songs, novels, philosophy, rabbinic literature, and biblical texts, especially those from the books of Kohelet, Job and Psalms.

    An appreciate audience of over thirty persons, including eighteen Iona students, were in rapt attention for the presentation which ranged over many challenging concepts and a wide swath of Middle Eastern history and scholarship. The author shows us that even if we do not see God, we are all in the Book of Life and our deeds are remembered. We can surely know great pain in this world but also great mercy. We can hope that people will look at the world honestly and not deny what we see. We must realize that while much of life seems to be "hevel, " (vanity, absurdity) evil is caused mostly by human greed and stupidity. We must realize the meaning of life is life itself. God does not forget us but shares our pain, rejoices with us in our good deeds and our joy, and cares for our lives. One of the audience members added that the Earth remembers what we do to Earth.

    Rabbi Troster is the author of Mekor Hayyim: A Source Book on Water and Judaism. As the Rabbinic Fellow for the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL), he has published numerous articles and has lectured widely on eco-theology, bio-ethics, and Judaism and modern science. Rabbi Troster was honored by the Temple of Understanding, one of the oldest worldwide interfaith organizations, as an Interfaith Visionary. He is Rabbi at Kesher Israel in West Chester , Pennsylvania.

    Rabbi Troster delivering his talk at the podium at Iona College Photo of Rabbi Troster by Br. Kevin Cawley
  • Thomas Berry Forum Hosts Fr. Joe Mitchell of Louisville Earth and Spirit Center November 17, 2018


    "The Great Story Of Our Common Home -The Great Work Of Laudato Si"

    "The Great Story Of Our Common Home -The Great Work Of Laudato Si"

    In light of the most recent and urgent report of October, 2018, of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) people of faith and conscience are more challenged than ever to imagine a way forward, a way to restore "Our Common Home."

    Br. Kevin Cawley speaking to audience.

    From the star-dust of pre-history to the carbon-dust of post-modernity, the climate of our Earth has undergone stupendous changes - and in this present age, the most challenging of all. How are we to comprehend this moment of destiny for human-kind, for living-kind? How are we to make our way forward to our common home, restored to stability and beauty? What wisdom will guide us, what spirit empower us?

    The Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College has been grappling with these challenges in public programs on campus and in local faith communities. These questions were opened once again and explored on Saturday, November 17, 2018 in contemplative engagement with Father Joseph Mitchell, CP, whose mentor, Father Thomas Berry, CP, transmitted to him gifts of wisdom and insight to see the possibilities as well as the perils of our present global reality. 

    The afternoon began with a welcome by Br. Kevin Cawley, Executive Director of the Berry Forum. Br. Kevin took some time to open a lens on the current progress on UN member states on reducing their carbon output as promised in the Paris Agreement of 2015. Sadly the news was not encouraging as noted in the October 8 IPCC report cited in the opening paragraph above.

    Father Joseph took the group of over forty participants through distinctions between gazing at objects and our current predicament and took time to share how to see clearly and not be overwhelmed. 

    Fr. Joseph then led us through a discussion of the human story and our understanding of the competing cosmologies describing our life on Earth and our understanding of God. We ended the explanations with the description of Earth as our "Common Home" as noted by Pope Francis in Laudato Si. Along this path of discovery we examined global poverty, the human right to water, energy usage, personal wellbeing and competing definitions of human happiness. We agreed that the sense of God as magnificent derives in part from our comprehensive embrace of the truth that we live on a beautiful planet - God's primary revelation.

    Later, we examined our duty toward nature and the complications arising when only the human is granted rights because we only allow subjectivity in the human. Everything else is an object. Concerns were raised regarding recent USA judicial decisions granting rights to corporations. The earlier doctrine of the human having dominion over all creatures has been seen now as wrong understanding of the human place in creation. We saw that a just world is not possible if every nation consumed at the rate of the population of the United States of America. 

    We came to the question of how does a human flourish in these times? The need for inner peace has begun to press on the reality we all must confront daily. We are experiencing a grief now but we must not turn away from grief because it is inviting us down to important depths of understanding. Grief is about love, not depression. Our New Cosmology, the New Story, can re-set the human-earth relationship as we come to consciousness of our place in the universe. The natural world is not simply a resource for our exploitation. As we grow in understanding we are better able to help our institutions shift to the wider understanding that nature is always transcending and including, like God.

    Br. Kevin Cawley speaking in front of a screen of his presentation. More than half our audience were Iona students who are currently studying the world-view of Thomas Berry.  Here is a quote from a student who wrote to thank us for the day:
    "I wanted to express my enjoyment and appreciation for Yesterday's event. Having Father Joseph Mitchell as the main speaker was a great victory for the day, as his engaging language seemed to draw me in, opening my mind to new ideas and reinforcing ones discussed in class."

    Sr. Kathleen Deignan and Beth Bradley accompanied us with musical support, including a stirring version of "Amazing Grace" rendered as "Amazing Place" to honor Earth.  Fr. Joseph was a co-author of the new music.

    Fr. Joseph was introduced by Dr. Danny Martin, a Convener of the Berry Forum.

    The next Berry Forum event will be "Contemplative Ecological Mass" at 6 p.m. on Saturday, November 24, in the Blessed Edmund Rice Chapel on campus.

    Photos:  Monica Hoyt

  • Iona Berry Forum Represented At Catholic Care For Creation Conference


    Br. Kevin Cawley, executive director of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue, was invited by N.Y. Catholic Climate Covenant to chair the opening panel at the Care for Creation Conference.

    Br. Kevin Cawley, executive director of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue, was invited by N.Y. Catholic Climate Covenant to chair the opening panel at the Care for Creation Conference on October 27, 2018, in San Damiano Hall at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in New York City. The theme for the day was taken from Laudato Si – "The Cry of the Earth is the Cry of the Poor." Sr. Kathleen Deignan of the Religious Studies Department and co-founder of the Thomas Berry Forum was also invited to support the program with musical accompaniment in spirituality and sustainability.

    Br. Cawley highlighted the IPCC report, water issues (cited 47 times in Laudato Si), ocean temperatures impacted by climate change, plastic pollution – especially of oceans, desertification and the impact on food security, droughts increasing for over 2.5 billion people, forest fires growing in intensity, deforestation, overexploitation of global fisheries, and arctic warming. 

    More than a dozen speakers addressed the meeting throughout the day. Speakers hailed from a number of Catholic parishes as well as universities in the New York City area and included Professor Meghan Clark of St. John's University, New York; Professor Erin Lothes, College of St. Elizabeth, New Jersey; and Energy Ethics Researcher and Sr. Carol DeAngelo, SC, Metro NY Catholic Climate Movement. Dr. Lothes had previously spoken at Iona College in 2016 as a guest of the Thomas Berry Forum. The keynote of the conference was delivered by Dr. Dan Misleh who is the founding executive director of the U.S. Catholic Climate Covenant of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Dr. Misleh previously spoke at Iona College in 2015 as guest of the Thomas Berry Forum.

    Presenters stressed the urgency of the moment following the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC report was a summary for policy-makers submitted to government officials planning to attend the forthcoming meeting in Katowice, Poland, to follow up the Paris Climate Agreement (COP21) of December 2015.  The Conference of the Parties Meeting (COP24) in Poland in December 2018 will be an opportunity for government leaders to take stock of progress toward reducing carbon emissions since the Paris Agreement was ratified. Global rise in temperature must remain below 1.5 degrees Celsius in order to avoid catastrophic global warming with potential irreversible consequences coming as a result of rapid loss of Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.

    The Catholic Climate Covenant conference was organized by the New York membership of the covenant to take stock of the challenges outlined in the Paris Agreement and the IPCC, and design responses to the call of Pope Francis in Laudato Si. Organizers were at pains to present some optimism – moving forward with hope – despite the grim prognostications of the October 8 IPCC summary. Ideas at the parish and university level were outlined, as well as advocacy that will be required on issues such as fracking, fossil fuel infrastructure, environmental justice, and current legislative campaigns.

  • Thomas Berry Forum Summer Engagements 2018


    Members of the Thomas Berry Forum attended various conferences this past summer.

    Sr. Kathleen Deignan, CND, met with Cardinal Turkson in Rome and Patriarch Bartholomew in Athens.

    Sponsored by the Thomas Berry Forum, Sr.  Kathleen and Iona alumni Ceire Kelty '18 and Jamal Jackson '16 attended two major conferences on environmental concerns this past summer. The Assisi Conference on Spirituality and Sustainability, which was originally hosted by Fr. Thomas Berry, began meeting again after a hiatus of some years. Co-sponsored by the Thomas Berry Forum, this year the group gathered in Rome prior to travel to Assisi and met with Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Vatican Dicastery for the Integral Development of Peoples. Cardinal Turkson was instrumental in the writing of Laudato Si, On Care for Our Common Home, the encyclical of Pope Francis on the environment. During the conference, care for the earth and the impact on migration were some of the important topics discussed.  Cardinal Turkson then asked the Assisi participants for help in implementing the action items they had identified and the following week the Vatican gathered a group of scientists for this same purpose at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. The gathering included several well-known thought leaders on environmental concerns, including Tony Cortese of Intentional Endowments Network, who offered to assist Iona with the work of sustainability planning. 

    The week following this conference Sr. Kathleen accepted an invitation to a meeting in Athens hosted by Patriarch Bartholomew. Bartholomew and the Orthodox Church have been promoting liturgical markers around the celebration of Care of Creation. Additionally, Bartholomew calls Assemblies on threatened waterways around the planet every two years and this year the Attica water basin near Athens was chosen. While at the meeting, Sr. Kathleen noted that we have a mandate as a Catholic college to speak on the Laudato document. Bartholomew and Pope Francis have made it a common cause to awaken their followers to care of Earth, marking each year the Season of Creation from September 1 through October 4. Sr. Kathleen plans to bring Iona students to Assisi next summer as well.

    Iona College visitors in Rome at the Vatican with Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promostion of Integral Human Development. From left: Jamal Jackson '16, Cardinal Peter Turkson, Ceire Kealty '18, Sister Kathleen Deignan, CND.

    International Symposium Discusses Ecology, Economy, and ethics

    Sister Kathleen attended the 9th Ecological Symposium of the Ecumenical Patriarchate held on the island of Spetses. Focusing on the relationship between economy and ecology as well as the environmental crisis and forced migration, the first session featured economist Jeffrey Sachs (Earth Institute), author and activist Maude Barlow (Council of Canadians), and Orthodox theologian Metropolitan John of Pergamon, who observed that responding to the ecological crisis and respecting God’s creation would not be the result of reducing selfish consumption, but rather the result of recognizing the world as a gift. During the second session scientist and activist Vandana Shiva, who is now a shelter coordinator assisting unaccompanied refugee children, addressed the attendees. Between the two sessions, the Ecumenical Patriarch released two kestrels, which had been injured and restored to health.

    Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew have made care of Earth a high priority in their efforts to turn the planet away from its current path of damaging consumerism.

  • Thomas Berry Forum Joins New York City March for Climate Justice


    Representatives of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College joined more than 3,000 young people and others on Thursday, September 6, 2018, to press for action on climate change.

    Sister Kathleen Deignan, CND, co-founder of Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College with Berry Forum banner.
    Two Stilt Performers entertain in Battery Park prior to start of march.

    Representatives of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College joined more than 3,000 young people and others on Thursday, September 6, 2018, to press for action on climate change. The group gathered at Castel Clinton in Battery Park, NYC and marched to City Hall to press their demands for action. We marched because the public must be clear that a fossil-free energy future remains our only sensible course of action.  We know that Pope Francis has raised a clear alarm in his encyclical Laudato Si that Earth is at risk and we must act now to save Our Common Home.

    From Laudato Si: "We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay. " (165)

    The writer, Rebecca Solnit encouraged the marchers thus: "We march because we believe that the difference between the best and worst-case scenarios matters desperately. We march because we know that we can celebrate and worry and strategize and commit all at once. We march to be part of hope and not of dread or indifference. We march so that we can look children in the eye and say that we’re doing our best for their future, now in 2018 where the youngest children are quite likely to be alive in 2100. We march because of what we love."

    Sister Carol De Angelo, S.C. with students and banner for NY Catholic Climate Covenant.
  • Thomas Berry Forum Joins Faith Leaders to Bless First US Offshore Wind Farm


    More than 110 people of faith from six states gathered in support of offshore wind development.

    Off the Rhode Island Coast, Monday, August 27, 2018 - Within 50 feet of a wind turbine reaching 600 feet into the sky, more than 110 people of faith from six states stood silently along with Dr. Brian Brown,  Sr. Kathleen Deignan and Br. Kevin Cawley of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College. We stood alongside as Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Ethical Culture Society leaders took turns offering reflections, readings from sacred writings, and blessings during a Multi-Faith Wind Turbine Blessing. The Ceremony took place at the site of the United States’ first five offshore wind turbines which produce power for 17,000 homes. The ceremony was part of an educational tour of the Block Island Wind Farm organized by GreenFaith, an interfaith environmental organization, and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).

    A number of the religious leaders on the tour spoke forcefully about the urgent need for offshore wind development as a response to climate change and to dangerous levels of air pollution.  “Our children have high rates of asthma; too many of our elders suffer from respiratory diseases,” said Pastor Bryant R. Ali, chair of the Baptist Ministers Council of Newark (NJ) and Vicinity.  “We literally need renewable energy so that our communities can live.”

    Rabbi Joel Abraham of Scotch Plains, New Jersey’s Temple Sholom, explained that the Hebrew word "ruach" can be translated as both "wind" and "spirit.”  “There’s power, physically and spiritually, in the wind,” he said.  “God made it. It’s up to us to use it wisely.”
    In a show of support for strong state leadership on offshore wind development, following the tour GreenFaith released a statement entitled “Majestic: A Multi-Faith, Moral Call for Environmentally Responsible, Pro-Worker Offshore Wind Development.”  Calling for offshore wind development that is environmentally responsible and strongly supportive of local workforce development, the statement emphasizes the urgent need for ambitious state offshore wind policies.   

    Sr. Kathleen Deignan of Thomas Berry Forum at Offshore Wind Farm
    Photo Credit: K. Cawley
  • Berry Forum Marches with Zero Hour Youth.


    On Saturday, July 21, two members of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue joined several hundred young people in a march and demonstration in New York City to demand political leaders address the challenge of climate change.

    Two young girls stand at a podium in a park reading a speech while 2 polic officers listen nearby.Two young activists addressing the New York rally. 
Photo: Br. Kevin Cawley

    On Saturday, July 21, two members of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue joined several hundred young people in a march and demonstration in New York City to demand political leaders address the challenge of climate change. They joined Zero Hour ( youth who marched across midtown Manhattan and assembled in Dag Hammarskjold Park near the United Nations on First Avenue for a rally and speeches by young people on behalf of the planet. Zero Hour, founded by a group of teenagers, emerged this past year as an environmentally focused, creatively minded and technologically savvy nationwide coalition — trying to build a youth-led movement to sound the alarm and call for action on climate change and environmental justice.

    Participants in the march stressed environmental justice in their remarks. Sr. Kathleen Deignan and Br. Kevin Cawley of the Berry Forum made the trip to NYC in a show of support for the Zero Hour group and to recognize the importance of informed young voices to carry the message of climate justice to legislators everywhere.

    For the last year, a tight-knit group spanning both coasts has been organizing on social media. The teenagers kicked off their campaign with a protest on Saturday at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., along with sister marches across the country. As sea levels rise, ice caps melt and erratic weather impacts people everywhere, it is clearer now that time is running out.

    A core group of Zero Hour members met with a group of 40 federal legislators on July 19 in Washington, D.C., to press their case for urgent action. The NYC march was held in tandem with multiple actions across the nation on July 21.

  • Homily Notes: Trinity-St. Paul’s, May 6


    Homily from the Readings for Sunday, May 6: ACTS 10. 44-48, 1ST JOHN 5. 1-6, JOHN 15. 9-17

    They Went Out to a Garden

    Readings for Sunday, May 6: ACTS 10. 44-48, 1ST JOHN 5. 1-6, JOHN 15. 9-17

    Good morning to you all. I wish to say thank you to Fr. Gahler for inviting me to speak to you this morning as homilist. It is a singular honor to stand in this church, the oldest congregation in our city and surely a timeless reminder of the life of the gospel lived in faith. Thank you for still being here!

    I will say a few words about connections to place; then take a few moments to open the Gospel of John for today; say something about the events around this gospel, tell a story about my own visit to the Holy Land, link to a garden; link to a larger garden.

    Coming from a Catholic tradition, I agree with the episcopal writer Mark Jacobs that Anglicanism has a kind of mediating and conciliating temperament, always seeing if there is a way for people to live together in relative harmony even in significant disagreement. I trust that principle is alive here at Trinity-St. Paul’s!

    I understand many in the congregation trace family back to the West Indies and to Africa. Because we will dwell a while on the beauty of life on this planet, I know that people from the Caribbean and Africa have an immediate sense of the abundance of life and the richness she offers. I have visited our brothers' ministries in Dominica, Antigua, St. Lucia and Grenada. My several journeys to Africa included Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone and S. Africa.

    John's gospel, today, we know, describes a portion of the Last Supper. The long, loving discourse of rich teaching has always been hard for me to absorb I think because it does not resemble any dinner talk I know. The last supper starts in Chapter 13 and does not conclude until the close of Chapter 17. Over 150 verses, almost entirely the words of Jesus. We hear about the washing of the feet, the betrayal of Judas, Peter's denial, "a new commandment," "let not your heart be troubled," I am the vine, the world hates you, you will be persecuted, I must go so that the Spirit can come to you, a long priestly prayer for unity, "sanctify them in the truth." That they may have my joy made full in themselves.

    Today, we are looking at only a small slice of those 150 verses in John and a little bit looking ahead to after the meal. I notice some things and I will bring them forward this morning with the hope we can open some path to more understanding by sharing. This was the final night with his beloved disciples. We are in Chapter 15 today. The arrest and questioning by Caiphas takes place in Chapter 18.

    At the supper, of course we know that Jesus had yet to endure the agony in the garden that was the prelude to his suffering and death the next day. But yet, here he is teaching his last lesson, in a sense, and saying very explicitly that "I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete." He tells them he chose them and he loves them and they must love one another. His final message to them before he must die. Can we imagine what he might mean by his promise to them of his "joy"? How is he able to talk of joy at this moment? I think we might do well to remember "joy" was so clearly in his message even while he was in great suffering. We can surely imitate him in sharing joy despite inner pain.

    After supper, John describes Jesus and his disciples going to "a garden beyond the stream of Cedron." We know this place today as the Garden of Gethsemane. It appears to have been a familiar place of respite to Jesus because we learn later that Judas knew Jesus would be there to be arrested. Genesis began in a garden. Jesus brings us back.

    I had the good fortune to visit the Holy Land some years ago with a Brother who took me one afternoon to the church of Peter Galicantu, just outside the walls of Jerusalem. This is the ancient site of the house of Annas, father-in-law of Caiphas, the High Priest. Peter Galicantu ("cock crow," in latin) is the name because it is where Peter denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed. It is where Jesus was held before he appeared before Pilate the day of his crucifixion. The excavations at the house revealed several hidden cells in the lower basement areas. The red rock had been exposed and some dungeons were visible to visitors.

    We understand that this may have been the last place Jesus spent a night alive before the Passion.

    A small lectern stands in one side of a tiny cell. On it is a copy of psalm 87 – a lamentation psalm – "Lord I cry to you, incline your ear to my call for help…" We may suppose Jesus may have had recourse to this psalm in these last hours. The visit moved me and has stayed with me these many years.

    When you come out of this dungeon to the sunlight, there is a path down the hill with ancient stepping stones going back to Jesus' time. You can see the path all the way to the Garden of Gethsemane, just across a small valley, so it is likely the path taken by his guards to bring him to Caiphas. Putting ourselves in proximity in this fashion changes the dynamic for me.

    The passion story takes on more immediacy. For example, there are some questions about the path of Jesus during the carrying of the cross through Jerusalem. The competing narratives complicate things for the believer. But Galicantu seems less problematic. There was only one Caiphas and the path from the garden of Gethsemane is clear even today so we can be fairly confident we are in the real place.

    So, he chose a garden after the Supper. And, we can see those places still.

    And, now we shift to the largest garden we know. The four-billion-years-old garden of our home planet. This is a large concept and so we try to use models to help our thinking. What if the four billion years were compressed to a single day? Let's imagine a narrative that I borrow from Richard Rogers, a writer who knows about life on the planet:

    "Say the planet is born at midnight and it runs for one day. First there is nothing. Two hours are lost to lava and meteors. Life doesn’t show up until three or four a.m. Even then, it’s just the barest self-copying bits and pieces. From dawn to late morning – a million million years of branching – nothing more exists than lean and simple cells. Then there is everything. Something wild happens, not long after noon. One kind of simple cell enslaves a couple of others. Nuclei get membranes. Cells evolve organelles. What was once a solo campsite grows into a town. The day is two-thirds done when animals and plants part ways. And still life is only single cells. Dusk falls before compound life takes hold. Every large living thing is a latecomer, showing up after dark. Nine p.m. brings jellyfish and worms. Later that hour comes the breakout—backbones, cartilage, an explosion of body forms. From one instant to the next, countless new stems and twigs in the spreading crown burst open and run. Plants make it up on land just before ten. Then insects, who instantly take to the air. Moments later, tetrapods crawl up from the tidal muck, carrying around on their skin and in their guts whole worlds of earlier creatures. By eleven, dinosaurs have shot their bolt, leaving the mammals and birds in charge for an hour. Somewhere in that last sixty minutes, high up in the phylogenetic canopy, life grows aware. Creatures start to speculate. Animals start teaching their children about the past and the future. Animals learn to hold rituals. Anatomically modern man shows up four seconds before midnight. The first cave paintings appear three seconds later. And in a thousandth of a click of the second hand, life solves the mystery of DNA and starts to map the tree of life itself. By midnight, most of the globe is converted to row crops for the care and feeding of one species. And that’s when the tree of life becomes something else again. That’s when the giant trunk starts to teeter."

    Jesus went to a garden as he was leaving us. He had a profound sense of his destiny and he sought consolation in a place full of plants.

    We know that the natural world here is facing many difficulties. We have been challenged not long ago by our Catholic Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si = On Care for Our Common Home; the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, Bartholomew has made common cause with Francis to engage these faith traditions in a mutual effort to awaken their followers to the responsibility to care for Earth and her creatures as stewards of creation.

    The garden Earth is in danger and only the human can make things better now. We must re-invent the human if we are to respond in time to our predicament. We need to find our way to the garden to connect again to our creator's gifts. We need everyone to change everything.

    Often the task seems too hard. We can be led along by talk of a technological fix. But we need to return first to the garden, to the real, to the living organisms of our planet home. Where Jesus went for time to pray to his Father. Where the connections had been arranged by his creator hand.

    Thomas Berry has some encouragement for us – why we can still have confidence we can change things: "Here we might observe that the basic mood of the future might well be one of confidence in the continuing revelation that takes place in and through the earth. If the dynamics of the universe from the beginning shaped the course of the heavens, lighted the sun, and formed the earth, if this same dynamism brought forth the continents and seas and atmosphere, if it awakened life in the primordial cell and then brought into being the unnumbered variety of living beings, and finally brought us into being and guided us safely through the turbulent centuries, there is reason to believe that this same guiding process is precisely what has awakened in us our present understanding of ourselves and our relation to this stupendous process. Sensitized to such guidance from the very structure and functioning of the universe, we can have confidence in the future that awaits the human venture.” (Thomas Berry, “The New Story,” in The Dream of the Earth, 137).

    Thomas Berry saw our environmental predicament and described it as of our own making. He knew that the Great Work of our time was to restore this garden and doing that would require the re-invention of the human. The relationship of human to earth must become a mutually enhancing relationship. We are all challenged to learn and to do our best to rescue our part of the garden. Jesus went to the garden as his last free choice before he was arrested. We can ensure there are still gardens when we are gone. God bless.


    Thoughtful observers remind us we must guard against the human tendency solve our problems with technology. For many, God is primarily available as a solution of last resort and so we try other solutions first. Noting that our preference for idols, and thus religion as solutionism, is deeply ingrained, some say that modern technologies, which are solutionist in design, function as ready-made modern idols:

    The primary goal of the makers of the idols, or New Gods (in their software and hardware avatars), is to ensure that we continue to turn to the idols for solutions to our problems, and never to suspect that there are problems they cannot solve, or, what would be far worse, that there are matters of value and meaning in human life that cannot be described in solutionist terms.

  • Thomas Berry Forum Participates at Clean Power Plan “People's Hearing” in New York


    Br. Kevin Cawley, executive director of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College, participated in the session and gave public testimony on behalf of the Berry Forum and the NY Metro Catholic Climate Alliance.

    Seven panelists sit on stage with a backdrop announcing the conference name. Photo: Nancy Lorence

    Thomas Berry Forum Participates with New York Attorney General, Mayor's Office at Clean Power Plan “People's Hearing” in New York

    By Br. Kevin Cawley

    With the current administration overlooking New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s request that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hold public hearings in New York on the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the attorney general’s and NYC mayor’s offices held a “people’s hearing” on January 9, to ensure New Yorkers’ voices were heard. The country’s reliance on dirty, non-renewable fossil fuels for power generation is a major contributor of climate change pollution and its impacts on the lives and livelihoods of New York’s residents, including more frequent and intense storms, rising sea levels, higher temperatures and increased air pollution. The Clean Power Plan is a vital tool to slash greenhouse gas emissions from one of the leading causes of climate change pollution, fossil-fuel burning power plants. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under Administrator Scott Pruitt, has refused to schedule any public hearings east of West Virginia, despite the direct climate impacts facing residents of New York and other states on the eastern seaboard.

    Br. Kevin Cawley, executive director of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College, participated in the session and gave public testimony on behalf of the Berry Forum and the NY Metro Catholic Climate Alliance. The afternoon session ran for nearly four hours as more than 50 public statements were delivered.

    Brother Cawley speaks as the 2 panelists at his table listen intently. Photo: Nancy Lorence

    Below is the statement based on the work of the Catholic Climate Covenant, delivered by Cawley at the hearing:

    This past April, over 200,000 citizens marched in Washington, D.C., to call attention to the federal administration disregard of the environment in its policies, its actions and its intentions. As the various groups departed the city, many passed by the EPA building on Pennsylvania Avenue. As they did so, many were moved to lay down their signs and banners from the march on the steps of the building. This impromptu shrine resembled those sad memorials often seen at the site of tragic accidents where passersby leave flowers and candles in honor of the lives lost at the location. How deeply felt these emotions must be to evoke a similar response in so many marchers that day in Washington. Yes, the EPA, now the site of a very sad, unnecessary and ultimately deadly intersection of policy and ideology.

    As a Catholic, I lift up Pope Francis' statement in his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si': "There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy."

    Care for our poor and vulnerable neighbors, and care for creation, are integral themes of Catholic social teaching. Climate change poses an undeniable threat to our security, public health and economy. Now is the time to support critical climate change safeguards, build a clean energy economy that works for everyone, and protect human life and dignity and all God's creation.

    The Clean Power Plan seeks to reduce carbon pollution from the United States' largest source, the power sector, by 32 percent by 2030. By EPA's own estimates, the CPP could prevent a projected 500 to 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks in children, up to 1,700 heart attacks and 1,700 hospital admissions.

    I share the disappointment of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in the EPA's intention to repeal the CPP, as it risks damage to our air, our waters and, most importantly, our people, particularly the poor and vulnerable.

    I support continuation of the CPP. Should the EPA decide to repeal and replace it, then the replacement rule must meet or exceed the CPP's human health protections and carbon reduction goals. Furthermore, the CPP should not be repealed until the replacement rule is operational. EPA's mission is to protect human health and the environment. CPP repeal without an equal or superior alternative in place, would leave a vacuum that harms human health and the environment.

    As the EPA has signaled its intention to repeal the CPP, I urge EPA not do so. If an alternative plan is developed and put in place, it must meet or exceed the CPP's national carbon emission reduction goals, and protect public health, especially poor and vulnerable people.

    Thank you for organizing this hearing and thank you for your kind attention.

  • Karenna Gore Addresses Care of Earth in Peacemaker Week Keynote


    Karenna Gore is the director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary. She addressed a packed Romita Auditorium at Iona College for her keynote address during the Week of the Peacemaker 2017.

    From left, Br. Kevin Cawley,  Karenna Gore, Esq.,  Sr. Kathleen Deignan,  Carl Procario-Foley, Ph.D.,  stand around the Thomas Berry Forum poster.
    Karenna Gore Addresses Care of Earth in Peacemaker Week Keynote

    Karenna Gore, Esq., addressed a packed Romita Auditorium at Iona College for her keynote address during the Week of the Peacemaker 2017.

    Gore was invited by Br. Kevin Cawley of the Berry Forum after a meeting in July 2017 at a conference on Sustainability and Spirituality in Assisi. Br. Cawley and Sr. Kathleen Deignan had been invited to speak in Assisi on a panel commemorating the work of Fr. Thomas Berry. Karenna and Sr. Deignan spoke at-length during a stopover in Rome where they shared faith-based perspectives on care of Earth.

    At Iona, Gore touched on several facets of our planet’s current challenges, including the concerns of Pope Francis in Laudato Si. She challenged prevailing policy in Washington regarding climate change; reviewed concerns around the Doctrine of Discovery and indigenous rights; and opened up a discussion on a jurisprudence for the rights of nature. During the discussion period, after her remarks, she encouraged Iona students to keep open the dialogue needed for working through our predicament to set right the human-earth relationship. The event proved to be a stirring tribute to Thomas Berry, whose birthday was November 9.

    Karenna Gore is the director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary. She is an attorney, advocate, writer and educator. She worked on the editorial staff of Slate magazine and is the author of Lighting the Way: Nine Women Who Changed Modern America (2006). Gore is a graduate of Harvard College, Columbia Law School and Union Theological Seminary. She is the eldest child of Al and Tipper Gore, and lives in New York City with her three children.

    (Photo by Claudia; from left: Br. Kevin Cawley; Karenna Gore, Esq.; Sr. Kathleen Deignan; Carl Procario-Foley, Ph.D.)

  • Report on Berry Forum Conference: Hope and Healing in the Anthropocene


    More than 60 participants attended the Thomas Berry Conference, Hope and Healing in the Anthropocene: Inspiration, Conversation, Transformation, on November 4, at Iona College.

    Hope and Healing in the Anthropocene: Inspiration, Conversation, Transformation

    Why Anthropocene? Anthropos is the Greek word for “human,” so the “Anthropocene” is understood as “relating to or denoting the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.” 

    Musicians performing at the Berry Forum Conference.Photo by: Monica Hoyt

    A Day of Conversation, Music and Mindfulness. In Berry’s words, the tools for doing the great work of reinventing the human are story and shared dream experience. In other words, we can only address the challenges of our “anthropocene” epoch by orienting ourselves within the coherence of the universe story. We began the full day conference with the 60+ participants by laying out our desired outcomes for the gathering that included an understanding of what is really going on beneath all the rhetoric around climate change and its impacts. Br. Kevin Cawley, executive director of the Berry Forum, set the scene by quoting from the powerful Encyclical (Laudato Si) of Pope Francis who remains one of the few world leaders to offer direction on this unprecedented challenge: “…the urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development” (13). 

    Glory of the Human. Berry Forum co-founder, Dr. Brian Brown, showed how Thomas Berry’s vision is at the heart of any true response:

    “The glory of the human has become the desolation of the Earth and now the desolation of the Earth is becoming the destiny of the human. From here on, the primary judgment of all human institutions, professions, programs and activities will be determined by the extent to which they inhibit, ignore, or foster a mutually-enhancing human/Earth relationship.” Noting that the day’s gathering anticipated by but a few days, the anniversary of the birth of Thomas Berry born on November 9, 1914, Brian Brown reflected on the opening lines of Berry’s essay “Reinventing the Human at the Species Level.” 

    “The present human situation can be described in three sentences: In the twentieth century, the glory of the human has become the desolation of Earth. The desolation of Earth is becoming the destiny of the human. All human institutions, professions, programs and activities must now be judged primarily by the extent to which they inhibit, ignore, or foster a mutually enhancing human-Earth relationship.” 

    “… [I]t is proposed that the historical mission of our times is: 
    To reinvent the human 
    At the species level 
    With critical reflection 
    Within the community of life systems 
    In a time-developmental context 
    By means of story and 
    Shared dream experience.” 

    Berry’s call for the reinvention of the human is a reflection of the hazardous conditions that now threaten, arising out of a pathological human self-regard and simultaneous disregard for a world which it sees as separate and apart from itself and over which it has entitlement to dominate and exploit. Human movement into the future, depends in large measure by its success in reading the map of its past. Beyond the limited identities of racial, ethnic, and national narratives, the story of the universe reveals human identity at its species level and the indispensable role that it is designed to play in celebrating,preserving and fostering the universe’s self-expressiveness as Earth. The human re-invents itself, to the degree that it orients itself within the great story of the universe’s coherence and expansive unfoldment. The universe story bears fruit only in the active translation it elicits in concrete human behavior. 

    Attendees at the Berry Forum Conference Photo by: Monica Hoyt

    Religious Traditions. Sr. Kathleen Deignan, co-founder number three, pointed to the kind of resources that we have in our various religious and philosophical traditions, while co-founder number four, Danny Martin, spoke of the essential importance of coming together to form “communities of possibility” in order to take on this amazing task of reinventing the human. Sr. Kathleen enhanced the artistic celebration of the day's experience by offering a number of musical performances accompanied by Beth Begley on guitar. 

    Loss of Maternal Ground. The keynote speaker, Professor Mary Beth Morrissey, is a phenomenologist who has explored the phenomenon of suffering. Mary Beth described our present situation of fragmentation, polarization, confusion, chaos and violence, as caused by the loss of the maternal ground that enables us to live in the face of the mystery of existence. In other words, we suffer because we no longer feel connected to the world we live in or to each other.  Professor Morrissey clearly reflected the vision of Thomas Berry, adding to it the reality – the phenomenon – of suffering that is involved now in the collapse of an old order and in the emergence of a new one. The other speakers took up the task of reflecting on what this – being together in a new way – entails. 

    Speakers at the Berry Forum Conference.Photo by: Monica Hoyt

    Shifting Energy. Dr. Orla Cashman spoke of the power of connection for shifting the sometimes overwhelming energy of anxiety and enabling us to find balance, inside and out. She led us in an exercise of listening to our bodies – to the stress and anxiety we feel and the thoughts they engender – and then to take a ‘flash inventory. She continued by inviting us to find a stranger and to share with them something we are anxious about. When we had finished this exchange she asked us once again to take a quick inventory of our feelings and thoughts. Orla noted how the energy in the room had shifted from tense to relaxed, and from low to high energy – even joy. It was as if, she added, oxytocin – the so-called ‘love hormone’ – had been released in us. 

    Addiction and Mindfulness. Professor Diane Abatemarco who spoke about her work with addiction, specifically addicted mothers, at Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Philadelphia, pointed to mindfulness as her core tool for helping the mothers rediscover what Professor Morrissey had earlier called their “lost maternal ground.” Addiction to opioids is now the biggest killer in the country, Diane began, while, among mothers, addiction of this nature has increased 500% within a couple of decades.  Diane’s program – Maternal Addiction Treatment Education and Research (MATER) – focuses on Mindfulness as its essential approach, with the methadone that assists withdrawal from the addiction, seen as a support rather than a solution. She noted that Mindfulness allows the mothers to access their executive function and the choices it enables in order to counter the limbic “fight or flight” response that otherwise drives their actions. She spoke of how many of the women who went through the intensive 30-day program spoke of rediscovering their lost capacity to mother from the mindfulness-inspired experience of the maternal ground that underpins all life. 

    How to Respond. The conversation that followed touched on how addiction of all kinds is part of our (lack of) response to the enormous challenges that the Anthropocene has brought us. Some were responding for example, with “small acts of kindness” described by speaker Dr. Nanako Sakai reporting from Fukushima, where a tsunami caused a nuclear accident whose proportions are now only partly appreciated but will have permanent impacts for thousands. Other examples include local communities in this country where citizens are participating in efforts like the Zero Waste program that formed the backdrop for our conference lunch. 


    Refreshments were served and the entire event was zero waste.Photo by: Monica Hoyt

    Growing Resilience. Dr. Karen Killeen described what she called “resilience tools” that can help us find internal balance by awakening “the intentional field” and the “energy of centration” that Teilhard de Chardin described in terms of “love.” Dr. Killeen spoke of this period – the anthropocene – as a transition space when the veil between worlds (or dimensions) is thinner making it easier to access this energy. Dr. Vin Maher added what he called “modern beatitudes” that we need to regulate and direct our actions in this complicated period of our journey. 

    Zero Waste. The entire conference day at Iona was planned as a zero waste project in keeping with the theme of care of earth. Our facilitators for the zero waste component were Ron Schulhof and Michelle Sterling of Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, N.Y. All utensils were compostable. Water and other beverages were served in large carafes; no individual aluminum cans or plastic bottles permitted. Michelle and Ron first launched a composting program in Scarsdale's elementary schools four years ago. “It makes sense to start in the schools because this is all about education. It's about not wasting food,” Schulhof said. “The next step is all these parents and kids say, ‘How do I do it at home?’” 

    Conclusion. Throughout the conference, which was truly a conversation, we used music and poetry and art, and silence and mindfulness to help us experience what we were discussing. We finished our sharing in this fashion with a ritual of anointing each other for the work we must undertake for ourselves and for our children. 

    Editors: Kevin Cawley, Danny Martin, Brian Brown

  • Thomas Berry Forum Marks Day of Creation Care at Iona


    More than 30 students, faculty and administrators gathered on Iona's campus to celebrate St. Francis Day.

    St. Francis Day. The Feast of St. Francis is celebrated on October 4 in the Catholic Calendar.  Francis, a 13th century mystic and founder of the Franciscans was especially aware of the care of creation is considered the patron of the environment.  Iona celebrated his day as the culmination of the Season of Creation announced by Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew. October 4 marks the conclusion of the season of creation that began on September 1. The Day of Prayer for the Care of the Creation was instituted by Pope Francis in 2015. The Orthodox Church has commemorated the day since 1989.
    Iona Ceremony. More than 30 students, faculty and administrators gathered at the ginkgo tree in the campus quad at noon to mark the day. Prayers, petitions, song and meditation preceded the blessing of the animals by Fr. Gerard, OFM, who spoke briefly of the love of Francis for our animal brothers and sisters. After the prayers and readings, the group processed behind Sr. Kathleen Deignan, our presider, accompanied by a lone piper, student Sean Dalgauer, as we made our way to a new planting site.
    Plantings. Just behind the East Hall residence hall, we blessed and ceremoniously planted 25 native species to serve as a nourishing pathway for our local pollinators while simultaneously beautifying that section of the campus. We are most grateful to all who assisted in this ceremony and planting – especially the students whose enthusiasm continues to bring needed hope to these efforts. We thank IC Green for co-sponsoring. We thank the Iona Facilities Department and Mr. Michael O’Connell for their invaluable assistance. We intend this gathering and planting to be an annual event and invite all to join us next year on October 4, St. Francis Day!
    Pope and Patriarch. The Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, marked on September 1,  has special importance in this its third year. It is a joint message which was released on September 1 from Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who for the first time are writing together on themes of the day, inviting all the faithful and people of good will to prayer and to reflect on how to live in a simple and solid manner, responsibly using earthly goods.
    From the joint message of Pope and Patriarch:
    …At first, as we read in Genesis, “no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up – for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground” (2:5). The earth was entrusted to us as a sublime gift and legacy, for which all of us share responsibility until, “in the end”, all things in heaven and on earth will be restored in Christ (cf. Eph 1:10). Our human dignity and welfare are deeply connected to our care for the whole of creation. 
    However, “in the meantime," the history of the world presents a very different context. It reveals a morally decaying scenario where our attitude and behaviour towards creation obscures our calling as God’s co-operators. Our propensity to interrupt the world’s delicate and balanced ecosystems, our insatiable desire to manipulate and control the planet’s limited resources, and our greed for limitless profit in markets – all these have alienated us from the original purpose of creation.
  • November 4, 2017: Hope and Healing in the Anthropocene


    Hope and the Healing in the Anthropocene: Inspiration, Conversation, Transformation, will take place Saturday, November 4, 2017, at Iona College.

    Hope and Healing in the Anthropocene: Inspiration, Conversation, Transformation

    Saturday, November 4, 2017
    Thomas J. Burke Lounge, Spellman Hall

    Registration and Refreshment: 8:30 - 9:30 a.m.
    Program concludes at 3:30 p.m.
    • Offering: $15 / lunch and refreshments
    • Iona Students and Community gratis

    Register by October 15 to

    In keeping with our Berry Forum practice, this event will be a vegetarian / Zero-Waste Program

    Calling Healers, Nurses, Guides, Therapists, Workers for Well-Being

    The Anthropocene is upon us, the era we humans have made for ourselves and of our planet. A moment of promise, crisis and creativity, our task now is learning to live in this new age of uncertainty and disruption and undertake The Great Work of making a truly flourishing Earth Home for ourselves and all our relations. Thomas Berry exhorts us toward strategies for awakening and resistance, for healing and resilience. In circles of hope we convene to imagine and practice a way forward, toward a new world of welfare and wellbeing for ourselves and all living kind.

    The Thomas Berry Forum at Iona and the Collaborative for Palliative Care at Fordham University invite you to a day of creative and contemplative inquiry with a host of healers, teachers and practitioners who will invite us into informative and transformative dialogue on the challenges of being well and offering wellness – of body, mind, and spirit – to an ecologically, socially and spiritually suffering planet.

    Berry Forum collaborator, Mary Beth Morrissey, Ph.D., MPH, JD, will keynote our gathering to offer her wisdom from the fields of public health and law. Author, researcher, and program director for the Post-Master's Health Care and Management Certificate Program in Public Health, Palliative and Long-Term Care at Fordham University Gabelli Schools of Business, she is founding president of Collaborative for Palliative Care, Inc., and a Fellow of Global Healthcare Innovation Management Center.

    Animating Voices:
    Brian Brown, JD, Ph.D., Berry Forum
    Kevin Cawley, CFC, Ph.D., Berry Forum
    Kathleen Deignan, CND, Ph.D., Berry Forum
    Daniel Martin, Ph.D., Berry Forum
    Karen Killeen, DAc, RN, MS, Holistic Clinician
    Rabbi Larry Troster, Jewish Environmentalism
    Rev. Peggy Clarke, UU Ecological Ministry
    Diane J. Abatemarco, Ph.D., MSW, Pediatric Health 
    Phil Gerrity, MA, MDiv, Spirituality / Global Health
    Vin Maher, JD, Health Care Management Iona
    Jeanne Anselmo, Green Island Sangha, Holistic Nurse
    Orla Cashman, Ph.D.,Clinical Social Work & Therapist 
    Nanako Saka, Ph.D., Fukushima Focus
    Doug Decandia, MA, Sustainable Agriculture

  • Pope and Patriarch Call For Prayer for Creation


    Br. Kevin Cawley discusses World Day of Prayer, which occurred on September 1.

    Joint Message on the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

    Season of Creation September 1 through October 4, Feast of St. Francis

    Br. Kevin Cawley, Ph.D.
    Executive Director of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College
    Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
    Photo Credit: Catholic News Service photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters

    The Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation is being marked on September 1 and has special importance in this its third year. It is a joint message which was released on September 1 from Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who for the first time are writing together on themes of the day, inviting all the faithful and people of good will to prayer and to reflect on how to live in a simple and solid manner, responsibly using earthly goods.
    The Day of Prayer for the Care of the Creation was instituted by Pope Francis in 2015. The Orthodox Church has commemorated the day since 1989. Below is the English translation of the joint message from Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

    Joint Message

    The story of creation presents us with a panoramic view of the world. Scripture reveals that, “in the beginning," God intended humanity to cooperate in the preservation and protection of the natural environment. At first, as we read in Genesis, “no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up – for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground” (2:5). The earth was entrusted to us as a sublime gift and legacy, for which all of us share responsibility until, “in the end”, all things in heaven and on earth will be restored in Christ (cf. Eph 1:10). Our human dignity and welfare are deeply connected to our care for the whole of creation. 
    However, “in the meantime," the history of the world presents a very different context. It reveals a morally decaying scenario where our attitude and behaviour towards creation obscures our calling as God’s co-operators. Our propensity to interrupt the world’s delicate and balanced ecosystems, our insatiable desire to manipulate and control the planet’s limited resources, and our greed for limitless profit in markets – all these have alienated us from the original purpose of creation. We no longer respect nature as a shared gift; instead, we regard it as a private possession-session. We no longer associate with nature in order to sustain it; instead, we lord over it to support our own constructs. 
    The consequences of this alternative worldview are tragic and lasting. The human environment and the natural environment are deteriorating together, and this deterioration of the planet weighs upon the most vulnerable of its people. The impact of climate change affects, first and foremost, those who live in poverty in every corner of the globe. Our obligation to use the earth’s goods responsibly implies the recognition of and respect for all people and all living creatures. The urgent call and challenge to care for creation are an invitation for all of humanity to work towards sustainable and integral development.
    Therefore, united by the same concern for God’s creation and acknowledging the earth as a shared good, we fervently invite all people of goodwill to dedicate a time of prayer for the environment on 1 September.
    On this occasion, we wish to offer thanks to the loving Creator for the noble gift of creation and to pledge commitment to its care and preservation for the sake of future generations. After all, we know that we labour in vain if the Lord is not by our side (cf. Ps 126-127), if prayer is not at the centre of our reflection and celebration. Indeed, an objective of our prayer is to change the way we perceive the world in order to change the way we relate to the world. The goal of our promise is to be courageous in embracing greater simplicity and solidarity in our lives.
    We urgently appeal to those in positions of social and economic, as well as political and cultural, responsibility to hear the cry of the earth and to attend to the needs of the marginalized, but above all to respond to the plea of millions and support the consensus of the world for the healing of our wounded creation. We are convinced that there can be no sincere and enduring resolution to the challenge of the ecological crisis and climate change unless the response is concerted and collective, unless the responsibility is shared and accountable, unless we give priority to solidarity and service.
    From the Vatican and from the Phanar, 1 September 2017
    Pope Francis & Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

  • Thomas Berry Forum Addresses "Spirituality and Sustainability” Conference


    Sr. Kathleen Deignan and Br. Kevin Cawley joined a "Spirituality and Sustainability" conference.

    By: Br. Kevin Cawley

    The Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College responded to a special invitation from the sponsors of a conference on “Spirituality and Sustainability” that was held in Rome and Assisi during June/July 2017.* Brother Kevin Cawley, CFC, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Thomas Berry Forum at Iona, and Sister Kathleen Deignan, CND, Ph.D., Berry Forum Co-Convener offered presentations on the deepening legacy of Thomas Berry, who was the geologian around whom the Assisi Conferences gathered during eight years of his life.  To mark the second anniversary of the papal encyclical, “Laudato Si:’ On the Care of Our Common Home,” the sixty conferees attended an audience with Pope Francis, who acknowledged and thanked them for their work to protect our endangered Earth.

    On the first day of the conference in Assisi, The Berry Forum anchored the opening panel in the enduring vision of Saints Francis and Clare, followed by other presentations on Berry’s summons to “The Great Work” of our time. The remaining 12 panels over the five-day conference expanded the spirituality and sustainability theme with presentations by 60 participants from Europe, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Asia and North America. The convergence of such visionary people from a range of ecological-spiritual perspectives, centers and movements made for rich dialogue about transformative global change based on spirituality and sustainability. Lively engagement continued during common meals and throughout the various group excursions to important sites in the life of St. Francis and St. Clare.  Deep connections were formed, and The Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College has now cemented partnerships with several important allies to network for transformative global change. 

    The goals of the conference were to network centers and movements seeking transformative global change based on spirituality and sustainability, identify key recommendations for transformative global change based on spirituality and sustainability, and support young ecological leaders seeking transformative global change based on spirituality and sustainability.

    The Conference focused on worldviews (our guiding stories) grounded in ecological spiritualities, on transformative paths for education, policies, movements, lifestyles and communities, on current expressions of ecological spirituality and their indigenous roots, and on the great transition toward ecological civilizations with new paradigms of science, economics and law. There was a particular concern regarding the Doctrine of Discovery. The issue has been gaining attention recently with many indigenous spiritual leaders calling for the Holy See to engage more completely in a deeper discussion of the damage still accruing from these 16th century proclamations of the Church regarding the rights of indigenous persons.

    Participants also explored strategies to deepen and to implement the United Nations new development agenda – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – and ways to protect and to nurture sacred places. Several sessions were dedicated to key recommendations for creating a viable and spiritually vital global future, with particular reliance on the Earth Charter which became the basis of common ground and language for the leaders.

    Finally, the Conference fostered deep dialogue on how we can work together on the way forward toward a just, sustainable and peaceful future that will support human development for all in a flourishing Earth community.

    Energized by this remarkable meeting, The Berry Forum will continue to plan our own convergences on campus in the spirit of Laudato Si and the vision of Thomas Berry, now with additional global partners as an outcome of our participation in this significant conference of exceptional environmental thinkers and leaders.

    Center for Earth Ethics Union Theological Seminary, New York
    Center for Ethics Saint Thomas University, Miami Gardens, Fla.

    Center for Environmental & Sustainability Education At Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, Fla.
    Earth Charter International, San Jose, Costa Rica
    Forum on Religion & Ecology at Yale, New Haven, Connecticut
    Franciscan Action Network, Washington, D.C.
    Geoversiv Foundation, Minneapolis
    Glenmary Home Missioners, Cincinnati
    Institute Of Noetic Sciences, Petaluma, Calif.
    Pax Romana Catholic Movement For Intellectual & Cultural Affairs Usa, Washington, D.C.
    Saint Thomas University, Miami Gardens, Fla.
    Sukyo Mahikari Europe, Luxembourg
    Thomas Berry Forum For Ecological Dialogue At Iona College, New Rochelle N.Y.
    Tommy E. Short Charitable Foundation, San Diego
  • A Reflection Inspired by the 8th Anniversary of the Death of Thomas Berry


    A look back at the importance of the Exodus story and Thomas Berry's vision.

    By: Danny Martin, Ph.D.

    Underpinning Narrative
    Today, when we need it most, we have no underpinning narrative that unites us in a common identity and gives us purpose. Without such a foundation, it is extremely difficult to navigate the strange waters of our times.

    David Brooks, The New York Times columnist wrote recently about how the Exodus story once served this purpose for our ancestors who came to this country, escaping bondage of various kinds, and seeking a new ‘promised land.’ They saw themselves as a ‘chosen people’ like the people of the original Exodus, with the role of building a ‘new Jerusalem’ and creating a ‘new covenant.’ The founders of the United States had a similar sense of destiny, while Martin Luther King invoked the Exodus story in his attempts to expand this new covenant to all the races and peoples of our country. U.S. presidents in the later twentieth century took this further by proclaiming a global Exodus story for all nations, with the U.S. as the leader toward that new world.

    The Exodus story inspired the values of social justice, care for the vulnerable and equality for all that shape the U.S. constitution. Over time these values expanded to include ‘ordinary’ people (besides the privileged class of white men who created the constitution): women, slaves, Native Americans and the many sexual orientations. It is to be hoped that this expansion will, in the future, include refugees, animals, the land and the waters.

    But, Brooks laments, this story has effectively gone. It no longer underpins our culture and the institutions that express it. The Exodus story has been replaced, not by a new story, but by a utilitarian philosophy and a technological mindset that is without a sense of purpose: why we are here: what America is for. This philosophy informs a number of models: one is the Libertarian model that emphasizes production, consumerism and acquisition – anything but citizenship; two is a new globalized version of the same; three is a multicultural model that proclaims inclusion into the same process; and four is an America First that is essentially self-focused and views outsiders as diluting and weakening our capacity to produce and consume. The leaders we elect reflect versions and combinations of these models: valueless, materialistic, corrupt, short-term thinking, autocratic on the one hand and on the other hand idealistic and inadequately skilled in the art of collaboration.

    A New Story
    Clearly we need a new story, a new underpinning narrative around which we can all gather. We need a new sense of meaning and purpose that will inspire and direct our relationships with each other and the world we share. The Exodus story is a wonderful history of a people’s journey, and as such, it is still a good framework for us. Of course the Exodus story – both its Biblical and American forms – was shaped by contexts that are quite different from ours today. The context of our Exodus story is more complex: we are more diverse and there are many more of us; we have more knowledge and technology to use it; we know more and are more aware of the implications of that knowledge: from impact to responsibilities. A new Exodus story will have to reflect all of this.

    Thomas Berry was the person who helped me appreciate the critical nature of a new story when he spoke of a ‘functional cosmology.’ Every culture, he told me, needs a story of origins that defines our place in the unfolding of this larger story in order for us to be able to make sense of the world we live in. An adequate – ‘functional’ – cosmology enables me to get up in the morning, to deal with failure, to keep going in the face of overwhelming challenges, to integrate death, our own and others’. Such a cosmology today would have to include the vast, ever-expanding knowledge of the scientific community with its implications of universal interconnectedness and expansion. A truly functional cosmology would have to integrate the realities of this interconnected world: from sustainability to radical rights that go beyond humans.

    However, Berry also suggested that the scientific story of the universe – scientific cosmology – is not enough. Rather this is simply the framework that requires the contribution of the vast universe of stories to become a truly functional cosmology. For a common story will only emerge out of the sharing of all the many forms of this universe. Clearly this is an ongoing and, indeed, endless process. But that doesn’t excuse us. In fact, it gives us all a new (or rediscovered) purpose as well as the opportunity to participate in a powerful way in the very unfolding of the universe, in what Berry calls ‘the Great Work’ of our time.

    Berry suggests that we humans are the universe come to a self-reflective mode. The universe becomes aware of itself in us. This would suggest that our role – our great work – is to develop this self-awareness on behalf of the universe by engaging the myriad stories. Of course, we’ve been doing this throughout our history: telling our own stories but also the stories of the many forms of life we encounter and relate to. So we know how to do this: we know how to create a functional cosmology. It’s just that we’ve been distracted from our work by the seductive glitter of popular technology that keeps us increasingly busy and increasingly confused about what is real and valuable.

    Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue
    The essential work of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue (TBFED) is to assist the emergence of this new story that will serve as a functional cosmology for us all. TBFED, which was formed shortly after Berry’s death in 2009, does this by bringing together the multiple forms (threads) of this essential story in the various worlds of health, education, commerce, law, religion, play, etc. and helping us weave the new story from these threads.

    The Forum also, and perhaps most importantly, does its work by being as well as fostering a community of contemplative ecologists. For, we need to tap into the underground stream of life that we all share in order to access its deep wisdom and higher power to guide and empower our efforts. We do this through our own wells – our own deep stories that are our entry points into this underground stream. Here we meet each other: all of us – human, certainly, but also animal, plant, earth and stars. Here we access the higher power that informs us, and all things. Here we discover the wisdom we need to survive and thrive in this mysterious world.

    For the fact is, this is how we have survived (and thrived) till now. The Biologist, E.O. Wilson, has said that the reason humans are a successful species is that we have learned to come together: to form community, to collaborate, to love. We access the wisdom and power that we need through interacting with each other in deep dialogue which, as the Greek roots of the word suggest (dia = ‘through’ and logos = ‘meaning) is actually – at its best – participating in the emergence of meaning and truth. This universal dialogue has been the source of the stars and the planets, the plants and the animals, human beings and their mysterious consciousness.

    Thomas Berry, like other major figures at times of change (Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis) tapped into the power and wisdom of this underground stream. Today, we need to do the same in what is clearly a moment of transition for us all.
  • Thomas Berry Forum Joins Citizens Climate March on Washington


    Members of the Thomas Berry Forum join more than 200,000 marchers for the Citizens Climate March on Washington, D.C. on April 29, 2017.

    By: Br. Kevin Cawley

    There are always questions for some about the worth of public demonstrations on behalf of good causes. Assembling large contingents requires, among other concerns, months and months of careful planning and long discussions about logistics, permits, line of march, themes, signage requirements and restrictions, transport logistics, costs to participants in time and money, alternative routes, weather contingencies, constituencies to accommodate, and security issues for sensitive locations. And so the decision to march in Washington, D.C., was taken in June 2016, well before the outcome of the November election for president. The challenge to Earth in these times cannot be more vividly framed for those who are paying close attention. No matter who was elected U.S. President, the message had to be carried to Washington in the first 100 days of the new administration: we, the people, need you to lead wisely and make common cause with global partners to reduce the disruptions of the climate that we know are the result of human activity.

    We now know too much to take a relaxed attitude toward the disruption in the climate cycle and an array of other disturbing signals on the health of Earth and ultimately the health of all living creatures. And so on Saturday, April 29, some 200,000+ citizens of the U.S. gathered on the streets of Washington to make clear their deep concern and growing distress about the failure of leadership at the federal level to come to terms with our predicament and take decisive action. The distress has only deepened with the news that on the day of the march the Environmental Protection Agency was busy purging its website of information about climate change — including critical details on the Clean Power Plan. This groundbreaking plan to reduce climate pollution from our nation's power plants is our most important tool for tackling climate change. And it's a prime target of President Donald Trump and his EPA chief Scott Pruitt's war on climate action. 

    We needed to show up and put people on the streets to help the deciders to realize that people care deeply about their decisions.  We believe that they cannot maintain the usual calm and reasonable sounding tone of “doing what is best” for the country if hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens are making the sacrifice to journey for many hours and protest for many hours and endure many hours returning to their homes in the dark of the next morning. To make a point. To be certain that their concerns are dramatized. To share their dismay.

    The Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue had already marched for Science on April 22 in New York and the Washington March the following week. There was no question but to step up once again and join with colleagues to make our concerns public. On April 29, by 6 a.m. the bus from New Rochelle was full and ready to depart City Hall. Our driver, Mike, started the day with energy and good cheer and we raced down the New Jersey Turnpike before stopping for a break in Pierpont, N.J., for a half hour to stretch.  A full bus and parts of the ride quite bumpy so sleeping was not easy. We arrived at RFK Stadium in D.C. slightly after noon.  A few photos and a walk to the metro where we sorted out our train passes and our roster and joined several hundred fellow marchers from WEACT in New York. A few stops later at Federal Circle we left the metro and began a hot walk to locate our stepping off point with the faith groups organized by GreenFaith. Washington is well organized, but it is planned for large gatherings which means that things are far apart for those used to the closely jammed grid of New York. Long walks ensued at each shift of location. Our group arrived to see a curb to curb assemblage of fellow marchers in the faith contingent. We found our friends, Carl Procario-Foley and his daughter Susann, who had traveled by car ahead of us. Cell phone magic again.

    The marching was slow stepping in hot sun. Signs were abundant and some full of humor. Nearly all were homemade. You could imagine a lot of kitchen tables covered with poster board, markers, tape, scissors, cardboard, more tape and even some artistry alongside the usual hasty scrawls. There were periodic roars and at one point a full sit down for one minute of silence, a “heartbeat” for the planet. Later, there were cries of “shame,” “shame,” “shame” as groups passed the newly refurbished Trump Hotel in the former Post Office building.  A wonderful abundance of community at large come together to call out the leadership that will not or cannot seem to lead wisely on these fundamental questions. Speaking truth to power with magic marker. How are we to live sustainably in this time and leave a livable planet behind for the generations to follow us? What are we being called to?  How do we bring the changes needed?

    The day in D.C. concluded with hot, sleepy, deeply weary but exhilarated marchers heading back to the Metro stop at the Smithsonian. We found ourselves passing a large Federal building on our left whose front steps and plaza were strewn with signs laid to rest in a fashion at the doorstep. The building plaque identified it as the EPA. Marchers had spontaneously been leaving their pleading signs for care of Earth at the doorstep of the beleaguered EPA, like abandoned crutches at Lourdes, hoping for our own miracle here in Washington.

    The pilgrimage ended at near midnight in New Rochelle as Mike discharged the final passengers at the parking lot in New Rochelle City Hall. Several bonds of friendship were sealed with exchanges of cards and promises to email to keep in touch. More allies in the great work.
  • Thomas Berry Forum Marches for Science


    Sr. Kathleen Deignan and Br. Kevin Cawley headed the Iona delegation that walked to advocate for sensible science in support of public policy at the March for Science in New York City on April 22, 2017.

    By: Br. Kevin Cawley

    Science is God's great gift to the human race because it allows us to better wonder at the awe of creation, and to better understand our collective vocation as its protector and steward. As Benedict XVI reminded us again and again, “science is faith's great sister” because it reminds us that faith must always be rational. Faith presupposes doubt because it says there is so much unknown. Science is the means to study and understand that doubt. A rational faith can transform the human race.

    Sr. Kathleen Deignan, professor of Religious Studies at Iona College and convener of the Berry Forum, headed the Iona delegation along with Br. Kevin Cawley, Edmund Rice International (ERI) main representative to the United Nations in New York and executive director of the Berry Forum. They walked with thousands of fellow concerned citizens to advocate for sensible science in support of public policy at the March for Science in New York City on April 22, 2017. Participants convened on Central Park West near 71st St. in a misting rain around 11:30 a.m., and proceeded down Central Park West toward Broadway for 20 blocks before dispersing in Times Square around 2 p.m. The mood was a generous mix of determined souls adamant about the current dismissal of the science of global warming on display at the White House in Washington and various federal agencies. The atmosphere was enthusiastic and playful, no matter the rain and the topic.

    Many of the signs and costumes of the marchers had humorous touches despite the serious matter that provoked the occasion. Many messages at the New York rally took on a political hue. One demonstrator carried a sign with a diagram. “Before you dismiss science, Mr. President,” it said, “here is the molecular formula for hair spray.” Another said, “Fund science, not walls.” Loud booing ensued as the various contingents passed by Trump World Tower at Columbus Circle. A number of Trump impersonators appeared from time to time along the route to draw the ire of the participants. Chants began and died out at several points. Many young children accompanied their parents; some riding on shoulders, some riding in strollers, and some on skateboards of various colors. Pets were also decorated with signs and slogans for the day. Large numbers of police officers deployed for protection of the marches and spectators appeared to have little to do except give directions and move the barricades as the line of march advanced southward down Broadway. A congenial atmosphere prevailed throughout.

    A large march took place in Washington, D.C., at the same time as the New York march. The demonstration in Washington – which started with teach-ins and a rally that packed the National Mall – was echoed by protests in hundreds of cities across the United States and around the world, including marches in Europe and Asia. As the marchers trekked shoulder-to-shoulder toward the Capitol, the street echoed with their calls: “Save the EPA” and “Save the NIH,” as well as their chants celebrating science, “Who run the world? Nerds,” and “If you like beer, thank yeast and scientists!” Some carried signs that showed rising oceans and polar bears in peril, and faces of famous scientists like Mae Jamison, Rosalind Franklin and Marie Curie, and others touted a checklist of the diseases Americans no longer get thanks to vaccines.

    Scientists who have been on the front lines of essential research for many years now see disheartening and dangerous ignorance of many administrators at the highest levels of U.S. federal agencies. This disturbing phenomenon is revealed in their public statements, their apparent lack of basic curiosity, and their subsequently short-sighted policy reversals on public health and safety issues. Organizers said they hoped the day’s demonstrations result in sustained, coordinated action aimed at persuading elected officials to adopt policies consistent with the scientific consensus on climate change, vaccines and other issues. We are reminded that Annie Dillard has written: “My God, what a world. There is no accounting for one second of it.”

    Notes: Br. Kevin Cawley with Washington material by Nicholas St. Fleur (NYT) and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

  • Berry Forum Participates in Historic Women’s March in New York


    A delegation of Iona students, staff and faculty took part in an historic public demonstration for climate, jobs, justice and women’s rights in New York City on January 21, 2017.

    Students marching
    The Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue led a delegation of Iona students, staff and faculty to New York City on January 21, 2017 to take part in an historic public demonstration for climate, jobs, justice and women’s rights as several hundred thousand citizens took to the mid-Manhattan Streets to make their voices heard. Students met at the New Rochelle train station and later rendezvoused with others at Grand Central Station before making their way slowly to Second Avenue for the march starting point. The immense crowds made the journey a slow shuffle. Eventually organizers and police opened up the route to allow the gathering throngs to move more or less freely across the midtown street grid to Fifth Avenue where they joined a long line of marchers stretching south to 42nd Street and extending fully to 57th Street and Trump Tower, the destination point for the outpouring.
    Iona representatives

    The Iona contingent led with a small banner from the Berry Forum as our marker. The expanded march meant several of our group dispersed earlier than planned and eventually a small band of Iona folks made their way to a dinner stop while looking back to see the large crowds still crossing 42nd Street as late as 6:30 p.m. Estimates ran as high as 400,000 marchers (and about 200,000 clever signs) protesting the perceived injustices, false narratives concerning immigrants, policies that threaten those made poor, insults, injuries and threats to the natural environment, to liberty and to fairness being proposed by the new administration in Washington, D.C.
    Crowded Street of New York City
  • Laudato Si: Living It Forward-Voices of Millennials


    Young scholars offer their visions of living forward into the challenges inspired by Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si' and the legacy of Thomas Berry.

      The Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona and Edmund Rice International hosted a wonderful gathering of graduate scholars and Iona students and alums for a full day of dialogue on Saturday, October 29, 2016.  Several presentations by graduate students from area universities about Laudato Si and the work of Thomas Berry framed the day of dialogue. 

      After greetings from Berry Forum Executive Director Dr. Kevin Cawley, CFC, Sr. Kathleen Deignan, co-founder of the Berry Forum at Iona and professor of Religious Studies, introduced the speakers and led the assembly in sung prayer accompanied by guitarist and guest musician Beth Bradley.   These musical interludes moved us through the various sessions of the day and gave the very rich experience a contemplative pace and space as the day unfolded.
      The audience heard careful and deeply considered reflections from our three invited speakers followed by lively dialogue and networking among those in attendance.  Dialogue sessions were led by Berry Forum members Dr. Danny Martin and Dr. Karen Killeen. Contemplative Intervals, animated by Dr. Brian Brown, gave participants pause to receive and respond to the invitations presented by the millennial scholars as they offered their visions of “living forward” the ecological spirituality proposed by both Pope Francis and Thomas Berry.

      The graduate scholars were James Robinson (Fordham University), who spoke on “The Great Work of Ecological Conversion;” Nanette Walsh (Union Theological Seminary), whose topic was "Practical Divinization for Ecologically Troubled Times;” and finally Christopher Fici (Hindu practitioner and Graduate Student at Union Theological Seminary), who addressed the topic "Anticipatory Community and the Common Good: Earth Honoring Faith as a Way Forward.”   There was also a Millennial Scholars Dialogue Session animated by students from Union Theological, Yale, The New School, Iona and Columbia, who discussed the passion that has brought them to religious/environmental studies.

      One of the highlights of the day was the presentation offered by the seven Iona alumni, who were sponsored by the Berry Forum and scholarship recipients from GreenFaith, a multi-faith, international initiative which offers intensive environmental leadership training for millennials from around the planet and from every religious tradition.  Stirring video from the GreenFaith Millennials Convergence in Rome and New Orleans during the past two summers gave a vivid account of the participation of Iona in these training “convergences” in Rome and New Orleans.  During those week-long events our students were filmed while engaging and strategizing with peers of their generation for climate action.  This session was enhanced by video from Africa partners, including a personal greeting from Iona graduate Br. Patrick Nuanah, who is now serving in Gambia.

      We were treated to a skyped presentation from Berry Forum Scholar, Rabbi Larry Troster, the designing director of the GreenFaith Fellowship program, who offered a session on “models of mentoring” millennial environmental leaders.  This closing circle of dialogue allowed the nearly 50 Iona students and other millennial scholars and guests to express their gratitude and hope as the Berry Forum concluded with a musical prayer and ritual encircling of Earth in blessing and hope.

      This gathering comes about as part of the Iona College commitment in the Strategic Plan Goal V Resources: Environmental Sustainability.  President Nyre formally committed Iona to the principles of Laudato Si in October 2015.

    We are especially pleased to note that our very full day featured a “Zero Waste” Luncheon with guidance from Ron Schulhof of Westchester Reform Temple. Ron helped plan the event with Charles Breed of Chartwells to ensure a zero waste program with compostable place settings, cups and a single compostable trash bag for the small amount of leftover food.

    -   Br. Kevin Cawley, Executive Director of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College

  • Berry Forum Participates in Historic March on Behalf of Care of Earth


    Members of the Thomas Berry Forum traveled to Philadelphia on July 24, 2016, to participate in a march for Care of Earth.

    Members of the Thomas Berry Forum traveled to Philadelphia on July 24, 2016, to participate in a march for Care of Earth. The event was co-sponsored by Food and Water Watch of Pennsylvania to protest the fracking practices underway in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. The larger purpose was to remind delegates to the Democratic National Convention meeting in Philadelphia of their obligations to take responsibility for care of Earth in the platforms and campaigns that will come out of discussions at the Convention.
    Organizers estimated in excess of 10,000 participants in the march from City Hall in Philadelphia to the mall at Independence Hall at the center of the city. The temperature hovered in the mid 90s and added a special challenge to the day. Prayers and music opened the event in the courtyard of Philadelphia City Hall. The first speaker at the Prayer Service was Chief Perry of the local indigenous peoples, the Lenni Lenape, whose history near the area reaches back approximately 100 centuries. 
    Sr. Kathleen Deignan, Dr. Brian Brown and Br. Kevin Cawley of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue were the Iona representatives for this historic gathering.