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