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A Series of Contemplative Discussion of Writings of Thomas Berry

The Great Work Chapter Four - The North American Continent

Br. Kevin Cawley served as Moderator with Sr. Kathleen Deignan. Dr. Brian Brown led off the evening with brief remarks that featured several insights from Thomas Berry on the clash of European settlers with the native peoples of the continent. The indigenous relationship can be framed powerfully in the Omaha people blessing of a new child with the cry to all creation, “a new being has come into your midst”. Sadly, the N. American continent remained completely vulnerable to the European stance that placed the human at the center and the sole bearer of all rights. Only the reinvention of the human at the species level will begin the healing of the planet.

Several participants commented on the feelings of sadness as we contemplate the state of creation at this juncture in the history of human life on the planet. A sample of tonight’s offerings: even the animals have pity on us; film- “My Octopus Teacher” cited as moving report of interspecies relationship; diversity of tribal customs needs exploring; get to know specific plants; the good news that a native person is appointed now as US Secretary of Interior; suggestion presented to help learn about local plant species via an app PlantNet (see icon above); expand the circle of kinship; fear of becoming the oppressor is always present; creature burdens to lift if I pay close attention; how might I become indigenous again?

We had thirty-one participants this evening. Next Circle is Thursday, May 20 at 7 p.m. Sr. Kathleen will send a reminder via e-mail.

Br. Kevin Cawley participated in a Hearing for the NY State Public Service Commission recently on the question of fracked gas power plant proposed for Newburgh, NY, on the Hudson River. The Commissioners took public testimony online for nearly nine hours on March 31, 2021. Speakers were allotted 3 minutes each. Many addressed the deep concerns for the quality of life that is threatened by the plant, the environmental justice issues of placing the plant in an area that is home to a majority population of people of color and of limited means, and the special threat of air pollution that will impact children with asthma in the region. The speakers spoke forcefully and poignantly of their feelings of sadness that the plant was taking the region in the wrong direction - now is the time to be moving toward renewable energy, not the time for extending fossil fuel infrastructure. More than 120 speakers - including a number of young people and adolescents - addressed the evening session of the hearing which was extended to 10:30 pm due to the volume of participants. Those who were still waiting to be called when the session ended were encouraged to submit their statements online.

Here are the concerns as assembled by the coalition to prevent the project going forward.

The Danskammer Generating Station, an old power plant in Newburgh, operates only a few days a year. Owner Danskammer Energy has proposed replacing it with a fracked gas plant that will run nearly/almost all the time.

Danskammer Power Plant

Danskammer Power Plant courtesy Jeff Anzevino

If approved, a new Danskammer plant would:

● INCREASE AIR POLLUTION & THREATEN OUR HEALTH. A new Danskammer could add over 25 times more health-damaging particulate matter and volatile organic compounds (VOC) to our region. The pollution could contaminate our agricultural lands, negatively impact tourism, and exacerbate respiratory illnesses, which are already elevated in Newburgh and the surrounding area.
 ● WORSEN THE CLIMATE CRISIS. A new Danskammer would increase the region’s fossil fuel dependency and would emit up to 40 times more greenhouse gases at a time when NY state is supposed to be reducing greenhouse gases by 85% by the year 2050.
 ● HARM PEOPLE OF COLOR AND LOW-INCOME COMMUNITIES. The new Danskammer would add to the pre-existing environmental racism in Newburgh, a city already struggling with PFO/PFA drinking water contamination from Stewart Air National Guard Base.
 ● BE AN UNNECESSARY RISK. A new Danskammer is not needed as a power source even with Indian Point closing, as New York State continues to rapidly increase its renewable energy portfolio with storage and energy efficiency measures.
 ● POTENTIALLY FLOOD. A new Danskammer would be constructed on a known floodplain which was severely flooded less than a decade ago by Hurricane Sandy--and damaged the existing power plant to the extent it was slated to be sold for scrap.
 ● BE A STEP BACKWARD. A new Danskammer plant would need to be phased out no later than 2040 (per the NY’s state energy policy- the Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act), and likely sooner. If built, it will very likely be a stranded asset- the plant owners will declare bankruptcy and the surrounding community will be left holding the bag. 

Here is the text of Kevin’s statement as read:

My name is Kevin Cawley and I live in New Rochelle in Westchester County NY. I am Director of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College and a member of Metro NY Catholic Climate Movement.

The environmental writer Bill Mckibben has noted that every time you build something new that connects to a flame, you’ve chosen not to build that solar panel, not to build a wind turbine. The first principle of fighting the climate crisis was simple: stop lighting coal, oil, gas, and trees on fire, as soon as possible. a corollary to the first rule: definitely don’t build anything new that connects to a flame.

It is encouraging to hear John Kerry declare, early in his run as global climate czar, that he didn’t think we should be building more natural-gas infrastructure. Kerry said, “The problem with gas is, if we build out a huge infrastructure for gas now to continue to use it as the bridge fuel—when we haven’t really exhausted the other possibilities—we’re going to be stuck with stranded assets in ten, twenty, thirty years.”

And Pope Francis has said:
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.

The proposed Danskammer plant will increase air pollution and threaten public health, especially for the poor and minority populations that must live near the plant.

I ask that the Siting Board and New York State Leaders reject Danskammer’s proposal and make it clear that new fracked gas power plants are incompatible with the NY Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.


Thomas Berry Contemplative Ecologists Circle in Dialogue to Deepen Our Commitment to Save and Heal Our Living Earth

"Now, after these centuries of experiencing the planet as being a collection of objects for scientific analysis and commercial use, we must ask: where can we find the resources for a reevaluation of our activities? How can we obtain the psychic energies needed to disengage from our plundering industrial economy?"

We welcomed 30 participants on Thursday evening March 18 for reflective exchange on Chapter Three of The Great Work: “The Earth Story”. Following the centering exercise led by Br. Kevin Cawley, Dr. Brian Brown offered the opening reflection with reference to links of human intimacy with the broad cosmic reality. Brian referenced several cultures that placed the human at the heart of the cosmos; celebrated the rhythms of the seasons and recognized the whole community of life as kin. He moved us to see that these earlier traditions arose in a context quite different from where we now find ourselves. Today we need transformative stories as we engage the emergent universe in the reality of not merely cosmos but “cosmogenesis”- ever coming into being.

Speakers followed with generous comments that touched on ritual as integral, the need to link to “energy sources”, our need for music and poetry in these efforts, the pain of Church recent pushing back against same-sex unions, the need to honor those who came before us as well as honoring those who will follow, the recurring need for art, literature and music to foster our “entrancement” , links to Teilhard’s omega point, human as cosmic event leading toward the Noosphere, spirituality as anticipation, our need to become integral beings and co-creators and always the challenge to remain grateful.

Next Contemplative Circle is Thursday, April 15 at 7 p.m. Sr. Kathleen Deignan will be alerting us with another beautiful and inspiring e-blast as the day approaches.

On Thursday, March 11, 2021, Iona joined with GreenFaith fellows and partners around the globe to call attention to the plight of planet Earth and call all people of good will to commit to reversing the current devastation of the Earth.

At more than 400 grassroots religious actions in 43 countries, thousands of people of faith called on political and financial leaders to meet a series of ambitious climate demands at COP26, with support of over 200 high-level faith leaders. Alarmed by the massive gap between what is required to limit global rise and actual climate change commitments by governments and financial institutions, grassroots religious activists released a set of powerful demands for world leaders to address the injustice and impacts that the climate crisis is inflicting on communities worldwide.

Iona College joins this effort with a special commitment arising out of the Iona mission to foster all graduates as ecological citizens. A foundational document for this curriculum is the encyclical of Pope Francis released in 2015 and now celebrating its 5th anniversary year: Laudato si’: On Care for Our Common Home.

Today we once again join Iona in public commitment to these teachings by way of the leadership of Dr. Seamus Carey, President of Iona College, who addressed our gathering by way of prepared video remarks.

A Global Ecological Renaissance - Three Movements Toward a New World
Engagements with Dr. Joe Holland
Thomas Berry Forum Scholar in Residence

"Returning to Nature": An Historical Framework for Activating the Ecological Renaissance

On February 24, 2021, Professor Silmilly Toribio hosted “Embodying Eco-Justice at Freedom Farm: A Conversation with Edgar Hayes” in her Columba Cornerstone course at Iona. The event was facilitated by the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue. Sr. Kathleen Deignan, Ph.D. and Br. Kevin Cawley, Ph.D. provided an introduction to the Berry Forum's work and welcomed Jim Robinson, Ph.D., of the Berry Forum and Edgar Hayes, co-founder of Freedom Farm. Jim offered an overview of eco-justice and its relevance to the present moment before inviting Edgar to offer a presentation on Freedom Farm as a community that actively incarnates eco-justice. Jim entered into dialogue with Edgar on these themes, and a number of students and attendees joined into the conversation, sharing their questions and insights. Throughout the event, Edgar fleshed out the history of Freedom Farm and its eco-justice efforts, highlighting the community’s daily rhythms of prayer and work, their commitment to fostering a dynamic farm-to-city relationship, and their efforts to build community by growing, teaching about, and sharing sustainably grown food.

"Earth is a magic planet in the exquisite presence of its diverse members to one another so this movement into the future must in some manner be brought about in ways that are ineffable to the human mind." TB

On Thursday, February 18, 2021, twenty-five participants gathered for reflection and sharing on the Berry essay, “The Meadow Across the Creek” which appeared in The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future, first published in 1999. “A clear headed, clear hearted reflection,” wrote Bill McKibben at the time.

The Zoom format has become our routine engagement in the past 12 months and we were guided first by Danny Martin who brought us to the quiet interior of our consciousness with the image of each of us in a “meadow” moment. Then we were given a brief reflection by Brian Brown, who opened the assignment Lectio for us in his own quietly passionate gloss on the text to help us frame our discussion. Brian reminded us of Berry’s awareness of the deep human longing for connection and the need for intimate human rapport to be re-established in our present time. This offering was followed by individual reflection across the next portion of the hour. Several first-time participants were welcomed as their offerings were shared. We learned of the connections between “care” and “grief” and several speakers shared experience of the natural world resembling the “meadow” event described by Thomas. Danny brought us home to Mary Oliver calling us “to love what is mortal… and then to let it go…” Kathleen closed with a prayer and words of encouragement - “as we manifest the ground of hope and the intimacy we must revive to dream the new human into being.”

Thank you to all participants. The next circle is scheduled for March 18 at 7 p.m.

The Berry Forum Conveners invites you to join us at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month for the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue Contemplative Ecologists Circle.


  • 1/21/21
  • 2/18/21
  • 3/18/21
  • 4/15/21
  • 5/20/21
  • 6/17/21
  • 7/15/21
  • 8/19/21
  • 9/16/21

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Br. Kevin Cawley, Director of Berry Forum served as Moderator for a program on how to respond to the need for action in Congress to counter the increasing peril of climate change.

The program included Climate Crisis Policy (CCP) group, the creator of The Earth Bill Network and the Adopt-A-District Program. The Earth Bill Network is a growing group of people and organizations focused on the urgency for new legislation in the US to address the threat of climate change. Members of the Metro NY Catholic Climate Movement have been participating in these discussions for some time. Several are members of the Faith Team cohort of the CCP. We have been especially impressed by the vision and commitment of the main organizer of Climate Crisis Policy, Mr. Todd Fernandez, who agreed to join us on our panel.

We believe we are at an inflection point in the global efforts to reverse the impact of climate change. The Paris Agreement of 2015 set a goal of keeping global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030 to avoid the worst outcomes of a warming atmosphere. Sadly, the collective commitments of nations who endorsed the Paris Agreement have fallen short. Recent efforts to ramp up ambition prior to the 5 yr. follow-up to the Paris Agreement -when nations gather for COP26 in Glasgow this fall- have also disappointed.

Turning to the US, we believe we have a 2-year window to make a legislative impact in our Congress. The urgency of the Paris Agreement shortfall looms large. US leadership is crucial. President Biden returned the US to the Paris Agreement officially on Feb 19 of this year. The cry of Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home remains clear. The original alarm voiced in Paris by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned we had only a window of a few years to reverse dangerous warming. Today’s speakers drew our attention to the challenge to make a lasting impact. We are answering the question heard quite often when the enormity of climate change comes to the fore: “What can one person do?” We answer: Stop being one person. Our collective voice as Catholics will be essential.

Today we offered a path that anyone in the audience can step onto and walk with purpose. I refer to the challenge from Climate Crisis Policy to “ADOPT A DISTRICT.” Panel members shared perspectives and offered links to contact AAD. We everyone will consider taking up the urgency of this challenge. The discussion supplied specific reference to how we all might engage our congressional representatives in sponsoring legislation impacting the root causes of climate change. We touched on these areas:

  • Catholic Leadership on Climate and Advocacy as a Catholic Call
  • Priorities of the Administration, the Legislative Budget Process, & Key “Opportunity Areas”
  • Introduction to Climate Crisis Policy and the Earth Bill Network
  • An Overview of the CCP Priority Bills
  • Grassroots Engagement: What does it mean to “Adopt-A-District” – your district?

The session concluded with encouragement- We recall the language of Pope Francis in Laudato Si:

A strategy for real change calls for rethinking processes in their entirety, for it is not enough to include a few superficial ecological considerations while failing to question the logic which underlies present-day culture. A healthy politics needs to be able to take up this challenge.

Brenna Davis- Ignatian Solidarity Network
Jim Walsh- Food and Water Watch
Todd Fernandez- Climate Crisis Policy Group
Bob Simon - Maryland Catholics for Our Common Home
Organizers: Nancy Lorence and Terry Michaud of Metro NY CCM

Br. Kevin Cawley, Director of the Thomas Berry Forum, provided the keynote address for the recent international webinar of Edmund Rice Schools, UK, under the direction of Ann Nichols, Network Facilitator for the Edmund Rice English Schools’ Office. The webinar highlighted the student efforts to end wasteful practices so as to show better care for our common home. The inspiration for the project was the encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato si’: On Care for Our Common Home. There are currently 12 schools in the Edmund Rice family in England. The schools are connected with the world-wide family of Edmund Rice communities and schools throughout Africa, and in Australia, New Zealand, Oceania, India, and South and North America. The headquarters for the Edmund Rice Schools’ Office is located in Woodeaves, Hale Barns, Altrincham, Cheshire, United Kingdom.

The Webinar on February 26 linked Staff and Pupils from St. Joseph’s School, Stoke on Trent, CBC St. John’s School, Cape Town, South Africa, St. Aidan’s Catholic Academy, Sunderland, U.K. and St. Vincent’s High School and Technical School in Asansol, India. Jacquie Ayre of the British Council also spoke to the students and the session concluded with remarks by Br. Brian Bond, Director of Edmund Rice International, Geneva.

Watch Now: Br. Kevin Cawley presents at Edmund Rice Schools, UK

Thursday, November 19, 2020
7-8 p.m. (Online)

Topic: Reinvention of the Human at the Species Level

Reading Selection taken from Thomas Berry (1914-2009): The Christian Future and the Fate of the Earth.

This “Contemplative Circle” is an ongoing series of monthly reflective conversations sponsored by the Thomas Berry Forum on Ecological Dialogue at Iona College. The meetings are online and take place on the third Thursday of the month. A brief report on the conversation in this Contemplative Circle of November 19 is offered here.

Thomas Berry Headshot

Photo: Thomas Berry by Lou Niznick.

“Our sense of who we are and what our role is must begin where the universe begins.” Thomas Berry spent much energy on the concept of the reinvention of the human with emphasis on reinventing the human “within the community of life systems.” Brian Brown’s preliminary reflection on Thursday evening emphasized the need for human creativity to coalesce within and for the body of Earth. Humanity must shape itself to align with all our neighbor species on the planet as we come to the close of the 67-million-year period of the Cenozoic era. We need to awaken our sensitivity within the community of life.

The evening discussion and reflection was led by Sr. Kathleen Deignan who first commented on the wonderful enthusiasm of Thomas in the video clip that accompanied the readings sent to all participants ahead of tonight’s call. Participants shared insights and impressions and reflected on the comments of others for the remainder of the hour which passed quickly as always. We say a special thank you to Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grimm who were with us on the call.

Here are selected comments from a rich array of the offerings this evening: the illusion of separateness, bridging the interior and exterior, the difficulty of loosening attachment to our prior world views, how the Earth speaks to us, the problem of the moment in the suffering of people of color, the role of current structures in human suffering; the need to hear the pain of other voices, the awakening to “white privilege”, our shifting identities from private self, social self and political self, how the door has now opened for a fresh look at these issues; the truth that our own future is inseparable from the world; realization that COVID has led to the greatest suffering among the most vulnerable of the poor; sense now of a new psychic power laying the foundations for the new ecozoic era; the human capacity for expanding our compassion and the ways that God is the horizon calling us forward.

Several participants took a moment to thank Brian and Kathleen in particular for their thoughtful fostering of these conversations. There were 27 participants. The call adjourned at 8:15 pm.

November 10, 2020

Thomas Berry Forum recently assisted Chestnut Hill College and the American Teilhard Association for their online presentation by Professor Donald Viney: “Evolution’s God - Teilhard de Chardin and the Varieties of Process Theology.” Br. Kevin Cawley, Executive Director of Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue, served as a Facilitator for Discussion following the presentation by Professor Viney at Chestnut Hill College on November 10, 2020. The two-hour presentation and discussion took place with nearly 150 participants at the online gathering.

Donald Wayne Viney

Donald Wayne Viney, Ph.D. (Photo:

Donald Wayne Viney, Ph.D., is Professor of Philosophy at Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas. His presentation is summarized briefly: In 1953, Teilhard asked, "Who at last will give evolution its God?" His own endeavor to answer that question often bears striking similarities to the process theism of his contemporaries, Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne. Yet, the differences can also be striking. All three are rightly classified as promoting versions of process theology, but they show by their divergences that process thought, especially process theism, is far from yielding a monolithic viewpoint on the theistic question.

There are clear echoes of Teilhard in the thinking of Thomas Berry and in particular we might note this reference in Professor Viney’s discussion: “…Teilhard proposes the audacious ideas that purpose is being worked out on a cosmic scale and that life on earth, and specifically human life, is an integral part of the plan. He envisioned an organic and vectored relation from past to future. Teilhard invites us to give ourselves to a universe that resonates to what is highest in ourselves, which he identified with what is most personal within each of us.” As noted by Mary Evelyn Tucker, “In this context of our growing understanding, Berry proposes we live not simply in a cosmos but in cosmogenesis, namely, an evolving universe. This changes everything. Humans are participants in this great journey of the universe because we are born out of this great unfolding. What Berry underscores, drawing on Teilhard de Chardin, is that from the beginning the universe has both a spiritual and physical expression.”

November 9, 2020

On Monday, November 9, 2020, the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College celebrated the birthday of Thomas Berry with the awarding of the inaugural Great Work Award at Iona College (online).

The First winner of this Award is Dr. Joseph Holland, eco-social philosopher and Catholic theologian at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Florida. Dr. Holland's work develops the legacy of Thomas Berry, focusing on the postmodern philosophical-scientific "New Cosmology" and its implications for eco-social ethics in the emerging Global Civilization and Catholic World Church.

Dr. Joe Holland

Dr. Joseph Holland

Joe Holland befriended Thomas Berry many decades ago and both served several summer teaching engagements in Assisi as part of an ongoing moving seminar on the writings of Thomas Berry and how they might inform contemporary understanding of our place in the universe. Numerous students joined them in these encounters with the city of St. Francis serving as the essential setting for discussion of themes centered on care of Earth.

Professor Holland is the author of 17 books and numerous articles. His focus is philosophically and theologically in research and writing on the contemporary transition from Modern Western Industrial-Colonial Civilization to Postmodern Global Electronic-Ecological Civilization. Joe also writes about the wisdom tradition of Catholic Social Teaching in relation to this deep transition.

Professor Holland serves as Emeritus Professor of Philosophy & Religion and Adjunct Professor in the School of Law at Saint Thomas University; as President of Pax Romana / Catholic Movement for Intellectual & Cultural Affairs USA, headquartered in Washington DC; as Vice-Chair of Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice, headquartered in Boston MA; and as Corporate Secretary for the Spirituality & Sustainability Global Network (SSGN), based in Northern Virginia.

Joe will take up the role of Thomas Berry Scholar-in- Residence at Iona for the spring 2021 semester as eco-social philosopher and Catholic theologian. These programs will explore the scope of Dr. Joe Holland's contributions to an authentically postmodern global ecological renaissance, at once artistic, intellectual, and spiritual, and developed in loving dialogue with world religions and people of good will. We further hope to explore the impact of contemporary theological thinking on the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.

October 30-31, 2020

Thomas Berry sitting on a bench beside a tree.

Photo: Thomas Berry Foundation

Georgetown University
Washington, D.C., U.S.A.

This special conference explored the life and legacy of ecologist and theologian Thomas Berry, with presentations on his intellectual journey, “The New Story,” the “Journey of the Universe,” Laudato Si and the “Dream of the Earth,” and the challenge of “The Great Work.”

Sr. Kathleen Deignan, and Dr. Brian Brown, both Conveners of the Thomas Berry Forum at Iona, contributed Papers in presentation at this Georgetown University conference in October 2019.

Fr. Berry founded the Riverdale Center for Religious Research to facilitate reflection on modes of spiritual transformation through experiencing the great mysteries of reality. Particularly concerned about the growing ecological crisis, he wrote The Universe Story with Brian Swimme, later expanded into the Journey of the Universe project. At the age of 80, he returned to North Carolina, continuing to lecture and write as a cultural historian and later a “geologian” until his death in 2009. Berry pioneered in-depth, study of religions in U.S. Catholic higher education, establishing a history of religions program in the Fordham University Graduate Department of Theology in 1966. He encouraged generations of scholars of Asian traditions, comparative studies, interreligious dialogue, and religious reflection on ecological challenges. While president of the American Teilhard Association, he expanded his vision, writing, and lecturing in the emerging field of religions and ecology, especially writing on the cosmology of religions. This conference celebrated Thomas Berry’s intellectual journey and "The Great Work,” underscoring his contributions to the study of religions and cultures, Teilhardian studies, religions and ecology, and the Earth community’s way into the future.

October 26, 2020 - Week of the Peacemaker at Iona College

The Thomas Berry Forum and the Committee on Environmental Sustainability sponsored a presentation by South Bronx Unite, a local eco-justice organization linked to Iona by the work of Dr. Meryl Nadel of the Social Work Department.

Mychal Johnson

Photo: Mychal Johnson, courtesy of Board of Directors of South Bronx Unite

Mychal Johnson of South Bronx Unite addressed the online gathering concerning his work on behalf of the poor and minority youth of the neighborhood. Michal has been a long-time campaigner for eco-justice in the South Bronx. His group ultimately lost their battle against the placement of large depot for Fresh Direct in the residential area of Mott Haven. They were pushing back against the inevitable increase in particulate matter as more and more large trucks moved through the neighborhood to service the depot. Mott Haven reports a large proportion of asthma afflicting young people. Particulate matter from truck exhaust has been identified as main driver of the disease cluster in these neighborhoods. The EPA under the Trump administration has refused to adjust their standards to account for the massive increases in asthma cases near large urban transportation centers. Mott Haven in the South Bronx is a classic example where black and Hispanic residents experience a particularly insidious “environmental inequality.” They need asthma hospitalizations at five times the national average and at rates 21 times higher than other NYC neighborhoods.

The question of eco-justice rises immediately as a concern in these locations. A clear message from Laudato Si has been a focus on the poor in a degraded environment. “We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.” (LS 9) Clearly Mott Haven qualifies as a prime example of current challenges to clean air.

October 9, 2020

Br. Kevin Cawley, Executive Director of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue, offered the opening address for the DePaul University symposium. Kevin had responded to the invitation of Fr. Guillermo Campuzano, Vice President for Mission and Ministry. DePaul, founded in Chicago in 1898 by the Congregation of the Mission, is now the largest Catholic University in the nation with over 22,000 students.

Kevin prepared remarks accompanied by selected images of our (nearby) universe courtesy of NASA, and our home planet Earth and the created world to illustrate several aspects of the thinking of Thomas Berry. The address attempted to unpack the insights offered by Berry regarding the place of the human as the universe come to consciousness of itself. The implications for this insight continue to unfold, especially in light of our newest appreciation for the impacts of human caused climate change on the planet. Berry calls us to act on this knowledge by shifting to a more benign human-earth relationship that will foster the well-being of the planet to allow the human and other -than- human to flourish anew. The full text is appended below.

Missed this event? Watch Video Now

De Paul University
October 9, 2020
Differentiation, Subjectivity, Communion, - Catholic, Vincentian, Urban: “Thomas Berry and Sustainability Consciousness”
Br. Kevin Cawley, Ph.D.

  1. INTRODUCTION: Greetings to all. I thank the organizers of this wonderful celebration of the Vincentian charism for inviting me to share with you my thoughts on this topic. I am Br. Kevin Cawley an Edmund Rice Christian Brother from Iona College in New Rochelle NY where, beginning in 2012, I am Executive Director of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue. I have represented the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers at the United Nations headquarters in NY since 2006 as the Main Representative for Edmund Rice International.
  2. The term “Sustainability Consciousness“ has a broad reach certainly, and there are numerous paths forward in opening the idea for discussion. In this context, thank you for inviting me to present some remarks on the thinking of Thomas Berry, a Passionist priest and self-described “geologian” who passed away in 2009.  
  3. SLIDES- For our discussion here I am also sharing images to add some visual richness to the conversation. The images attempt to bring us closer to an appreciation in particular of the primordial expression of the universe- its overwhelming variety of manifestations in space and time and consciousness.  
  4. Thomas Berry offered numerous insights on our world and how the universe unfolded. In in these few moments I will attend most directly to his thinking as to how the universe presents itself using three basic principles; differentiation, subjectivity, and communion
  5. These governing principles have controlled the evolutionary process of the entire universe from the moment of its explosive origin some fourteen billion years ago to the shaping of the planet Earth the emergence of life and consciousness, and so through the various ages of human history.
  6. Differentiation is the primordial expression of the universe. In the fiery violence of some billions of degrees of heat, the original energy dispersed as radiation and as differentiated particles...that were further shaped into galactic systems, our own solar system and planets. Life on our home planet Earth finds expression in an overwhelming variety of manifestations beginning with that fiery first instant. “As the early universe rapidly stretched, its scorching heat spread over an ever-widening expanse, diminishing in intensity and cooling steadily.
  7. Everything arose from that single point. The differentiation continues to move in myriad particular our home planet now teeming with uncountable species of living expressions of the expanding universe...And now- viruses, much in the news, - an amount of biomass that is equivalent of about 25 billion human beings.
  8. “Life is recognizable from the collective behavior, the large-scale organization, the overarching coordination of an enormous number of particulate constituents—even a single cell contains more than a trillion atoms.
  9. Earth, as far as we know, is the most highly differentiated structure in the universe, beginning with the first hydrogen atom to the first bacteria , life in the ocean, to our early ancestors who stood up in the plains, life has been expanding in ever greater complexity and mystery. When fully awake to these immensities, we stand mute in awe. How does an acorn know to become an oak tree?
  10. A second primary manifestation is that of increased subjectivity. We see that each individual is not only different from every other but has its own inner articulation. the sacred depth of the individual entity is one’s subjectivity. In the human, Increasing self-expression or self-organizing led to increased complexity out of which unfolds the development of the human brain and self-conscious awareness in the human.
  11. We experience the world as emergent diversification and differentiation; each particle has its own interiority. Every particle has its own identifying inner structure, its inner being. In a sense , everything participates “in person,” as it were, everything has its voice. (Berry and Clarke p, 15) 
  12. From the shaping of the hydrogen atom to the formation of the human brain, interior psychic unity has consistently increased along with a greater complexification of being. This capacity for subjectivity involves increased unity of function through ever more complex organic structures. Increase in subjectivity is associated with increased complexity of a central nervous system... In this manner planet earth becomes ever more subject to the free interplay of self-determining forces. With subjectivity is manifest the numinous quality that has traditionally been associated with every {differentiated} reality of the universe. And yet, nothing is completely itself without everything else. We need one another. We belong in communion...
  13. Which brings us to a third principle of the universe ---the communion of every reality of the universe with each other. Here our scientific evidence confirms, with a magnificent overview, the ancient awareness that we live in a universe, a single, if multiform, energy event
  14. The unity of the entire complex of galactic systems is among the most basic experience of contemporary science. Although this comprehensive unity of the universe was perceived by indigenous peoples , nowhere was the full quantum entanglement and genetic relatedness of the universe presented with such clarity as by the scientists of the twentieth century.
  15. We now can see that distant galaxies are all on the move. They’re all rushing away. And the pattern of their exodus—the farther the galaxy, the higher the speed—agreed with the mathematical output of general relativity’s equations. With mathematical data now supporting physics, even Einstein eventually embraced wholeheartedly the conception of a universe that had a beginning.
  16. “Communion”- sometimes expressed as the entire universe bonded so that the presence of each subject is felt through the entire spatial and temporal range of the universe.  Everything speaks itself and everything is receiving something from every other particle of the universe. Hence, we grasp the communion of subjects. The universe itself is the primary sacred community.
  17. It takes a universe to bring humans into being, a universe to educate humans, a universe to fulfill the human mode of being. is clear now that too much focus has gone into human - human interactions or human-divine interactions. Not enough focus has gone into human-earth relations. That is our challenge now...
  18. In the emerging Ecozoic era, we experience the universe as a communion of subjects, not as a collection of objects. Earth exists and survives only in its integral functioning. We cannot save the earth in fragments- the earth is a single reality.
  19. We have words of caution on the fragility of Earth’s creatures from Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home: “It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential “resources” to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves.” Their value lies in their creation by God and we do not have the right to cause their extinction and take away their ability to live their purpose and give glory to God, simply by their existence. “Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.” (LS33)
  20. Francis is calling to us to see more clearly our responsibility to the larger frame. We are beginning to recognize that the human is a subsystem of the Earth systems and that our first obligation is to the entire system. 
  21. For Thomas Berry, Differentiation, Inner Articulation and Communion are realities emerging from the scientific understanding of the universe. The human must embrace the truth that our own physical and spiritual shaping began with the forming of the universe.
  22. Differentiation, Subjectivity and Communion are primary principles governing ethical formation and spiritual shaping of human consciousness. All are derived from the cosmological process...Evolution has both a physical and psychic process; matter has its physicality “without” and its psychic “within.” This is what Berry called subjectivity—in his formula , “the universe is “a communion of subjects.” Justification for such a view of inwardness in matter lies in inductive observation, -namely- if interiority exists at one point (as in human consciousness) it must exist throughout the evolutionary process.
  23. This dynamic becomes evident in the increase in complexity and consciousness over the arc of evolutionary time. In this sense, human consciousness is not situated as an aberration or addendum, but as arising from out of the evolutionary process. Cosmology yields now to cosmogenesis. Everything is evolving. The present does not remain; our understanding of what it means to be human continues to evolve. It is an error to assume the current manifestation of the human is the final product of the evolving universe. Study, if you will, our gradual adjustments to the question of gender identity in recent years. What will we understand differently a hundred years from now? We are, it is true, OF the universe and we can claim that we ARE the universe in some sense “the universe conscious of itself” at last. How shall we proceed with this insight? What does it mean to be the universe conscious of itself? What responsibilities accompany this discovery?
  24. These 3 values of differentiation, subjectivity and communion must be respected because they are the values prescribed by the universe. Sadly, our present course can be seen as violating these principles in their most basic expression.
  25. We need to turn our focus, in Berry’s formulation-toward THE GREAT WORK. For Berry, the dynamics of our living universe call for active attention and awareness as well as profound and deep commitment to the GREAT WORK to highlight our participatory action in ongoing evolution.
  26. Berry heard the call in this way: “The Great Work before us, the task of moving modern industrial civilization from its present devastating influence on Earth to a more benign mode of human presence, is not a role that we have chosen. We did not choose.  We were chosen by some power beyond ourselves for this historical task. We do not choose the moment of our birth, who our parents will be m or our particular culture. We do not choose the status of spiritual insight or political or economic conditions that will be the context of our lives. We are, as it were, thrown into existence with a challenge and a role that is beyond any personal choice. The nobility of our lives, however, depends upon the manner in which we come to understand and fulfill our assigned role.”
  27. Berry affirmed and expanded this insight saying, “The spirituality of Earth refers to a quality of Earth itself, not a human spirituality with special reference to the planet Earth...The Human and Earth are totally implicated, each in the other. If there is no spirituality in Earth, then there is no spirituality in us.”
  28. The interconnections of the human in this process changed profoundly the role of the human for Thomas. The human could no longer be seen as something “created” apart from the whole of evolution. As Thomas would say: “The human is that being in whom the universe reflects back upon itself in conscious self-awareness.” WE ARE THE UNIVERSE COME TO CONSCIOUSNESS OF ITSELF.
  29. This deepening of interiority in the mind and heart of the human gives cause for participation in the all-embracing processes of universe emergence. For Thomas Berry the implications for such an encompassing planetary consciousness and a commitment to ecological awareness were clear. They constitute an ontological and ethical imperative for human understanding and action. We must all commit to the Great Work. These insights have been given wide expression most recently in the encyclical of Pope Francis referenced earlier.
  30. Gus Speth, a founder of NRDC, former Director of UNEP, Dean of Yale School of Forestry offers this perspective: “I used to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystems collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address those problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. “
  31. We mentioned viruses earlier in these remarks as they are very much on our minds in these astonishing days. In the entreaty below from Pope Francis, we can hear echoes of Thomas Berry calling for a more benign mode of human presence: "The current pandemic has highlighted our interdependence: we are all connected to each other, for better or for worse. Therefore, to emerge from this crisis better than before, we have to do so together; together, not alone...We must do it together, all of us, in solidarity." -Pope Francis General Audience September 2, 2020. 
  32. (Final note not in text added on Voyager I photo of Earth taken in 1990 at 6 billion kilometers away: “Pale Blue Dot”. That dot is home and, as far as we know, the only place humans can be found in the universe.)


  • John Grim in Teilhard Studies: Shared Perspectives of Chardin and Berry (2017)
  • Befriending the Earth: A Theology of Reconciliation Between Humans and Earth by Thomas Berry with Thomas Clarke, S.J. (1992)
  • Thomas Berry: Selected Writings on the Earth Community - Selected with an Introduction by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim (2014)
  • The Great Work: Our Way into The Future by Thomas Berry (1999)
  • The Christian Future and the Fate of the Earth by Thomas Berry edited by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim (2009)
  • Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe by Brian Greene (2020)

October 7, 2020

Thomas Berry Forum and Kathleen Deignan Institute for Earth and Spirit joined in presenting a program on Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home in White Plains, N.Y., to conclude the universal Church's 2020 Season of Creation. The Holy Father has invited all the faithful to participate in this annual season of increased prayer and effort on behalf of our common home." As the Holy Father said, "this is the season for letting our prayer be inspired anew," a season "to reflect on our lifestyles," and a season "for undertaking prophetic actions...calling for courageous decisions...directing the planet towards life, not death." Pope Francis's message, which calls us to attend to the "immense hardship for the most vulnerable among us," is particularly relevant in the light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Berry Forum Laudato Si event took place in the historic Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (at left) with a socially distanced congregation on site and a larger audience online. Our lady of Mount Carmel is linked with the Church of St. John the Evangelist nearby. Presenters Sr; Kathleen Deignan and Br. Kevin Cawley had been invited to the parish by Sr. Maco Cassetta, CND, and the Parish Care of Creation Team. They had organized a series of events under the Franciscan rubric of SEE, JUDGE, ACT. The parish Administrator, Fr. Willem Klaver, M.H.M. welcomed all graciously.

Sr. Kathleen and Br. Kevin delivered an introduction to Laudato Si using a series of visual images and text from the document to highlight the structure and significant arguments. Kevin added a series of data points to illustrate several political and scientific realities noted by Pope Francis. Special attention was devoted to explaining the outcomes of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement of the United Nations. The October 3rd presentation reminded all that the Paris Agreement still needs all nations to ramp up their ambition to make the needed changes in the consumption of fossil fuels. We trust that this offering proved to be an inspiring reflection on Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Laudato Sí that will move all to ACT for “care for our common home.”

We conclude this summary with a note of encouragement from Laudato Si: "The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face. The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things. Saint Bonaventure teaches us that “contemplation deepens the more we feel the working of God’s grace within our hearts, and the better we learn to encounter God in creatures outside ourselves." (Pope Francis, LS #223)

Watch the recording oF this event on YouTube.

Thomas Berry in a green sweater in a field with a mountain in the background.

Thomas Berry - Photo:


Beginning with the New Year observance in 2018, and later expanding at the ecumenical celebration of the Season of Creation, the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College has been hosting a monthly “Contemplative Circle” for dialogue and exploration of the writings of Thomas Berry. Originally located at the Iona College Edmund Rice Chapel, the Circle has now migrated online as the world reshapes in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recent reflections included a selection from Berry’s “The World of Wonder” in The Sacred Universe pp. 174-76: “We need to begin to see the whole of this land...The communion that comes through these experiences of the wild, where we sense something present and daunting, stunning in its beauty, is beyond comprehension in its reality, but it points to the holy, the sacred.”

Chief Seattle in headdress.

Chief Seattle -

To mark the events around “Indigenous Peoples Day” (Columbus Day) the Circle reflected on Berry’s insights regarding the colonial powers encounter with native North Americans beginning in the 15th century. Our Lectio included reference to the well - known Chief Seattle, a 19th century indigenous North American leader and wisdom figure. Thomas Berry begins his reflection thus: “At the time of his treaty with the European settlers in 1854, Chief Seattle of the Squamish tribe along the North Pacific coast is reported to have said that when the last animals will have perished, “humans would die of loneliness.” This was an insight that might never have occurred to a European settler. Yet this need for more-than-human companionship has a significance and an urgency that we have begun to appreciate in more recent times.”

At the third Thursday of each month an online invitation is extended and a Lectio is suggested for reflection as preparation for the event. At 7 p.m. Eastern time on the Thursday evening, a moderator from the Berry Forum welcomes participants to the online meeting and a brief prayer and recollection is offered to gather the group. The Group Process follows as below.

Purpose, Focus, Method

Our purpose in these gatherings is to develop a simple way to deepen our experience and understanding of the ecological perspective of Thomas Berry. Our process is contemplation rather than discussion, and reflective exploration rather than intellectual analysis. The method below is a supportive structure that will be absorbed and integrated as we practice.


You will receive a notification with a Berry reading/theme and a reflection to use as preparation, and you will be reminded of our intention and approach. You will also be invited to prepare a ‘contemplative space’ in your home – a candle, flower, etc. – and in your heart.

The Gathering

  • 6:55 - We will enter our collective space in silence. A bell will remind us to maintain the silence.
  • 7:05 - Welcome, Theme, Reminder of our intention and approach.
  • 7:10 - Mindfulness Exercise to help us Connect with ourselves, each other and the present moment.
  • 7:15 - Reading, Reflection, Reminder of our process of “Contemplative Exploration”
  • 7:20 - Silence
  • 7:22 - Sharing: speak from this richer place of connection, reflect on a word or phrase that touched you, listen actively (try not to rehearse what you are going to say), focus on deepening mutual understanding (not the same thing as agreement)
  • 7:45 - Discovery: Silence. Hold any tension (of differences), Listen FOR what you hear US saying or what you hear emerging, Build insight together.
  • 7:55 - Distill (echo a phrase or two of the original Berry reading)
  • 8 - Close (reminder to continue with ourselves and reach out to others…)

The Thomas Berry Forum Contemplative Ecologists Circle has posted a meeting schedule through August 2021.

Every Third Thursday of the Month

  • October 15, 2020 7 p.m.
  • November 19, 2020 7 p.m.
  • December 17, 2020 7 p.m.
  • January 21, 2021 7 p.m.
  • February 18, 2021 7 p.m.
  • March 18, 2021 7 p.m.
  • April 15, 2021 7 p.m.
  • May 20, 2021 7 p.m.
  • June 17, 2021 7 p.m.
  • July 15, 2021 7 p.m.
  • August 19, 2021 7 p.m.
Br. Kevin Cawley
Executive Director


“Everything is Connected,” a webinar on the 5th Anniversary of the release of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato SiOn Care for Our Common Home, took place on Sunday, June 14, 2020.   “Laudato Si,” (“Praise be to You, Lord,”) are the first two words in the Tuscan dialect that intone the Canticle of Creation of St. Francis.

Speakers. Our panelists were Dr. Nancy Tuchman, Founder and Dean of the Institute for Sustainability at Loyola University, Chicago and Dr. Erin Lothes, Professor of Theology at the College of St. Elizabeth in Convent Station, New Jersey and an Earth Institute Fellow at Columbia University.  

Br. Kevin Cawley, Executive Director of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College and Main Representative at the United Nations for Edmund Rice International, served as Moderator.

Kevin Tuerff, of St. Francis Xavier Parish, was the Zoom host for this event and handled the technical aspects of the afternoon with great skill. Nearly 130 participants joined the presentation online.

Global Context. At the time of the release of Laudato Si, the earth was warming at an alarming rate, and world leaders were having annual meetings about the issue assisted by periodic reports from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)  There was also a push on the part of the United Nations to eradicate global poverty with the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda 2030.

Pope Francis Engagement. Looking back at 2015 we can see three important markers where Pope Francis was attempting to “put his thumb” on the scale of history in the crucial interval from May through December 2015. The spring and summer revealed final text of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a global commitment summarized in 17 goals following three years of deliberations at the UN. The SDGs are to serve as guidelines over the next 15 years for UN member states.  They are designed to assist governments on civic priorities for sustainable development in their respective national circumstances. Member states are to report on progress at selected intervals.  Pope Francis reminding all, “the cry of the earth is the cry of the poor”, had been following the UN discussions and the Holy See was an active participant at the New York meetings. The Holy Father was careful to time the release of the encyclical to support the release of the SDGs.  He arranged to be in New York for the General Assembly session in September 2015, when the SDGs, known as Agenda 2030, were unanimously adopted on the day of his formal address to the General Assembly.  Pope Francis went further by challenging the world leaders to a meaningful commitment on reducing global warming at the upcoming December 2015, UNFCCC- Paris Climate Conference (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change).

Fifth Anniversary of Laudato Si. Here we are five years later taking a look at the impact of the encyclical. Our first two speakers were animated by Laudato Si and have incorporated it into their lives and their work.   The panelists presented reports of activities at their institutions and related efforts to bring to life the teachings of Laudato Si.

Dr. Tuchman delivered a striking set of images on the extensive work underway on the campus of Loyola. Innovations include a campus Greenhouse, Aquaponics offerings, and an Urban Garden along with  initiatives in a Biodiesel program and a Clean Air/ Clean Water monitoring program. The university has supported a sustainability fund for student projects, a ban on bottled water and a community farmer’s market.  Dr. Lothes recalled her delight when she first heard reports that the Pope was preparing an encyclical on the environment.  She has been very energized by the Pope’s message but raised concerns that there does not seem to be sufficient urgency in the political arena for the deep change that is required.  She also lamented the absence of forthright engagement of the US Catholic hierarchy who seem generally preoccupied on other issues.  Dr. Tuchman expanded on her comments by endorsing the phrase, “celebrate and accelerate” used by boosters of Laudato Si as we enter the anniversary year.  She notes that the Catholic hierarchy was not generally enthusiastic on this issue and salutes Pope Francis for his “bravery” in so boldly taking the initiative. More of the laity need to advocate.

Dr. Lothes led us to discussion of environmental racism and the general practice of placing large public infrastructure for industrial power and waste disposal in poor urban neighborhoods leading to increases in asthma and other childhood ailments in nearby residents.  Eco-justice must be addressed. We need to move to renewable and sustainable sources of energy.  Such a shift can help to de-escalate this disturbing pattern of sacrifice zones for these dangerous installations in poor neighborhoods in the USA. Dr. Tuchman underlined the truth of “everything is connected.”  Dr. Lothes later made the point that the laity can ask good questions about where their donations are going at the local parish.  Are they still supporting the burning of fossil fuels in the parish or are we moving to safe, clean, sustainable, renewable forms of energy? There is a good rationale to give people language in the solutions that they can relate to- for example, offshore wind installations can mean more high paying employment for laid off oil workers.

Three Case Studies
The panel presentation was followed by three case studies.   First presenter was Bernie Yozwiak, who is the head of the Care for Creation Team in the parish of Holy Name of Mary in Croton-on-Hudson, a town of 8,000 people along the Hudson River just north of the city. His parish team is part of the Metro NY Catholic Climate Movement.   They sponsor local presentations at the parish in a program called Sustainable Sundays, they also do Interfaith work with the community – the local project for the town is called “Croton 100.”

The second case study was brought forward by Brigid McCabe, a rising senior at Notre Dame High School in mid-town Manhattan.  Brigid, along with three other classmates, attended the Arrupe Leader Summit, a 3-day training course in Catholic Social Teaching  addressing the concerns of the times.  Brigid presented a series of slides illustrating what is going on with the young women at her high school and what plans are going forward.   In Education:  school assembly speakers; the Lennon Wall; in Advocacy:  participation in the student strike in September; in Action: recycling and composting.  The goal is to provide students with initiatives they can take up immediately, especially if the action relates directly to their future.  These efforts are aided by wide use of various social media platforms familiar to young people.   Brigid encourages engagement of her peers in local politics and is working on phone banks even if she is not yet old enough to vote.

We concluded with Nancy Lorence, an educator and member of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Manhattan. She helped found and coordinates the Metro NY Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM).  The founding group of five in her parish grew out of the Catholics organizing for the 2014 People’s Climate March; they affiliated with the Global Catholic Climate Movement in 2015 after Laudato Si was published. Nancy explained some of the background on the GCCM model with Spiritual conversion, Education as well as Advocacy and Action projects.

Gratitude. Nancy Lorence was the driving force behind this webinar presentation today and deserves our gratitude for her steadfast, purposeful organizing of this vigorous effort around Laudato Si.

Link to the Zoom recording of this Laudato Webinar including Chat box.

Additional Context on Current USA Turbulence:  All participants were operating under the restrictions imposed by a response to the global pandemic of coronavirus which had been raging in New York and other states since early March.   In addition, there loomed over all the horrific murder by police of George Floyd.  This crime took place in Minneapolis on May 25 recorded by cell phone video and subsequently viewed by millions resulting in hundreds of national and global protests against systemic structural racism and police misconduct. “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations have continued for several weeks.

Environmental Ministry Program at St. Francis Xavier Church NYC
Metro NY Catholic Climate Covenant
Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College
Newark NJ Archdiocesan Environmental Justice Task Force
Catholic Charities of NY Department of Social and Community Development

Thomas Berry Headshot

Photo: Thomas Berry by Lou Niznick.


Beginning with the New Year observance in 2018, and later expanding at the ecumenical celebration of the Season of Creation, the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College has been hosting a monthly “Contemplative Circle” for dialogue and exploration of the thoughts of Thomas Berry. Originally located at the Iona College Edmund Rice Chapel, the Circle has now migrated online as the world reshapes in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the second Thursday of each month an invitation is extended to the circle of Berry Forum subscribers and also those listed as supporters of the Deignan Institute for Earth and Spirit at Iona College. A lectio is suggested for reading and reflection as preparation for the event. At 7 pm Eastern time on the Thursday evening, a moderator from the Berry Forum welcomes participants to the online meeting and a brief prayer and recollection is offered to gather the group. The floor is then opened up. Participants are encouraged to offer brief reflections on the lectio and from time to time a keynote may be offered to start the evening discussion. Conversation is limited to one speaker at a time as is the custom with the Zoom format. The moderator observes the participants and calls on each in turn as they indicate their wish to speak. The hour passes quickly as it is clear that the speakers have done careful reflection and the quality of the offerings enriches all.

Geography is not an obstacle- we recently have had callers from British Columbia, North Dakota, Florida and several states in the Northeast USA. The common thread is a deep regard for the thought of Thomas Berry along with the drive to hear others with similar passion share their insight.

Recent topics included the wonder of the natural world as complementing the inner journey, the need for a greater courtesy toward the Earth, intimacy with the Earth as a primary manifestation of the awakening of the human consciousness, the implications for the human arising from the universe as the supreme manifestation of the sacred and the arising of the human as the moment when the unfolding universe becomes conscious of itself.

All are welcome to join the online discussion. Simply click the link on the emailed invitation each month to join us to deepen the intention and eco spirituality to serve our "Common Home”. To join the mailing list, please send an email to

Thomas Berry photo courtesy of Lou Niznik.


As we confront the climate crisis, it is critical to explore what it means to be Catholic and Buddhist. What aspects of these traditions contribute to factors that imperil life on the planet? Just as important, how might these traditions enable us to realize our highest human potential, the deep expression of compassion and love for each other, especially the most vulnerable among us — human and non-human — who bear the brunt of the suffering?

Watch a recording of the webinar here.

If you are interested in participating in a new initiative incorporating ongoing Catholic-Buddhist climate change dialogue with actions, please email Joshua Basofin at

Please send your questions, comments and feedback to:


The Metro N.Y. Catholic Climate Movement has produced a Declaration of Celebration and Commitment to mark the Fifth Anniversary of the publication of Laudato Si in May 2020 as well as the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22.

Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home is the encyclical of Pope Francis that has become a global cry for all people of goodwill to awaken to the deepening crisis of the planet due to climate change, unsustainable consumption and other ills that threaten the future of all living things.

In 2015, Iona College signed a Laudato Letter of Commitment along with many other Catholic colleges and universities that includes the following:

We commit ourselves as leaders in Catholic Higher Education to work together regionally and globally, through all the means available to and appropriate for our colleges and universities as institutions of higher learning, to study, promote, and act on the ideals and vision of integral ecology laid out by Pope Francis.

In this context, the Thomas Berry Forum recalls the words of Thomas Berry:

"The time has come to lower our voices, to cease imposing our mechanistic patterns on the biological processes of the earth, to resist the impulse to control, to command, to force, to oppress, and to begin quite humbly to follow the guidance of the larger community on which all life depends".

To receive a copy of and to sign the Declaration of Celebration and Commitment please contact Br. Kevin Cawley at


Br. Kevin Cawley delivered the presentation at “Sustainable Sundays” on December 8, 2019. The parish was interested in hearing the connections between the United nations global agenda and the wisdom offered by Pope Francis in Laudato Si.

The presentation drew a perspective on current issues regarding climate change including rising sea levels, forest degradation, ocean acidification, species extinction, displacement of peoples, water scarcity and other challenges. The second part of the presentation put a focus on the teachings of Laudato Si with respect to the current predicament of Earth. A portion of the presentation examined an extended description of the challenges to civil society encountered at the concluding sessions of negotiations on the Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations in 2015. We spent some time examining solutions to the emissions challenge now facing humanity, with special attention of the work of Drawdown, examining some of the 100 best solutions to the carbon problem.

The Berry Forum presentations on the care for the Earth have included background on UN deliberations as they impact integral ecology concerns raised by Pope Francis. In particular the multiple references to the human right to water (47 times in Laudato Si) continue to inform discussions of the coming water scarcity and the disturbing trends toward privatization of this precious resource.

Photos: Kevin Cawley


Celebrant: Fr. John Anderson

Advent Reflection by Dr. Brian Brown

Saturday Evening, December 14, 2019

"As we gather in the dark of this Advent eve, encircled round the verdant sphere of this liturgical wreath, we recall that larger sphere of Earth’s vitality, compacted by the physics of mass and gravity, and shaped on every side by the attractive cohesion of its innumerable interdependencies which we celebrate and bless.

The curvature of our planetary sphere envelopes us on all sides with an atmosphere that protects, shields and gives us respiration with its principal atoms of nitrogen and oxygen. Into these layers of Earth’s air, and on this Advent eve, we pray that we may yet learn Earth’s fragile atmosphere, to cleanse and purify it, preserve, cherish and heal it.”

The altar at the Deignan Earth and Spirit Institute and Thomas Berry Forum Third Sunday of Advent Earth Mass at Iona College Chapel.

The curvature of our planetary sphere holds us in the solidity of its mineral structure, its layers of slate, basalt and granite; obsidian, quartz and shale; marble, pyrite and sandstone. Among these and all the strata of its terrestrial massiveness, and on this Advent eve, we pray that we not weaken nor disfigure Earth’s topography, nor plunder its nutritive elements through fracturing, extractive and ruinous wastage.

The curvature of our planetary sphere surrounds us with the mantle of its watery immensity among whose shallows and depths, tides and currents, bays and lagoons, as solitary swimmers or innumerable schools of coordinated fins, Earth nurtures our bodies and colors our imaginations with mollusks and anemones, crustaceans and flounder, herring and halibut, plankton and whale, salmon returning to spawn, slowly gliding sea turtles, and all who swim in global migratory circuits.

From among these and their immeasurable kin throughout Earth’s fathomless oceanic expanse, and on this Advent eve, we pray that we be ever grateful for its prodigality, cognizant of its limitations, aware of its polar frailty, and measured in all our taking.

The curvature of our planetary sphere is shaded and fed by the rich canopies of ash, oak and beech; maple, juniper and spruce; walnut, poplar and willow, and the tens of thousands of tree species in the Amazon and Earth’s numerous temperate rainforests.

Standing amidst the silent germination of all manner of seeds, held firm by the rich tangle of intercommunicating and mutually fortifying roots and delicate webs of fungi, and on this Advent eve, we pray that we may marvel at the transubstantiation of photosynthesis, producing energy from solar light and oxygen from carbon dioxide, that so schooled we too may use the sun as fuel and sequester carbon in the trunks of the trees that we treasure.

The curvature of our planetary sphere buzzes and whirls in the billionfold teeming of insect caregivers, allowing the sacrifice of their bodies even as they immeasurably enrich those of far greater bulk and mass. In the very act of pollination, bees; butterflies; pollen wasps; ants; hover flies; midges; male mosquitoes; moths; and tens of beetle species offer themselves to feed fish; amphibians; reptiles; birds; bats; hedgehogs; moles; and shrew.

Dwarfed among Earth’s legions of creeping, crawling, flying, nibbling, ever small, yet ever diligent and constant providers as these, and on this Advent eve, we pray that we come to better admire and emulate the labor of these beings in the propagation and diversification of fruits and vegetables; in the steady maintenance of life’s chain of nutrition; in the enrichment and fertility of soil and root formation; as the removers, decomposers and medicinal treatment for pathogens, even as they themselves become novel forms of human sustenance in a food insecure world.

Finally, the curvature of our planetary sphere coalesced in the emergence of mammalian intimacy. Be it expressed in the meticulous grooming of primates perched in jungle trees; the protective stance of the elephant herd around the vulnerable calf; the playful tussling and pawing of tiger cubs exploring together the shared joy of life’s enthusiastic spontaneities; the mutual grazing of zebra and wildebeest on the common patch of savannah grass; or the extension of empathy’s embrace turning strangers into guests, migrants into neighbors, among ever widening circles of humankind; in all such expressions, Earth’s capacity for bonded communion still unfolds and expands.

From within that unrealized potentiality, and on this Advent eve, we pray that as we understand the fullness from which we arose, the fullness in which we partake, we cherish and heal this planetary body with that same Love for which you were born.

May we, for but a moment, stand in the stillness of what we celebrate."

Photos: Br. Kevin Cawley

Brian Brown reads reflections at an Advent Mass held in the Iona College Chapel.


Br. Kevin Cawley addressed a student and faculty audience on Thursday, November 21, 2019 under the heading, "Laudato Si and the USA Catholic Church: The State of Play". Kevin shared images and data to show the current situation regarding climate change and general shortfall of meaningful action in the global response thus far. The presentation moved through the multiple challenges facing the planet – climate change, melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, sea level rise that threatens millions of the poorest, forest degradation, rising inequality, stronger storms, longer wildfire seasons, and the failure generally to achieve the global goals to reduce carbon emissions enshrined in the Paris Agreement on climate. Laudato Si has been one of the bright markers in the world-wide struggle to achieve a coherent vision for a global response to these multiple crises. Pope Francis has been clear that the current situation is not just an environmental crisis but also an enormous failure of justice for the world’s poor. His repeated refrain, "The cry of the earth is the cry of the poor," has been carried forward on many fronts. Iona College has committed to advancing the message of Laudato Si and the Berry Forum along with Edmund Rice International continue to spread this message of the Holy Father.


On Monday, November 18, 2019 at 7 p.m. in Romita Auditorium the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue of the Deignan Institute for Earth and Spirit welcomed journalist, author, filmmaker, and humanitarian Don Bosco Mullan to share his current global engagement: Africa’s Great Green Wall and the ‘Laudato Tree’ Project.  An enthusiastic audience of students, Iona faculty and members of the public were treated to a special presentation about a project that has begun to attract attention not only in Africa but lately in Europe as well.  Don Mullan has established a working relationship with the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), pioneered the Great Green Wall, and is negotiating support for the ‘Laudato Tree Project’ in Ireland where he was recently received by the President of Ireland, Mr. Michael Higgins.

Don spoke movingly of his early life in the difficult times during the political unrest in his native Northern Ireland, especially in Derry, his home city, as “the troubles” pulled so many of his contemporaries into the violent vortex.  His profound decision to move away from the violence and work for peaceful solutions changed the basic course of his life and career.  The account he rendered of the awful events of “bloody Sunday” became a best seller, an award-winning motion picture and ultimately generated the most expensive judicial review in British history. Don’s thirst for justice has now led him to the massive task he described to us at Iona. His recent engagement with the legacy of Wangari Matthai, Nobel Prize winner and powerful force behind the million-tree campaign in Kenya, has led him to take on a significant role with the Green Wall project which is also endorsed by the African Union.  His presentation moved across the difficulties of enrolling advocates and convincing sponsoring agencies to assist the United Nations Commission to Combat Desertification.  He elaborated the plans to screen the film of the project and begin to link 8,000 programs across the globe.  The 8,000 local efforts would link the project and stand symbolically as a sign of the 8,000-kilometer span of the finished Green Wall. Mullan has discussed with the UNCCD the importance of building a popular global movement to ensure the wall is completed by 2030. 

The presentation closed with Don engaging the group in heartfelt exchange about the great needs of the African continent.  He elaborated on his affection for its peoples along with the fact of the immense challenges of the largest population of youth on one continent just now coming of age and confronting the rigors and threats of climate change. They will need hope.
For further information on The Great Green Wall Project:

Photo credits: K. Cawley

Don Mullan presents and speaks with audience in Romita Auditorium.
Brother Kevin Cawley stands at a podium in the Arrigoni Center.


On Saturday, November 9, the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue welcomed members of the public to a special ceremony to celebrate the launch of a new biography of Thomas Berry. November 9 would have been the 102nd birthday of Thomas Berry and thus it was an auspicious day for the warm celebration in Arrigoni Center at Iona. Longtime friends of Fr. Thomas, Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, traveled from Yale University to mark the occasion and preside over the public release of the biography they wrote together. Mary Evelyn and John presented in tandem a vibrant summary of the life of Thomas before he was a world figure; reporting many tender anecdotes of his N. Carolina upbringing and early signs of his spiritual journey that proved to be significant to many others later on.

There were additional insights on how Thomas negotiated the intellectual and pastoral challenges of his vocation as a priest of the Passionist Order who were at first confounded by the powerful thinking Thomas brought to the community. His brief sojourn in Asia proved decisive in turning his intellect to the larger world and speculation on the origins and destiny of humankind. Generally, Passionists committed more decisively to the missionary and preaching model of priesthood while Thomas found a home as a deep thinker and writer, and later as “sage” for a host of students at St. John’s University, Fordham and the Riverdale Center. Mary Evelyn and John treated the day as a deep celebration of the life and work of Thomas while recounting the enormous influence of his thinking and writing on the present generation of earth care advocates. So many are in his debt.

The second half of the afternoon was given over to celebrating the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College. The Forum was honored by the Thomas Berry Foundation for ten years of commitment to the message of Thomas as a geologist and spiritual seeker who carried his message to several generations of like-minded practitioners of sustainable living and teaching. The Four Conveners of the Berry Forum – Kathleen Deignan, Danny Martin, Brian Brown and Kevin Cawley - were presented individual memorial plaques with a generous citation of their Earth Care work. Friends assembled from near and far including a number of Iona students in Kathleen Deignan’s classes. Several UN colleagues made the journey to Iona to help celebrate the Thomas Berry Legacy. Music was provided by Kathleen Deignan and Beth Bradley. A slide deck revue of images of Father Thomas and photos of the natural world accompanied the gathering.

Photo credit: Monica Hoyt

Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim discuss Thomas Berry's biography.


On November 2 the Oblates of St. Mary’s Abbey at Delbarton School in Morristown, NJ, invited Br. Kevin Cawley of the Thomas Berry Forum to present perspectives on Laudato Si at their All Souls Day program. Kevin was contacted by Fr. Hilary, OSB, Moderator for the Oblates, to spend the day at the monastery and offer two presentations to the group of 16 members who were able to attend.

Kevin used a slide presentation to outline the current global predicament that humanity is now beginning to address with the guidance of the teachings in Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home. The presentation included a perspective on current issues regarding climate change including rising sea levels, forest degradation, ocean acidification, species extinction, displacement of peoples, water scarcity and other challenges. The second part of the presentation put a focus on the teachings of Laudato Si with respect to the problems listed above. The response portion of the presentation also included an extended reporting on the challenges to civil society encountered at the concluding sessions of negotiations on the Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations in 2015.

The Berry Forum presentations on the care for the earth have included background on UN deliberations as they impact integral ecology concerns raised by Pope Francis. In particular the multiple references to the human right to water (47 times in Laudato Si) continue to inform discussions of the coming water scarcity and the disturbing trends toward privatization of this precious resource.

Finally, the afternoon program offered highlights of Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reduce Global Warming. The work is edited by Paul Hawken and offers carbon reduction comparisons identified by over 1,000 experts for the 100 most effective solutions ranked in order of effectiveness. The analysis looks at how much carbon is reduced based on the cost of implementation when compared to net carbon savings over 30 years. The surprise to the researchers was the discovery that improving the technology of air conditioning refrigerants was the number one remedy, surpassing even solar panels and wind power.

Photos: Kevin Cawley, Tom Stiff


Students and Faculty from Colegio Cardinal Newman (Buenos Aires, Argentina), Colegio Mundo Mejor (Chimbote, Peru) and Stella Maris College (Montevideo, Uruguay) spent part of the day on the Iona campus on Wednesday, September 18. Br. Kevin Cawley, Director of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue, greeted them and accepted their invitation to present current efforts to address world issues at the United Nations and in the work of Laudato Si.

Br. Kevin described in general terms the current predicament faced by Earth, Our Common Home, by framing the Universe Story of 13.8 billion years and the Earth flourishing after 4 billion years followed by the recent 300,000 years of human activity leading to our present era, the Holocene, as we approach the Anthropocene. The students, along with Br. Kevin, examined briefly the efforts at the United Nations to address the multiple challenges of the current climate crisis and the deep inequalities among and within nations. The Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement were also highlighted, as well as several points on the magnificent encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home.

The students and teachers were receptive and expressed gratitude for the work of the Thomas Berry Forum in organizing the presentation for their visit to the campus. Because of their full schedule of activities they did not have much free time to take in the sights of New York and, for many, this would mark their very first opportunity to travel from Latin America to the United States. The Christian Brothers have been present in the Latin American region since 1948 and have many connections to the ministries in that part of the world. In fact, one of the founding brothers of Iona, Br. Ignatius Doorley, spent the final years of his apostolate in Buenos Aires.

Photo credit: G. Bullrich

Students and Teachers from Latin America with Br. Kevin Cawley.


The Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College sponsored this year’s all college lecture for the Core Curriculum. Ken Ilgunas is the author of this year’s common read for the Columba Cornerstone EARTH Courses, Trespassing Across America: One Man's Epic, Never-Done-Before (and Sort of Illegal) Hike Across the Heartland. Iona was delighted to offer all EARTH students, as well as students in the Environmental programs at Iona, the ICT "Stewardship of Earth" classes, other eco-focused classes, and all earth lovers an invitation to join Mr. Ilgunas in special sessions throughout his day-long visit.

Ken Ilgunas is an author, journalist, and backcountry ranger in Alaska. He has hitchhiked ten thousand miles across North America, paddled one thousand miles across Ontario in a birchbark canoe, and walked 1,700 miles across the Great Plains, following the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline. Ilgunas has a BA from SUNY Buffalo in history and English, and an MA in liberal studies from Duke University. The author of Walden on Wheels, Trespassing Across America, and This Land Is Our Land, he is from Wheatfield, New York.

Photo by Monica Hoyt.

Students pose with Ken Ilgunas in Romita Auditorium.


The Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue, together with the Office of Mission and Ministry at Iona College, led a delegation of Iona students to New York City to participate in the School Strike for Climate on September 20, 2019. Organizers estimated the crowd at 250,000 participants. Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg and fellow climate activists led the march from Foley Square, a large plaza in lower Manhattan, approximately 2 miles south to Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan where music and speeches concluded the day. Greta thanked marchers as she ended her remarks with her challenge that all must keep battling. Her speech the following Monday to the General Assembly has become a sensation due to her bold, emotional and scathing denunciation of the “business as usual” approach that appears to be the default position of most larger member states at the United Nations.
Photo credits Monica Hoyt and Kevin Cawley.

Two children hold posters in support of climate change.
A girl holds a homemade sign in support of climate change.
A young girl holds a poster in support for climate change.
A young girl is interviewed by a journalist.


To celebrate the Season of Creation, Corpus Christi Parish hosted an afternoon of contemplative inquiry concerning the urgency of activating a robust Catholic commitment to care of our common home. Brother Kevin Cawley, CFC and Sister Kathleen Deignan, CND led a presentation and conversation about the current status of our Living Earth addressing the environmental, political, moral and spiritual features of our present ecological crisis. The conversation was informed by the legacy of Thomas Berry and the moral challenges of Pope Francis.

Photos by Monica Hoyt.

Sr. Deignan speaks as she stands in front of a projector with Br. Cawley.
Br. Cawley and Sr. Deignan stand in front of a projector and face the audience as they present.


All Photos by Kevin Cawley unless otherwise noted.

This event gathered over 230 environmental leaders in the US Catholic Church to outline a way forward for Laudato Si on the US Catholic landscape, including its vision, best practices and future actions. This meeting was intended to be an opportunity to learn more about Laudato Si and how to contribute to its integration in parish, school, religious community, or Catholic institution.

A program for the convention at Creighton University.
Attendees networking at Creighton University.

The conference vision included an expansion of hope. The climate crisis has deepened around the globe in these past few months and the United Nations will convene an emergency climate summit this September to ramp up ambition from member states to reduce the global consumption of fossil fuels releasing harmful emissions. Creighton University and the Catholic Climate Covenant under the direction of Dan Misleh must be commended for the organizing and conducting of this timely gathering. Participants come away well-fortified to engage their local institutions in raising the alarm and forming potent responses. Key takeaways were noted from the plenaries and eight ministerial tracks: Adult Faith Formation, Advocacy, Creation Care Teams, Energy Management, Higher Education, Liturgy, School Education, and Young Adult Ministry.

Dan DiLeo, Catholic Climate Covenant Consultant and assistant professor and director of the Program of Justice Studies and Peace at Creighton University led the conference.

A lecture session in progress with a large crowd of listeners at Creighton University.

President of Creighton, Fr. Daniel Hendrickson, S.J. welcomed all and reminded the audience that from the papacy of John Paul II, the ecological crisis has been recognized as a moral issue. He cited Gen. 2:15 : "Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it."

The opening keynote address by Bishop Robert W. McElroy, Bishop of San Diego, laid out an argument for climate change to become "a central priority" for the U.S. Catholic Church. The model of the great poem of Milton, “Paradise Lost” framed the Bishop’s argument: the drama of the fall and rise the human. Titled "Paradise Lost: The Urgent Summons of Laudato Si' to the American People at This Moment in Our History," the bishop used John Milton's poem "Paradise Lost" as a frame to examine these estrangements — from God, nature, one another and truth itself — that have broken the relationship between people today and "the earth that is our common home."

Bishop McElroy called Laudato an 'urgent summons' to the American people. "Laudato Si' both unmasks our estrangement from the natural world and points to the pathway forward for us to move from alienation toward healing and the renewal of the earth. The encyclical is a “call to arms for those who would rescue our bruised planet from the forces that deplete and destroy it," McElroy said. "But Laudato Si' is so much more than this. For in its delineation of an integral human ecology, it emphasizes that the illnesses that plague our world on so many levels are interrelated, and that progress in any one dimension requires attending to the wholeness of the human person and the human family just as it attends to the wholeness of our planet earth."

A group of young people pose for a photo at Creighton University.

The current fascination with a technological paradigm is one example of the human effort at mastery of the created world rather than humble engagement. We know that the “St. Francis response” was deeply respectful of the created world; very different from the technological response we are witnessing.

Pope Francis reminds us that solidarity is not simply social but ethical. We need now an initiative to empower children to summon hearts and souls to remind us of the spiritual identity of nature. Adam’s greatest pain in Milton was seeing the pain he brought down on his children. When Michael led Adam down the hill out of Paradise he lamented he had damaged his children. Later, in “Paradise Regained”, the first paradise had failed but now a fairer paradise for our savior has come down.

Megan Goodwin is Associate Director in office of government relations for the USCCB. She is the link to congress for the Bishops’ conference. Current initiatives include: USCCB backs carbon tax bill by Congress member Rooney of Florida. Bishops of Florida have met with Florida members of Congress. Megan urges U.S. Catholics to engage with local and federal leaders to keep them accountable.

Dr. Erin Lothes stands and speaks at a podium at Creighton University.
Sister Pat Siemen stands and speaks at a podium at Creighton University.

Dr. Erin Lothes, Associate Professor of Theology at College of St. Elizabeth in New Jersey spoke of the upcoming Amazon Synod taking place in Rome in October. Focus on ecosystem. She reports that the preparation documents include good language. She reminds us that links to the landscape can bring the soul to peace. Local church of critical importance. Spirituality of LS (sections 11 and 66) is relational in its affection. We share Earth with all creatures so we don’t dominate. But we live with a dirty and dangerous energy system.

Africa challenges cited by Erin. Nigeria in particular is facing grave ecological danger due to the fossil fuel extraction that has long impacted the country. Technology has taken first position. The environmental teachings of the Catholic Church have yet to penetrate many governments in Africa at the policy level, even in those places with a strong Catholic presence in the education sector.

Fr. Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam represented Cardinal Peter Turkson of the Vatican Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, the office responsible for disseminating the lessons of Laudato Si. He has recently published a book, The Ten Green Commandments of Laudato Si. He noted that 2020 is 50th anniversary of Earth Day. He mentions Rachel Carlson’s Silent Spring, a pivotal book from 1962 as well as the now famous NASA Earthrise photograph taken from lunar orbit by astronaut William Anders on December 24, 1968.

The Laudato Conference at Creighton held many rich discussions and clearly made a deep impression on those of us who attended. Excellent presentations were offered by Rev. Kenneth R. Himes, OFM, on “Love in Action”, Professor Sacoby Wilson on ecojustice and Sr. Pat Siemen, O.P., founder of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence at Barry University, who was very enthused about the work of Fr. Thomas Berry.

This brief note in the Berry Forum web pages will I hope lead the reader to pursue further the lessons learned in Omaha. Links to the Catholic Climate Covenant are given here to speed your inquiry.

The campus overpass at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.
The chapel at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.
A picture of planet Earth from the perspective of the moon in space.


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 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.


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.”


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.

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

Demonstrators gather in a crowd in the street to raise awareness for 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)

A young person sketches a picture of climate change demonstrators.
A group of young demonstrators for climate change sit together.
Demonstrators in support of climate change climb up on a statue and hold up posters.
Demonstrators for climate change gather in front of a skyscraper.
Demonstrators gather in a crowd in front of a statue to raise awareness for climate change.


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.


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.


"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."

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.

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


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.