International Merton conference at Nazareth College will hold value for all - Catholic Courier

International Merton conference at Nazareth College will hold value for all

Dr. Christine Bochen asserts that you don’t have to be a Thomas Merton scholar to fit in at the 11th conference and general meeting of the International Thomas Merton Society.
"It brings together all sorts of folks — some scholars, some people who actually knew Merton, some folks who have read lots of Merton, some folks who know very little about Merton but want to learn about him," Bochen said. "This makes for quite a mix and some exciting conversation, too.”
Bochen, a professor of religious studies at Nazareth College in Pittsford, added that the conference is "an opportunity to learn, to reflect, to pray and to meet persons who share interests in spirituality, social justice, and interreligious dialogue. One might say that Merton brings us together. The rest is up to us."
Bochen is serving as site coordinator for the upcoming conference, which will take place June 11-14 at Nazareth College. Held every two years, it pays tribute to the Trappist monk (1915-68) who was a poet, social activist, spiritual theologian and author of more than 70 books.
The 2009 gathering is titled “Bearing Witness to the Light: Merton’s Challenge to a Fragmented World.” Bochen explained that each conference explores a particular aspect of Merton’s life and thought, and this one will focus on Merton’s extensive efforts to create interreligious dialogue in rising past "the darkness of violence and war; the darkness of injustice and division; the darkness of inner turmoil and emptiness. Merton’s message is a message of hope that light can overcome darkness when people of faith work together to build a world in which the dignity of all is honored."
One of the general sessions, “Interreligious Dialogue: The Rochester Experience,” will feature local experts Deacon George Dardess, Isobel Goldman, Imam Muhammad Shafiq and Sister Patricia Schoelles, SSJ, as panelists, and Sister Susan Nowak, SSJ, as moderator. Featured guests from across the country will include Kate Campbell, a noted folk musician who has set the "Prayer of Thomas Merton" to music; Father James Conner, OCSO, a monk of Gethsemani Abbey, a former student of Merton and former president of the International Thomas Merton Society; Rachel Fell McDermott, chair of the Asian and Middle Eastern cultures department at Barnard College in New York City, where she specializes in South Asia, especially India; Herbert Mason, professor at Boston University where he teaches Arabic and Islamic studies and for a number of years corresponded with Merton; Judith Simmer-Brown, a professor at Naropa University in Boulder, Colo., and prominent Buddhist scholar; and Donald Grayston, retired teacher from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, who will deliver the presidential address.
The Merton conference was begun in 1989 and last held in Rochester in 1991. The International Thomas Merton Society was founded in 1988, with Bochen and Msgr. William H. Shannon — who will preside at the closing Mass on June 14 — among the founding members.
Bochen said that as of mid-May, conference registrants were from 33 states and eight countries. Openings are still available. For more information and to register, visit or contact Christine Bochen at 585-389-2728 or

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