News Item

Bellarmine marks 100th anniversary of Merton’s birth with yearlong education and performing arts initiative

Oct 20, 2014

Bellarmine University will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Thomas Merton’s birth with the Thomas Merton Centennial, a yearlong series of thought-provoking events that will bring a host of internationally renowned writers, thinkers and artists to Louisville, beginning in November.

Thomas MertonThe first event, a lecture by Robert Ellsberg titled “To be a Saint: Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, and the Call to Holiness,” will feature Ellsberg’s perspectives working alongside Dorothy Day at the Catholic Worker. It takes place on Sunday, November 16, at 4 p.m. in the George G. Brown Center’s Frazier Hall. [campus map]

The following day, from 10 a.m, to 2 p.m. on November 17, a symposium in Frazier Hall will address the topic of “Thomas Merton & the Catholic Worker Tradition: 21st Century Practices of Compassion and ‘Works of Mercy.’” Participants will strive to identify three goals for Bellarmine and Louisville related to compassion and works of mercy.

Other featured lecturers over the next year include:

  • Sister Ilia Delio, director of Catholic studies and visiting professor at Georgetown University, who will deliver a lecture titled “Beyond Dialogue: Christogenesis and Conscious Evolution” on March 28, 2015.
  • Dr. Charles Taylor, author of the critically-acclaimed book “The Secular Age,” who will deliver an address titled “After Christendom” on May 23, 2015.
  • Fr. Francis X. Clooney, S.J., director of the Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard Divinity School, who will speak on "Thomas Merton and Hindu Wisdom: Knowing Self, Knowing Other" on November 9, 2015.

A full schedule of Thomas Merton Centennial events is online at All events are free and open to the public; one dinner event requires purchase of a meal.

Merton (1915-1968) was a writer, social activist, artist, photographer and Trappist monk at Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey near Bardstown, Ky. He wrote more than 70 books that include poetry, personal journals, collections of letters and social criticism, including such classics as “The Seven Storey Mountain” and “Zen and the Birds of Appetite.”

“Besides being one of the most significant interdisciplinary Catholic thinkers of the 20th Century, Merton was both a neighbor and a close friend to Bellarmine, entrusting the bulk of his literary estate to our stewardship at the Thomas Merton Center,” said Dr. Joseph J. McGowan, Bellarmine’s president. “His writings on the search for truth, religious inquiry, the nature of humanity, the value of cross-cultural and inter-faith awareness, and his advocacy for peace, social justice and sustainability have urgent contemporary relevance -- and all are at the core of our community values.”

For more information, email centennial director Fr. George Kilcourse, professor of theology, at

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