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Fr. Thomas Berry, CP (1914-2009)

Thomas Berry was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, USA, in 1914. He was widely read in Western history and he also spent many years studying the cultural history of Asia. He lived in China and traveled to other parts of Asia. He authored two books on Asian religions including, Buddhism and Religions of India (distributed by Columbia University Press). From his academic beginnings as a historian of world cultures and religions, Berry developed into a historian of the Earth and its evolutionary processes. He describes himself as a "geologian."

For two decades, Berry directed the Riverdale Center of Religious Research in Riverdale, New York, USA. During this period he taught at Fordham University where he chaired the history of religions program and directed twenty-five doctoral theses. His major contributions to the discussion on the environment are in his books The Dream of the Earth (Sierra Club Books, 1988 reprinted, 2006), The Great Work: Our Way into the Future (Random House, 1999) and, with Brian Swimme, The Universe Story (Harper San Francisco, 1992). His latest collection of essays is Evening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community (Sierra Club Books and University of California Press, 2006).

"The universe is composed of subjects to be communed with,
not objects to be exploited.
Everything has its own voice.
Somehow we have become autistic.
We don't hear the voices."
            —Thomas Berry in Listening to the Land: Conversations About Nature, Culture and Eros by Derrick Jensen
 

Tributes from the Community


Fr. Thomas Berry was a man of towering intellect and humble bearing. I met him in 1984 when he came to give classes to all of us who were novices during our novitiate year with the Passionist Congregation. Thomas gave us the largest possible context for living religious life and understanding our role as humans in an evolving, vast, and developmental universe. "The universe," he would say, "is a unity, nothing is itself without everything else." Thomas co-founded Green Mountain Monastery in Greensboro, Vermont, USA along with myself and Bernadette Bostwick. Green Mountain Monastery is a new emergence in the Catholic tradition that seeks to give expression to a theology rooted in the evolutionary dynamism of an unfolding universe.

Gail Worcelo, SGM


Father Thomas Berry contributed greatly to my life by describing a deeply held feeling and belief that we needed to go beyond my traditional Christian up-bringing to establish a relationship with all the surrounds us each day, as a resident of our home planet, the Earth. My favorite Saint was always Saint Francis, whose stories of living and walking on the Earth told of a greatly expanded relationship, beyond the human community, relating us to all others, and the ground beneath our feet. Anytime I heard Father Berry speak, or read his works, and saw the films, The Great Story, about his work, I felt a new hope that more of humanity would be awakened to a more loving and harmonious relationship we could live out, among us, and with all that surrounds us each day in our lives. Berry's comprehension of the great long line of human history, reperceived the majestry of a newer, more informed Creation Story. moving my understanding from a child-like creation story to an adult creation story, without losing the majesty and wonder of the life we live upon this Earth.

Roberta Shoemaker-Beal, MFA, ATR-BC

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