As a theologian, poet, and musician, Sister Kathleen Deignan, CND, PhD has translated the depths of the Christian mystical tradition into a vibrant new repertoire of sacred song. Her recent books’ focus on Thomas Merton’s passion for nature will bring beautiful depth to the 2015 Emerging Wisdom educational events. As a member of the Congregation of Notre Dame, Sister Kathleen has been engaged in the mission of liberating education at Iona College, in New York, USA, where she is Professor of Religious Studies.
While involved in Campus Ministry at Sacred Heart University, Kathleen and her first and lasting musical companion, Evelyn Avoglia, founded Schola Ministries, which in time, and through a series of transformations, has evolved into the rich and multi-faceted platform through which Kathleen offers her various ministries of spiritual animation.
A theologian and sacred song writer engaged in liturgical musicianship for four decades, Deignan received her master’s degree in Spirituality Studies and her doctorate in Historical Theology from Fordham University in New York, where she studied with her mentor, the late theologian, Father Thomas Berry, one of the great inspirations of her life and ministry.
Under his direction, she began work on her first book, Christ Spirit: The Eschatology of Shaker Christianity. Her later work has focused on the wisdom legacy of Thomas Merton, whose Writings on Nature she edited. When the Trees Say Nothing and Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours are now in their seventh printing, having sold more than 44,000 copies.
Her articles on topics in classical and contemporary spirituality have appeared in The Way, Franciscan Studies, Review for Religious, Sisters Today, Sacred Journey, Fellowship of Prayer, Monastic Interreligious Dialogue Bulletin, Journal of the Canadian Conference of Religious, The Journal of the American Benedictine Academy, Diakonia, and Cross Currents. A paper on Thomas Merton’s challenge for transformative education won an award from the American Academy of Religion.
As part of her fruitful collaboration with the Congregation of Christian Brothers and colleagues, she founded and directs the Iona Spirituality Institute, a project for the celebration and study of the spiritual life, which has sponsored her work in interfaith dialogue, peace and justice studies, and spiritual animation in the United States and abroad, particularly in Ireland where she has worked recently to foster the wisdom legacy of Thomas Merton. In October 2009, she received Fordham University’s Doctrina et Sapientia Award for her work in spirituality.
Deignan recently completed her GreenFaith Fellowship, an inter-faith training program for religious environmental leaders. In this way she hopes to contribute to The Great Work of our time: healing the human soul that we might heal the Earth.