The Great Work Award
in honor of Thomas Berry
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The Great Work

"Our present need is to know just how to move out of this alienation of the human into a more viable mode of presence to the natural world.

Here I propose that the religions are too pious, the corporations too plundering, the government too subservient to provide any adequate remedy. The universities, however, should have the insight and the freedom to provide the guidance needed by the human community.  The universities should also have the critical capacity to influence over the other professions and other activities of society. In a special manner the universities have the contact with the younger generation needed to reorient the human community toward a greater awareness that the human exists, survives, and becomes whole only within the single great community of the planet Earth."

Thomas Berry
The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future

2012 Awardee
Conveners of the Thomas Berry Forum
for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College

[Left: Kevin Cawley accepts award]
[Right: L/R - Daniel Martin, Kathleen Deignan, Brian Brown, and Kevin Cawley]

The Environmental Consortium is honored to present the Great Work Award to

The Conveners of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College:
Brian Brown, Kevin Cawley, Kathleen Deignan, and Daniel Martin

for advancing Fr. Thomas Berry's ideal that "The human exists, survives and becomes whole only within the single great community of the planet Earth"
(The Great Work: Our Way into the Future, 1999).

The Great Work Award was created by the Environmental Consortium to honor faculty and institutions whose work advance ecological principles as a centerpiece of higher education. The Conveners were honored at the Environmental Consortium's annual conference on October 27, 2012 at Marist College.

Iona College
News Release
Iona College Faculty to Receive the First Thomas Berry Great Work Award
Posted: October 24, 2012

The Ionian
"Faculty honored with first Berry Award"
by Chelsea Champion
Posted: Thursday, November 1, 2012

About The Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College

In 2009, after the death of the celebrated geologian and cultural historian, Father Thomas Mary Berry, CP, four of his students gathered at Iona College to initiate The Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue to celebrate and promote his wisdom legacy: Dr. Brian Brown, Dr. Kevin Cawley, CFC, Dr. Kathleen Deignan, CND, and Dr. Daniel Martin.

The four Conveners commit themselves to develop the Berry Forum as an open and inclusive space for ecological education, exploration, and transformation. Ultimately, they take up The Great Work to imagine and teach ways toward a viable and creative future where the entire Earth community will share the blessings of justice and peace.

The Mission of The Forum is to:
- Educate for awareness of the integral Earth community
- Facilitate deeper understanding of human responsibility for care of Earth
- Promote scholarly dialogue and engagement around significant ecological concerns
- Celebrate our communion in the family of God’s creation
- Inspire hope and empower action for a sustainable and environmentally just world, with special concern for the most vulnerable members of the Earth community.

About the Conveners

Brian Brown

Dr. Brown joined the faculty of the Religious Studies Department in the fall of 1987, specializing in the History of Religions. He is currently Full Professor of Religious Studies teaching RST 203 Introduction to the Study of Religion.   His approach in that course examines the phenomenon of religion from a variety of common themes using salient aspects of religious traditions to illustrate and exemplify. Thus the course examines religion as the quest for self-discovery through its study of the Hindu tradition; religion and the experience of divine revelation through its study of the Islamic tradition; religion as transforming self-liberation through its study of the Buddhist tradition; and religion and the natural world through its study of Native American tribal traditions. In addition, he routinely teaches course in the Buddhist tradition (RST 205); The Religions of China (RST 310); and Religion and the Constitution (RST 410).

Dr. Brown is interested in the legal, moral, and spiritual dimensions of humanity's relationship with the natural world. As such, he is the co-founder and co-convener of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona. He is also one of the founding faculty of the new integral Environmental Studies major at Iona, a joint venture of the departments of biology, political science and religious studies. As such, Dr. Brown teaches the core course, The Story of the Universe: Foundational Cosmology and Human History (RST 341) as well as Religion and the Natural World (RST 213) and Environmental Ethics and Religion (RST 412)

Among his publications are articles which have addressed the ecological implications of the Buddhist and Native American tribal traditions, as well as contemporary jurisprudence on the conflicting values of land as sacred reality or as mere property. As an Historian of Religion, he remains deeply interested in interreligious dialogue particularly between the Buddhist and Christian traditions.  Along with Sr. Kathleen Deignan of the Religious Studies Department, he is the co-founder of the Iona Christian-Zen Meditation Group.  Dr. Brown is the author of two major works: The Buddha Nature: A Study of the Tathagatagarbha and Alayavijnana (Motilal Banarsidass, Dehli: 1991 (reprinted in 1994; 2003; 2010) as well as Religion, Law and the Land: Native Americans and the Judicial Interpretation of Sacred Land (Greenwood Press: Westport, CT, 1999). He earned his JD in Law from New York University, and his PhD in the History of Religions from Fordham University. He also holds a BS in Psychology and Theology, summa cum laude, from Fordham University.

Kevin Cawley

Kevin Cawley, CFC, PhD, is  Executive Director of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College, and publishes a monthly newsletter on environmental concerns, The Carbon Ranger Newsletter.

Kevin serves at United Nations Headquarters in New York  as the representative of Edmund Rice International, a non-governmental organization working in 30 countries on behalf of young people and Care of the Earth. Edmund Rice International holds Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.  Kevin is a member of the Executive Board of the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development.

He is a 2009 GreenFaith Fellow.  GreenFaith is an interfaith coalition for the environment.

Kathleen Deignan

Kathleen Deignan, a sister of the Congregation of Notre Dame, 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).
Currently President of the International Thomas Merton Society, Sister Kathleen is devoted to transmitting the spiritual and intellectual legacy of spiritual master Thomas Merton in a variety of academic, artistic and pastoral formats. Sister Deignan sits on the Board of The American Teilhard Society, and is a GreenFaith Fellow having completed a two-year post-doctoral training for religious environmental leadership in 2008 (  Dr. Deignan received her masters degree in Spirituality Studies 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.  After his death, she and The Conveners founded The Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona.

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).  Her articles on classical and contemporary spirituality have appeared in The Way, Review for Religious, Sisters Today, Franciscan Review, Diakonia, Sacred Journey, Monastic Interreligious Dialogue Bulletin, The Merton Season, and The Merton Annual. 

Daniel Martin

Dr. Daniel Martin is one of the four founders and conveners of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona where he focuses on the dialogue aspect of the program.

Dr. Martin wrote his doctoral dissertation with Thomas Berry in 1988 and later became a religious consultant for the UN Environmental Program, where he helped create and develop the Environmental Sabbath, a project designed to engage the religions of the country in the environmental agenda. In 1991, he founded International Communities for the Renewal of the Earth to create an Earth Charter for the UN Earth Summit in Brazil in 1992. Since 1994, Dr. Martin has worked as a consultant, integrating the Thomas Berry perspective into his dialogue-based facilitating, training, planning, and coaching work for many organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Heart Association and multiple human service agencies. He also created a program called Conversations for Action in his own town of Bedford, NY to explore a local response to climate change. The result was an award-winning Climate Action Plan and a continuing implementation program.

Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, his work reflects his passion for building dialogue-based communities across differences as the way to discover creative responses to an increasingly complex world. His latest writing, The Infinite Place, which is a reflection on his own life-journey will be available this year through his website at

In The News

Iona College
News Release
Iona College Faculty to Receive the First Thomas Berry Great Work Award
Posted: October 24, 2012

The Ionian
"Faculty honored with first Berry Award"
by Chelsea Champion
Posted: Thursday, November 1, 2012