Monastic Institute 2007 / School of Theology Seminary of Saint John's University

St. Johns Church

Each summer the School of Theology·Seminary of Saint John's University sponsors a Monastic Institute to provide continuing education and spiritual enrichment for American monastics and all interested in monastic spirituality and practice. This year's Institute, co-sponsored by Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, is devoted to interreligious dialogue. Among the presenters were Dr. Ingrid Mattson, President of the Islamic Society of North America, Kusala Bhikshu of the International Buddhist Meditation Center in Los Angeles, and Fr. Pierre-François de Béthune, Secretary General of Dialogue Interreligieux Monastique/Monastic Interreligious Dialogue.


Welcoming the Other: A Path to Holiness and Peace.

July 1  - July 5 , 2007
Saint John's School of Theology·Seminary
Collegeville, Minnesota

Background and Purpose

In October 1973, in Bangalore, India, Christian and non-Christian monastics came together for the first time in history to talk with one another about the most basic issue of the monastic life, namely, the experience of God (or of the transcendent). The success of this meeting prompted Cardinal Sergio Pignedoli, Prefect of the Secretariat for Non-Christians (now the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue), to ask Abbot Primate Rembert Weakland to encourage Benedictines to take the lead in interreligious dialogue because, as he put it, “monasticism is the bridge between religions.”

In response to this request from the Holy See, monastic organizations to promote dialogue were founded in 1978: MID (Monastic Interreligious Dialogue) for North America; DIM/MID for Europe (Dialogue Interreligieux Monastique, MID for German and English speaking countries). Thus, what had been the mission of individuals like Jules Monchanin, Henri Le Saux, Bede Giffiths and Thomas Merton was now given institutional status within the monastic world.

Although these organizations have been in existence for almost 30 years, the ministry of interreligious dialogue is still regarded by many monastic men and women as a work for specialists.  This year’s Monastic Institute is an effort to help monastic communities see interreligious exchange as an important contemporary expression of the monastic charism of hospitality that can, indeed should, be practiced by all who are called to the monastic life.

During the course of the Institute participants will be given an opportunity to come up with concrete proposals for what they hope to do when they return to their respective monasteries. They will be encouraged to report back to MID when their communities have actually engaged in an act of hospitality to local Muslims, Buddhists, or members of another religious community.  This information will be featured on MID’s website:


    • Dr. Ingrid Mattson
    • President, Islamic Society of North America
    • Professor of Islamic Studies and Director of Islamic Chaplaincy at the Macdonald Center for Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut
  • Rev. Vivian Gruenenfelder
    • Senior Buddhist priest
    • Shasta Abbey, Mount Shasta, California
    • Order of Buddhist Contemplatives of the Serene Reflection Meditation (Soto Zen)

  • Ven. Kusala Bhikshu
  • Fr. Pierre-François de Béthune, OSB
    • General Secretary, Dialogue Monastique Interreligieux/Monastic Interreligious Dialogue
    • Monastère Saint André de Clerlande, Belgium
    • Author of the forthcoming L’Hospitalité Sacrée entre les Religions (Sacred Hospitality between the Religions)

  • Sr. Sarah Schwartzberg, OSB


Sessions each day:  

9-12 (half hour break)

1-4 (half hour break)

Altered schedule on July 4


Presentations on Muslim and Buddhist religious and cultural practices.

Sunday, July 1, 6:00 PM

Opening banquet in the Great Hall:

William Skudlarek, MC / Welcomes from Fr. Mark Serna (President of MID), William Cahoy (Dean of the School of Theology) Abbot John Klassen, Prioress Nancy Bauer

  • Introduction of presenters
  • Short presentation by Fr. Pierre-François de Béthune on why interreligious dialogue is so important for monastics

Monday, July 2: 

BUDDHISM [at Saint Benedict’s Monastery]

  • What it means to be a Buddhist [Ven. Kusala Bhikshu]
  • What it means to be a Buddhist monastic in contemporary America [Rev. Vivian Gruenenfelder]

Evening: Presentation on Buddhist meditation practices - by Ven. Kusala Bhikshu and Rev. Vivian Gruenenfelder

Tuesday, July 3:


    • What it means to be a Muslim
    • What it means to be a Muslim woman in contemporary America.
    • [Dr. Ingrid Mattson]

Evening Presentation:

The reading (chanting) of the Qur’an

Wednesday, July 4

*Special schedule to allow for attendance at the July 4th parade in Saint Joseph

  • Hospitality in the biblical tradition [Sr. Sarah Schwartzberg, OSB]
  • Hospitality in the Catholic monastic tradition [Fr. Pierre-François de Béthune]
  • Contemporary expressions of Catholic monastic hospitality toward other religions [Sr. Sarah and Fr. Pierre]
  • Issues that are more “theoretical/theological” will be addressed in the question/answer period.  Members of the MID Board especially will be ready to ask questions such as the following:
  • “You have told us about the Spiritual Exchange programs between European and Japanese monastics. Have these programs actually help evolve a deeper theological investigation of such basic issues for Catholics as the centrality of Jesus Christ or the meaning of ‘salvation’?”
  • “How would you answer someone who says we need to be careful about interreligious dialogue, because our faith could be weakened by too much contact with people of other religions?”


Japanese Tea Ceremony

Thursday, July 5:


  • Questions; observations; concluding presentations.
  • Brainstorming and actual proposals for ways in which American monastic communities can become involved in interreligious hospitality. 
  • Lunch (conclusion of the Institute)

Saint John's School of Theology·Seminary

Collegeville, Minnesota 56321