By Mark Dixon

A dedicated group of Thomas Merton Center community members began meeting this year to discuss plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Center. Founded in 1972, the Merton Center reaches its 50 year “birthday” in 2022, and discussions of celebratory activities have ranged from musical performances to lecture series to essay anthologies and beyond. This celebration presents an extraordinary opportunity to reflect on the Center’s past accomplishments and launch it into a new era of supporting inspired activists and activism. All past, present, and future members of the Thomas Merton Center are welcome to join in the planning process, and can contact Mark Dixon for more information:, 412-204-6098. 

The first planning meeting for the 50th Anniversary took place at the home of Molly Rush in January of 2020, where she shared several binders of the NewPeople from the early years of the Center. Molly was joined by Charlie McCollester, Ken Joseph, Ros Maholland, Mark Dixon, and Pat Fenton. 

You may have heard that Pat Fenton passed away over Easter weekend. We were honored to have his presence and insight at the first and second planning meetings, where he encouraged consideration of spiritual lessons revealed by Thomas Merton’s life and words. Pat also spoke thoughtfully about the Merton Center’s legacy of work against militarism and was eager to see the Center evolve into greater cultural relevance in the future. We will miss his voice and endeavor to carry his suggestions thoughtfully into the Anniversary planning process. 

The second and third planning meetings brought in a few additional voices including Rosemary Trump and Bette McDevitt. Throughout all the meetings, discussions were lively, as participants reflected about the Center’s priorities and actions over decades of activism. These reflections informed additional conversations about the “next 50 years of activism” and how the anniversary can launch the Center into a new age and better serve the needs of activists in the future. Topics of spirituality, climate change, economic injustice, militarism, refugees, racism, worker solidarity, and “beloved community” emerged in wide-ranging discussions. Ideas for celebratory activities went well beyond a single 50th anniversary event, including (but not limited to): 

An anthology of TMC-themed essays submitted by community members 

– A collection of historical TMC photos 

– A historical video compilation 

– A listening forum to amplify diverse community voices 

– A poetry reading 

– A play or dramatic performance 

– A lecture series

– TMC-inspired artwork 

– Musical performances (Mike Stout plans to write a special song!) 

Discussion also touched on ideas for fundraising to support these initiatives. Furthermore, on October 21, 2019, the Merton Center board of directors approved the allocation of $10,000 to “fund activities to celebrate the 50th Anniversary.” (Source: TMC Board Meeting minutes from October 21, 2019) 

We are actively looking for more community members to participate in this exciting planning process! If you have ideas that you would like to be considered for the Anniversary, we welcome your contributions. Please contact Mark Dixon as indicated above.. 

Mark Dixon is a local filmmaker, activist, and Thomas Merton Center board member. 

NewPeople Newspaper VOL. 50 No. 4. May/June, 2020. All rights reserved.

Categories: News

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