1977-[ongoing]Origination : Monastic Interreligious Dialogue
Monastic Interreligious Dialogue
Monastic Interreligious Dialogue Records (MID), University of Notre Dame Archives (UNDA), Notre Dame, IN 46556
Records of the Board, of the Chairpersons, of the Executive Secretaries or Executive Directors (Sister Paschaline Coff, OSB, Father Edward McCorkell, OCSO, Sister Katherine Howard, OSB, and Sister Mary Margaret Funk, OSB); financial records, publications, photographs, and audio-visual material; with documentation of the Gethsemani Encounter in 1996 and the Nuns in the West Conference in 2003.
The actual beginning of the Monastic Interreligious Dialogue can be traced back to January 6-8, 1978, the first meeting of the American permanent working group for interreligious dialogue at the Benedictine Monastery in Clyde, Missouri. The foundations, however, were laid much earlier.
Prior to any formal program there were Christian monastics living in the East, assimilating the truths they found in eastern religions and teaching others. Thomas Merton, through his own interest, study and experience fostered the exchange. Special impetus was given to the dialogue in 1965. In a document on the relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate), the Second Vatican Council declared that "the Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions" and encouraged its members to collaborate and exchange with those of said religions. The Church also set up a permanent commission, the Secretariat for Non-Christians, later known as the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
The two conferences for all Asian monastics, sponsored by Aide Inter Monasteres (AIM), in Bangkok in 1968 and in Bangalore in 1973, further encouraged the exchange, and in 1974 Cardinal Sergio Pignedoli, president of the Secretariat for Non-Christians, asked the Benedictine Federation, by way of a letter to the Abbot Primate, to take on the task of continuing and developing the dialogue.
The responsibility was then delegated to AIM. Cornelius Tholens, OSB, head of the subcommission on East-West dialog, consequently invited two core groups, one in Europe and one in North America, to explore ways to implement the task. One group met in Petersham, MA June 4-13, 1977, the other in Loppem, Belgium later that year, and set up permanent working groups. The European branch took the name Dialog Inter Monasteres (DIM); the American counterpart chose the title North American Board for East-West Dialog (NABEWD), later changed to Monastic Interreligious Dialogue (MID).
The immediate aim of NABEWD was "to stimulate and help monks and monastic women of North America become more sensitized to Eastern monasticism and eventually to prepare for dialogue with them. In turn, to sensitize the East to the Western spiritual traditions, awakening both mutually to the various riches and possibilities" (Minutes of first meeting, January 6-8, 1978).
The Monastic Interreligious Dialogue was incorporated under the laws of the State of Minnesota on January 25, 1993, and the Convent (Monastery) of St. Benedict designated as the registered office.
The Sisters of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, Minnesota, entered into an agreement with the board of the Monastic Interrelious Dialogue to provide archival space and services. On July 20, 1994, Sister Katherine Howard, OSB, former executive secretary, deposited the first boxes of materials, approximately 4.5 linear feet, in St. Benedict's Monastery Archives. Subsequent shipments have been received from Sister Mary Margaret Funk, OSB, current executive director, which brought the amount of records to about 18 linear feet.
In 2004 the Board decided to move the archival records to the Notre Dame Archives, and subsequently approximately 20 linear feet of materials were transferred.