The Elliott Allen Institute for Theology and Ecology

The Elliott Allen Institute for Theology and Ecology

The Elliott Allen Institute for Theology and Ecology aims at building bridges between scholars, theologians, faith communities and faith-based organizations with the aim of cultivating visions and practices for an inclusive, just, and ecologically sustainable society.

The Elliott Allen Institute for Theology and Ecology is a leading, collaborative institution in ecological theology rooted in the Catholic tradition. Taking its foundational inspiration from the visionary work of cultural historian and priest Thomas Berry (1914-2009), the institute initiates and facilitates ecumenical and interdisciplinary scholarship and conversations that foster integrated knowledge and transformative visions for an inclusive, just, and ecologically sustainable society. As we are faced with accelerating climate change, loss of biodiversity, and eco-system collapse, it is essential that we recover our relationship to the earth, our kinship with non-human life, and the sacredness of creation. The task of ecological theology is to articulate an earth-honoring faith that draws together scientific knowledge with the wisdom of religious cosmologies. Because ecological destruction affects poor and marginalized communities differently, the Elliott Allen Institute foregrounds an integrated approach to ecological theology that addresses the structural, intersecting injustices in our society and promotes integral human development and environmental justice. 

In collaboration with the other member schools of the Toronto School of Theology (TST) as well as the School of the Environment and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, the Elliott Allen Institute offers a Certificate program for Master and PhD students seeking to specialize in Theology and Ecology. The Institute also offers a Diploma in Theology and Ecology as a continuing education program. The Institute regularly organizes webinars, conferences and lectures aimed at both academic and non-academic audiences.


We are faced with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.

Pope Francis (Laudato Si’, §139)

New Directorship

Hilda P. Koster

Image depicts Dr. Hilda Koster standing in front of a long hallway

Hilda Koster took up the Directorship of the Elliott Allen Institute July 1, 2021. She is Associate Professor of Ecological Theology and holds the Sisters of St. Joseph’s of Toronto Chair in Theology in the Faculty of Theology at the University of St. Michael’s College. A native of the Netherlands, she received a BA and M.Div. from the University of Groningen, a Th.M. from Princeton Theological Seminary and earned her doctorate from the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. Dr. Koster research focuses on eco-feminist theology, climate justice and resource extraction. At St. Mike’s she teaches courses in ecological theology, ecological ethics and spirituality, as well as a doctoral seminar on Eco-Feminism, New Materialism and Ecological Theology. Dr. Koster’s publications on Theology, Eco-Feminism and Environmental Ethics have appeared in Theology Today, Modern Theology, The Journal of Religion, The Anglican Theological Review, and Scriptura. She co-edited/authored The Gift of Theology: The Contribution of Kathryn Tanner (Fortress Press, 2015) with Rosemary Carbine; Planetary Solidarity: Global Women’s Voices on Christian Doctrine and Climate Justice (Fortress Press, 2017) with Grace Ji-Sun Kim; The T&T Clark Handbook of Christian Theology and Climate Change (Bloomsbury, 2019) with Ernst M. Conradie; and Solidarity with Earth: A Multi-Disciplinary Theological Engagement with Gender and Resource Extraction (forthcoming with Bloomsbury 2021). Dr. Koster is also the co-editor of the T&T Clark book series Explorations in Theology, Gender and Ecology (Bloomsbury).

  • Past Directors

    Dr. Stephen Dunn, C.P., a Passionist priest and professor in the Faculty of Theology at the University of St. Michael’s College, was the founder and first director of the Elliott Allen Institute of Theology and Ecology (EAITE). In the late 1970s, the Passionists’ Holy Cross Centre for Ecology and Spirituality in Port Burwell, Ontario began exploring an emerging interest in the relationship between theology and its response to the ecological crisis. Significantly influenced by the work of Thomas Berry, Stephen Dunn and the other members of the Centre’s staff used the workshops, retreats and colloquia of the Centre to delve into this new field. This collaborative process prompted the Faculty of Theology at the University of St. Michael’s College to welcome the creation of the EAITE in 1991. In that same year, its certificate of specialization in theology and ecology was extended to not only to the graduate students at St. Michael’s but also to the graduate students in the Toronto School of Theology. After his retirement in 2001 Dr. Dunn remains active with the Passionist Centre for Ecology and Spirituality. Both he and the Passionist community continue to provide support and valuable advice to the EAITE.

    Dr. Dennis Patrick O’Hara served as the second Director of the Elliott Allen Institute for Theology and Ecology from 2001 till his retirement in 2019. Initially trained as chiropractor and naturopathic physician, Dr. O’Hara earned masters and doctoral degrees as well as a specialization in Theology and Ecology at the Faculty of Theology, University of St. Michael’s College. As a Director Dr. O’Hara continued the EAITE’s focus on the work and legacy of Thomas Berry though also fostering deep connections with Catholic Social Thought. As an Associate member of the Graduate Faculty at the School for the Environment at the University of Toronto, Dr. O’Hara furthered cross-disciplinary connections between Elliott Allen and the scientific disciplines.

  • History of the EAITE

    Named after Fr. Elliott Bernard Allen (1921-1981), who was the founding Dean of Faculty of Theology at the University of St. Michael’s College, the Elliott Allen Institute for Theology and Ecology was created in 1991 in response to the growing environmental crisis. The institute’s first Director, Fr. Stephen Dunn, C.P., through the inspiration of the work of cultural historian Fr. Thomas Berry (1914-2009), developed a certificate program that permitted students at the Toronto School of Theology to acquire a specialization in theology and ecology while they concurrently completed a graduate degree in theology. Since 1991, students have also been able to complete master and doctoral level theses in eco-theology (including eco-spirituality, eco-feminism, and eco-ethics) as well as interdisciplinary theses involving eco-theology—a pioneering accomplishment of the Elliott Allen Institute. In addition to courses that enable students to explore the relationships between theology and ecology on a deeper level, the Institute has hosted public lectures, bringing experts in a variety of fields into dialogue with theologians so that issues pertaining to the ecological challenges might be creatively explored. Lectures have been delivered by: Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, Mary Evelyn Tucker, John Grim, Rosemary Radford Reuther, Heather Eaton, Anne Marie Dalton, Christopher Key Chapple, Chung Hyun Kyung, Theodore Roszak, Stephen Bede Scharper, Edmund O’Sullivan, John Haught, Dieter Hessel, Dorothy Golden Rosenberg, and Celia Deane-Drummond, among others. After Fr. Dunn’s retirement in 2001, Dr. Dennis O’Hara took over as the Institute’s Director. Dr. Hilda Koster is the third Director to lead the Institute. She took up her duties in July 2021.

    Since its inception, the Elliott Allen Institute has enjoyed a close relationship with the Passionists of Canada, especially at the former the Holy Cross Centre for Ecology and Spirituality that they owned for many years at Port Burwell, (Ontario) as well as the Sisters of the Congregation of St. Joseph, especially at their Villa St. Joseph Ecology and Spirituality Centre in Cobourg, Ontario. Through these partnerships, the work of the Institute has been enlarged and enhanced. The student members of the Institute have expanded their classroom education to the more natural settings of these retreat centers. Today, this collaboration continues at St. Gabriel’s Passionist Parish in Toronto through the monthly Eco-Sabbath gatherings and the annual Advent-Solstice Evening of Reflection as well as an annual course in eco-praxis hosted at Villa St. Joseph Ecology and Spirituality Centre in Cobourg.

    In 2012 a brief video about the mission and history of Elliott Allen was made, which include unique archival material of a lecture by Fr. Thomas Berry. 

  • Earning a Certificate of Specialization in Theology and Ecology

    Once a student is enrolled in any of the graduate programs at the Toronto School of Theology, a student can pursue a specialization in Theology and Ecology. Certain courses that satisfy the requirements of the student’s graduate program can concurrently satisfy the requirements of the specialization in Theology and Ecology. For the purposes of the certificate, these courses can be considered as Introduction, Experiential, Exploration, or Issue courses. The types and number of courses that the student is required to take will depend on the graduate program being completed. Please consult with the Programs Coordinator of the University of St Michael’s College and the Director of the Elliott Allen Institute to ensure that your choices satisfy the requirements for a specialization in Theology and Ecology.

     

    Basic Degree Program

    Students pursuing the certificate in Theology and Ecology as part of a MDiv, MTS, or MRE program will be required to take a total of seven units of study: two required introduction courses and five elective courses. Whereas introduction courses provide a foundation for the study of Theology and Ecology, elective courses offer the opportunity to study a particular topic in depth and/or integrate the study of Theology and Ecology trough field experiences in eco-justice ministry, eco-spirituality, and/or interfaith engagement. The division of course requirements for BD degree students are as follows (for course listings see below):

    2 Introduction Courses

    1 Experiential Course

    2 Exploration Courses

    2 Issue Courses

     

     

    Advanced Degree Program

    Students pursuing the certificate in Theology and Ecology as part of a MA, ThM, DMin, or PhD program will need to take five units of study courses at the AD level.

    1 Introduction Course

    2 Exploration Courses

    2 Issue Courses (one of these courses may be replaced by an Experiential Learning Course)

     

    Courses

    Below is a description of the different categories of courses and a list of sample courses for each category. Courses listed under Experiential, Exploration and Issue courses are recommended courses – students may take a course not listed to fulfill these course requirements. All courses will need to be approved by the Programs Coordinator in consultation with the Institute’s Director.

    Introduction Courses

    Introduction courses aim at introducing you to the field of Theology and Ecology and offer a foundation for further study. Depending on your degree program you will need to take either one or two of the following courses to fulfill this requirement. Courses listed may be offered in alternate years. You are encouraged to consult the Programs Coordinator and the EAITE Director as to when a course will be offered.

    SMT 3652/6652: Introduction to Eco-Theology

    SMT 3955/6955: Approaches to Ecological Ethics

    SMT 3370/6370: Spirituality and Ecology: Integration and Implications

     

    Experiential Learning Courses

    Experiential courses offer an opportunity to study Theology and Ecology through experiences with gardening and organic farming; ecological conservation or preservation; wildlife habitat restoration; eco-justice advocacy work; or multi-faith engagement. BD degree students are required to complete an experiential learning course as part of the certificate program. Students seeking the certificate through one of the AD programs have the option to replace an Issue course requirement with an Experiential course. Students in both degree programs also have the option to design their own experiential learning experience.

     

    Please contact the Institute’s Director about experiential learning courses and opportunities.

    Examples of courses:

    SMT 2610: Eco-Theology: Faith and Practice

    SMT3540: Interfaith in the City*

    SMH2801: A Journey Through History: The Jesuit Missions in Early Modern Canada*

    SMT3633: ln-culturation and Spirituality*

    SMP 2600: MDiv students may also fulfill the experiential requirement by directing their supervised field placement work toward eco-ministry, either by working with an eco-parish, outdoor ministry (e.g., summer camp), or faith-based organization working on eco-justice or wildlife restoration/preservation. There also is the opportunity to bring an eco-theological question to a field-placement setting that does not explicitly focus on eco-justice or outdoor ministry. Whereas supervised field work is required of all MDiv students, it is optional for MTS students. Both MDiv and MTS students who desire to have their fieldwork count towards the Theology and Ecology program’s experiential learning requirement should consult with the Programs Coordinator and the Director of Pastoral Formation.

     

    *A form indicating how this course’s learning experiences are tailored to topics relevant to the experiential learning course requirement for the Theology and Ecology Certificate need to be filled out and signed by the student, the Programs Coordinator and the Faculty member teaching or supervising the course in advance of taking the course.

     

    Exploration Courses 

    Exploration courses allow you to further explore a topic, perspective, or paradigm in the field of Theology and Ecology. Courses that count towards the exploration requirement may explore topics such as eco-justice, food and food justice, nature mysticism, gender and ecology, Indigenous spirituality, and environmental racism. Exploration courses may also help you explore paradigms emerging in the field of eco-theology, such as decolonial theory, ecofeminism/womanism, new materialism, and affect theory. Courses may further focus on a visionary thinker/theologian influential for the field of Theology and Ecology. Exploration courses typically have the ecological crisis as an explicit focus.

    Examples of exploration courses:

    SMT 5604 Eco-Feminism, New Materialism and Ecological Theology

    SMT 3370/6370: Spirituality and Ecology: Integration and Implications

    EMT 3950/6950 Ethics, Colonization and Care of the Planet

    EMT2XXX Engaging Spirit: Indigenous Theological Worldviews

    RGT 3532/6532 Theological Significance of Wendell Berry

    RGT 3661/6661 Mystical Landscape Art: From Vincent van Gogh to Emily Carr

    TRB 3831/6831 Land, Food, and Justice: The Biblical Witness

    TRT 2872 Taste and See: A Theology of Food

     

    Courses offered through the Graduate Program of the University of Toronto, for example:

    RLG 411 Re-Enchanting Nature: Spirituality and the New Nature Writing

    Students may fulfill an exploration course requirement by taking an undergraduate course in Religion and/or Environmental Studies through the University of St Michael’s College or the University of Toronto. Note that while these courses count towards the Certificate Program, they do not count towards the student’s BD/AD program. The student must ensure permission from the Programs Coordinator and contact the Registrar about the arrangement. Examples of relevant undergraduate courses are:

    SMC 232 Christianity and Science

    ENV 330 Ecological World Views

    ENV 333 Waste Not: Faith Based Environmentalism

    RLG 318 Religion and Nature

     

    Issue Courses

    Issue courses address ecology as one of the issues within a course (e.g., the study of Cosmic Christology in a course on Christology). These courses typically are not offered as courses that focus solely on ecology but provide sufficient attention to the topic to allow students to make the connection with ecology within the overall focus of the course. To have these courses count towards the certificate in Theology and Ecology, the student is asked to focus at least one major course assignment on a topic or concern related to ecology, cosmology, and/or eco-justice and sustainability.

     

    Examples of issue courses:

    SMT 3608 Catholic Social Teaching

    SMT 2242 Christology

    SMT 2223 Mystery of the Triune God

    SMT2328 Creation, Fall, Grace, Glory

    SMB 2278 Israel’s Wisdom Tradition

    EMT 3946/6949 Contemporary Ethical Issues in Cultural and Religious Perspectives

    EMT 3664 Indigenous Relationships-Exploring, Faith, Church, Family

    RGB 3751/6751 The Book of Revelation

    TRT5671 Cross-Cultural Religious Thought

    KNT5651 Ecumenical Missional Ecclesiology

    KNT3631 Theology of Religions: Diversity, Plurality, and the Christian Message

  • Diploma in Theology and Ecology

    The Diploma in Theology and Ecology is a 10-course program aimed at professionals and students who wish to integrate the study of environmental issues and theology in their professional careers and for those who wish to study the theological and ethical dimension of environmental problems.

    The Diploma in Theology and Ecology is based in the USMC curriculum and the Toronto School of Theology. It draws on faculty resources in biblical studies, ethics, liturgical studies, pastoral care, spirituality, theology, and world religions and ecology. It spans the study of eco-theology; eco-spirituality; eco-feminism; theologies of embodiment, place, land, race, and indigeneity; environmental ethics; liturgy and creation; and cosmology and ecology.

    The vision for the Diploma in Theology and Ecology is shaped by Catholic Social Teaching, and especially Pope Francis’s landmark environmental encyclical Laudato Si’: On the Care for Our Common Home (2015).

    Requirements

    The Diploma in Theology and Ecology is a 10-course program. Most courses require 12 hours of contact time, with scheduling set by the instructor – e.g., four classes of three hours each, or a weekend with two six-hour days.

    The program requires students to take five required courses, one in-depth course, 2 ecology and theology electives, one experiential course, and a capstone project worth one unit of study.

    Whereas foundational courses offer an introduction to and foundation for the study of theology and ecology, elective courses offer the opportunity to further explore an area or topic of interest within theology and ecology. The field experience course is intended to integrate the study of theology and ecology trough field experiences in eco-justice ministry, eco-spirituality, and/or interfaith engagement.

    Courses

    Below is a description of the different categories of courses and a list of (sample) courses for each category.

    Category 1: Five Required Foundational Courses

    Introduction to the Old Testament

    Introduction to the New Testament

    Foundations of Theology

    Introduction to Eco-Theology

    Approaches to Ecological Ethics

     

    Category 2: In-depth Course (One Course)

    Choose one in-depth course from among the following courses:

    Catholic Social Teaching

    Christology

    Trinity

    Creation, Fall, Grace, Glory

    Fundamental Themes in Christian Ethics

    Israel’s Wisdom Tradition

    Category 3: Ecology and Theology (Two Courses)

    Choose two elective courses. Elective courses allow for further exploration of a topic, perspective, or paradigm in the field of theology and ecology. Courses that count towards the elective requirement may explore topics such as eco-justice; food and food justice; nature mysticism; gender and ecology; Indigenous spirituality; and environmental racism. Examples of elective courses are:

    Spirituality and Ecology: Integration and Implications SMT 3370/6370

    Ethics, Colonization and Care of the Planet EMT 3950/6950

    Engaging Spirit: Indigenous Theological Worldviews EMT2XXX

    Theological Significance of Wendell Berry RGT 3532/6532

    Mystical Landscape Art: From Vincent van Gogh to Emily Carr RGT 3661/6661

    Land, Food, and Justice: The Biblical Witness TRB 3831/6831

    Taste and See: A Theology of Food TRT 2872

    Category 4: Experiential (One Course)

    Students will need to complete one experiential course. Experiential courses offer an opportunity to study theology and ecology through experiences with gardening and organic farming; ecological conservation or preservation; wildlife habitat restoration; eco-justice advocacy work; and/or multi-faith engagement.

    Experiential Course Offerings:

    Eco-Theology: Faith and Practice SMT 2610

    Interfaith in the City SMT3540

    A Journey Through History: The Jesuit Missions in Early Modern Canada SMH2801

    ln-culturation and Spirituality SMT3633

     

    Category 5: Capstone Project (One Unit of Study) 

    This requirement can be completed in consultation with the Director of the Elliott Allen Institute and the Programs Coordinator.

  • Past Master’s and Doctoral Theses

    Doctoral Theses

    Year  Author        Title                                 Supervisor                       Degree

     

    2020

    Rachel Knight-Messenger

    Mystical Theology and Ecological Theology: The Role of Nature Mysticism in Building Ecological Theology and Ethics Dr. Dennis Patrick O’Hara, University of St. Michael’s College PhD
               
    2017 Youngmin Song Toward an Ecological Conversion: Ecospiritual Literacy for Developing Roman Catholic Ecological Education Dr. Dennis Patrick O’Hara, University of St. Michael’s College PhD
    2017 Christopher Hrynkow It Should Not Be That Easy Using Green: A Mapping of a Green Theo-Ecoethical Hermeneutical Lens in Conversation with Pope Francis’ Peace Witness, Evangelii Gaudium, and Laudato Si’ Dr. Dennis Patrick O’Hara, University of St. Michael’s College ThD Hrynkow on T-Space
    2016 Matthew Eaton Enfleshing Cosmos And Earth: An Ecological Theology Of Divine Incarnation Dr. Dennis Patrick O’Hara, University of St. Michael’s College PhD Eaton on T-Space
    2015 Catherine Wright In the Darkness Grows the Green: The Promise of a New Cosmological Horizon of Meaning within a Critical Inquiry of Suffering and the Cross Dr. Dennis Patrick O’Hara, University of St. Michael’s College PhD Wright on T-Space
    2014 Simon Appolloni Convergent Knowing: Explorations of a Sustained – and ‘Sustainable’ – Theological Reflection on Science, Environment, and Liberation Dr. Stephen Bede Scharper, University of Toronto PhD Appolloni on T-space
    2012 Kwang Sun Choi The Sacred Journey of the Earth Community: Towards a Functional and Ecological Spirituality via the Cosmologies of Thomas Berry and Zhou Dunyi Dr. Dennis Patrick O’Hara, University of St. Michael’s College ThD Choi on T-Space
    2010 Linda Gregg Encountering A Mystic Garden: Trinitarian Spirituality and Thomas Berry’s Cosmology Dr. Dennis Patrick O’Hara & Dr. Ellen Leonard, University of St. Michael’s College DMin
    2010 Davileen Radigan Integration-with-creation: new spiritual dimensions of ecological stewardship for Catholic education Dr. Brian Walsh, Wycliffe College DMin
    2004 Leon Chartrand An Originative Perspective of Wildness and Its Implications for Dwelling in Nearness to Grizzly Bears in the Yellowstone: A Phenomenological Case for a Primordial Ethic Dr. Ron Mercier, Regis College, Dr. Stephen Dunn, University of St. Michael’s College, & Dr. Ingrid Stefanovic, University of Toronto PhD
    2004 Jai-Don Lee Towards an Asian Ecotheology in the Context of Thomas Berry’s Cosmology: A Critical Inquiry Dr. Marilyn Legge, Emmanuel College, & Dr. Stephen Dunn University of St. Michael’s College ThD Lee on ProQuest
    1999 Dorothy McDougall The Cosmos as Primary Sacrament: The Horizon for an Ecological Sacramental Theology Dr. Ellen Leonard & Dr. Stephen Dunn, University of St. Michael’s College PhD McDougall on T-space
    1998 Dennis Patrick O’Hara The Implications of Thomas Berry’s Cosmology for an Understanding of the Spiritual Dimension of Human Health Dr. Stephen Dunn & Dr. Ellen Leonard, University of St. Michael’s College PhD O’Hara on T-Space
    1997 Heather Eaton A Critical Inquiry into Ecofeminist Cosmology Dr. Marsha Hewett, Trinity College, & Dr. Stephen Dunn, University of St. Michael’s College PhD
    1993 Laurent Leduc Intellectual conversion and the Gaia hypothesis: a paradigm for science and theology in dialogue Dr. Robert Doran, Regis College, & Dr. Stephen Dunn, University of St. Michael’s College PhD
    Master’s Theses     ThM    
    2017 Gregory Aleksander Rupik  

    The Technocratic Paradigm as Promethean Vice: Pope Francis and Pierre Hadot on Nature and Humanity

    Dr. Dennis Patrick O’Hara, University of St. Michael’s College MA Rupik on T-Space
    2012 Idara Otu  

    The Eco-Theologies of Thomas Berry and John Zizioulas: Intimations for Ecological Justice

    Dr. Jaroslav Skira, Regis College ThM Otu on T-Space
    2008 Jong Yun Baek  

    An Exploration of the Authentic Self using the Functional Spirituality of Thomas Berry

     

     

    Dr. Dennis Patrick O’Hara, University of St. Michael’s College

    ThM
    2008 Michael Ross Evolving Revisions of the Fall: The Doctrine of Original Sin  

     

    Dr. Dennis Patrick O’Hara, University of St. Michael’s College

    MA
    2004 Milton Teixeira Ecological Conversion in Thomas Berry’s Functional Cosmology as a Context for Reflection on the Practice of Social Justice Dr. Dennis Patrick O’Hara, University of St. Michael’s College ThM
    2004 Simon Appolloni  

     

    The Greening of Catholicism: An Examination of How the Roman Catholic Tradition Could Grow and Change Through Critical Reflection Upon the Fourfold Wisdom as Proposed by Thomas Berry

    Dr. Dennis Patrick O’Hara, University of St. Michael’s College MDiv
     
               
               
               
                   
               
               
               
               

     Master’s Theses Completed in 2020

               
    Douglas Kaufman Who Cares About Climate Change? Pastoral Responses to Denial and Despair Dr. Dennis Patrick O’Hara, University of St. Michael’s College ThM
    Jinyoung Hong An Ecotheological Anthropology: Informed by a Revised Understanding of Imago Dei Dr. Dennis Patrick O’Hara, University of St. Michael’s College ThM

     

     

  • Donating to the EAITE

    Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the EAITE so that we can continue the good work of the Institute and support the education of our students. For more information, please consult the Ways to Give page on the University of St. Michael’s College website. Be sure to specify that your donation is to be directed to the EAITE. Thank you.

  • Contact

    Dr. Hilda P Koster
    Director, EAITE
    121 St. Joseph Street, Office 315
    Toronto, ON
    Email: hilda.koster@utoronto.ca or eaite.contact@utoronto.ca

    Diana Cappuccitti-Addeo
    Executive Assistant, Faculty of Theology
    121 St. Joseph Street, Office 309
    Email: diana.cappuccittiaddeo@utoronto.ca
    Tel: 416-926-7265 Fax: 416-926-7294

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