In the midst of the ecological challenges around us, there is a critical need to understand how we have arrived at this dilemma and the impact that Western culture has had on the health of the planet and all of its inhabitants. We are becoming increasingly aware of the many ways humanity has set itself apart from the rest of the planet’s ecosystems, how Western culture has lost both its roots in Earth and an appreciation for the sacredness of creation.
Theology is uniquely positioned to address these concerns. Drawing on sources from scripture, tradition, experience and scholarship, and offering critical analyses, hopeful visions and spiritual practices, it speaks to the heart of both the issues and its listeners. The Elliott Allen Institute for Theology & Ecology (EAITE) is one way that the Faculty of Theology at the University of St. Michael’s College is responding to these challenges. The EAITE is a collaborative institute rooted in theology (including ecotheology, ecospirituality, ecoethics, ecofeminism, ecojustice and gender justice) and partnered with science (including ecology and evolution) and the humanities (including religions, social sciences, economics, geography, politics and the arts). Through its association 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, it offers a specialization in theology and ecology. Interdisciplinary by design, the Institute facilitates serious contact between theological disciplines and the cultural paradigm shifts that are seeking to reinvent the human in ways that are mutually enhancing for humans and the rest of the planet.
The work of the EAITE is significantly informed by the insights of cultural historian and geologian Thomas Berry (1914-2009). A close associate of the founder of the EAITE, Stephen Dunn, and a frequent speaker at EAITE events, Thomas Berry’s scholarship and support have been instrumental in the success of the Institute.
- About the EAITE
In expressing our concern for the ecological crisis, the Elliott Allen Institute for Theology & Ecology (EAITE) seeks integrative methods for contributing to the healing of the Earth in all of its life systems. The EAITE is a collaborative teaching and research institute that offers a Certificate of Specialization in Theology and Ecology in each of the graduate programs of the Faculty of Theology at the University of St. Michael’s College, part of the Toronto School of Theology in the University of Toronto. Interdisciplinary by definition, the Institute facilitates serious contact between the theological disciplines and the scientific, cosmological, and cultural paradigm shifts that are shaping our times.
– to explore scripture, tradition, experience and contemporary scholarship to inform a theological response to the ecological challenges that beset the planet
– to develop and offer new liturgical expressions for exploring creation spirituality
– to educate teachers and students, policy makers and activists, the public and members of faith communities about challenges and solutions to the ecological crisis
– to promote scholarly research and mentor students in graduate programs
– to provide lectures, conferences, colloquia and workshops
– to be a resource to the news media, policy makers and educators
Collaboration and Integration
– to bring voices from academia—including science and the humanities—and from the arts, politics, NGOs and activist communities into creative dialogues concerning eco-theological issues
– to explore issues of economic, social, political, gender and ecological justice as these relate to eco-theology
Although courses in theology and ecology had been offered at the University of St. Michael’s College for several years prior to 1991, it was in that year that the Faculty of Theology decided to respond to a growing need expressed by theology students by creating the Elliott Allen Institute for Theology & Ecology. Under the direction of Professor Stephen Dunn, a member of the Faculty, and through the inspiration of the work of cultural historian Fr. Thomas Berry, the Institute developed a certificate programme that permitted students at the Toronto School of Theology (TST) 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 ecotheology (including ecospirituality, ecofeminism and ecoethics) as well as interdisciplinary theses involving ecotheology—a pioneering accomplishment of the EAITE. In addition to courses that enable students to explore the relationships between theology and ecology on a deeper level, the Institute has also 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.
Since its inception, the EAITE 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 centres. Today, this collaboration continues at St. Gabriel’s Passionist Parish in Toronto through the monthly EcoSabbath Gatherings and the annual Advent-Solstice Evening of Reflection as well as an annual course in ecotheology and praxis hosted at Villa St. Joseph Ecology and Spirituality Centre in Cobourg.
Professor 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 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 geologian 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. Dr. Dunn has now retired from the university but 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 began his career as a chiropractor and naturopathic doctor, both as a practitioner in private practice as well as an educator at colleges for each of these professions. He has been a consultant and facilitator for the Natural Health Products Directorate of Health Canada where he facilitated six international consultations. He has drafted a description of the naturopathic profession for the World Health Organization and wrote the summative report for the 2006 World Health Organization International Consultation on Phytotherapy held in Milan, Italy.
In 1988, he began his theological studies, eventually completing masters and doctoral degrees as well as a specialization in theology and ecology at the Faculty of Theology, University of St. Michael’s College. Since 2001, he has been a faculty member at that Faculty and the Director of the EAITE, directing many masters and doctoral theses on various aspects of ecological theology and ethics. He is also an associate member of the graduate faculty at the School for the Environment at the University of Toronto where he has co-taught courses on the environment and health. For 10 years, he was a core faculty member of the certificate programme in Corporate Social Responsibility at the University of St. Michael’s College. Dr. O’Hara regularly delivers popular and academic lectures in Canada, the United States, and Korea on ecotheology, ecospirituality, ecoethics, and integral ecology and human health.
- Earning a Certificate of Specialization in Theology and Ecology
Once a student is enrolled in any of the graduate programmes at the Toronto School of Theology, she or he can apply to the Institute to establish a personal path toward completing a specialization in theology and ecology. Certain courses that satisfy the requirements of the student’s graduate programme can concurrently satisfy the requirements of the specialization in theology and ecology. For the purposes of the certificate, these courses can be considered as Core, Paradigm, and Issue courses. The types and number of core, paradigm and issue courses that the student would be required to take will depend on the graduate programme being completed. Please consult the Director of the Institute to ensure that your choices satisfy the requirements for a specialization in theology and ecology.
If you are not enrolled in a graduate programme at one of the member colleges of the Toronto School of Theology but would be interested in taking one or some of the courses that explore matters of ecotheology (ecospirituality, ecofeminism, ecoethics, etc.), contact the Director of the Institute to learn how these courses might be taken for credit or simply for audit.
Course Requirements for the Certificate of Specialization Degree Programme Core Paradigm or Cross-Disciplinary Courses Issue Thesis Basic Degree Program 3 1 2 replaces 1 core & 1 issue course Advanced Degree Programme 3 1 2 replaces 1 core & 1 issue course
Core courses focus on ecotheology and may include courses in ecospirituality, ecofeminism, ecoethics, ecojustice, eco-economics, eco-scripture, among others.
Examples of core courses are:
- SMT2610: Eco-Theology: Faith and Practice
- SMT3370/6370: Spirituality & Ecology: Integration and Implications
- SMT3652/6652: Introduction the Eco-Theology
- SMT3955/6955: Approaches to Ecological Ethics
- EMT3344/6344: Creation and Eschatology
- EMT3606/6606: God and Evolution
- TSXxxxx: Reading and Research course with a core focus on ecotheology
Not every core course is offered every semester or even every year. Please check course offerings and course descriptions here. Please check with the Director of the Institute for guidance on the choice of core courses.
Paradigm or Cross-Disciplinary Courses
Paradigm courses consider contemporary and/or previous paradigms and the ways that these worldviews have informed the behaviour of humans toward each other and the rest of the planet. They may, or may not, make specific reference to the ecological crisis. However, the instructor welcomes the student’s interest in making connections between these paradigms and the ecological crisis and/or its resolution. Paradigm courses might include courses on religion and science, process theology, theology and aboriginal or indigenous peoples, feminist theology, theological anthropology, or theology and culture.
Examples of paradigm courses are:
- SMT2328: Creation, fall, Grace, Glory
- SMT5603: Frontiers of Theology
- EMP3471: Aboriginal Spirituality
- EMT5931: Theology and Ethics in Postcolonial and Intercultural Frames
- RGT5601: Faith and Culture
- RGT6841: Inculturation: Theory and Practice
- TRT5948 – Critical Theory and Feminist Religious Thought
- WYT2802 – Beyond Homelessness: Theology in a Postmodern World
- WYT6805: Postmodernity: A Christian Worldview
Not every paradigm course is offered every semester or even every year. Please check course offerings and course descriptions here. Please check with the Director of the Institute for guidance on the choice of paradigm courses.
Cross-Disciplinary Courses are courses offered at the School of Graduate Studies at the University of Toronto that can serve as a cognate course for the student’s study of theology and ecology. The professor teaching the course must permit the student to take the course for credit. The student must also ensure the registrar for the student’s college is aware of the arrangement. An example of a cross-disciplinary course would be:
- ENV1008: Worldviews and Ecology
Issue courses are not designed to consider the ecological crisis, eco-theology, or an ecological paradigm. Nevertheless, it is possible for these courses to satisfy the requirements for an issue course if the following three conditions can be met: i) the instructor teaching the course welcomes the student’s ecological interests; ii) the course material is suitable for the pursuit of an eco-theological question or issue; and iii) the student’s summative paper for the course considers an eco-theological question or issue. The student brings an ecotheological perspective to a course without expecting the course to be taught from that perspective. Virtually any course can become an issue or light green course with the instructor’s support.
For example, a course on Christology (e.g., SMT2242 – Christology) can become a light green or issues course if the student enrolled in the EAITE writes a summative paper on the cosmic Christ. Similarly, in a course on moral theology (e.g., SMT1904 – Fundamental Themes on Christian Ethics), the student’s summative paper might consider issues of eco-justice. In a course on creation and grace (e.g., SMT2328 – Creation, Fall, Grace & Glory; or RGT2321 – Creation, Man/Woman, Sin), the student might examine contemporary interest in creation theology or the development of an ecotheological anthropology. In a course on the Old Testament (e.g., SMB1007 – Introduction to Old Testament; SMB2278 – Israel’s Wisdom Tradition), the student’s summative paper could explore the meaning of imago Dei as presented in chapter 2 of Genesis and the implications of various interpretations of that text; or our understanding of God’s relationship with creation as presented in Wisdom literature. Virtually any course can become an issue or light green course with the instructor’s support.
Please check with the Director of the Institute for guidance on the choice of issue courses.
- EAITE Graduate Theses
Year of defence Author Title Director Degree Link to Thesis Doctoral Theses 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 Theses 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 Pending 2019 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 2019 Abigail Lofte Transfiguring Earth: An Ecological Theology of the Resurrection Dr. Dennis Patrick O’Hara, University of St. Michael’s College PhD 2019 Michael Taylor Ross “Ecstasy of the Earth”: Toward an Erotic, Evolutionary Ecotheological Anthropology Dr. Dennis Patrick O’Hara, University of St. Michael’s College PhD 2019 Somyong Lee The Paradisiacal Life of Earth: An Exploration of Eco-mysticism via Thomas Merton’s Encounters with Zen in Dialogue with Thomas Berry and Raimon Panikkar Dr. Dennis Patrick O’Hara, University of St. Michael’s College PhD 2019 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 2019 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.