Kathleen P. Deignan, C.N.D., (born December 17, 1947), is an Irish-American theologian, author and sacred song writer who has been engaged in the ministry of liturgical musicianship for over forty years. She is currently composer-in-residence of Schola Ministries and is the founder and director of Iona Spirituality Institute at Iona College, New York, and previously directed the Iona Institute for Peace and Justice Studies in Ireland. Sister Kathleen is a GreenFaith Fellow who recently completed an intensive training in religious environmental leadership. Her work in this area focuses on the prophet legacy of Father Thomas Berry and The Great Work of our time. She is President of the International Thomas Merton Society.
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Professor of Religious Studies at Iona College, Deignan is the founder and director of the Iona Spirituality Institute, a project for the "celebration and study of the spiritual life". She received her masters degree in Spirituality Studies and her doctorate in Historical Theology from Fordham University in New York, where she was to later be awarded the university's Sapientia et Doctrina Award for her service to renewal of the church in 2009. She is the author of Christ Spirit: The Eschatology of Shaker Christianity and writes and lectures widely on classical and contemporary spirituality, particularly the legacy of spiritual master Thomas Merton. Her 2003 book, When the Trees Say Nothing: Writings on Nature, is the first collection of Merton's writings on nature and her latest work, Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours, is a daily breviary for engaged contemplatives drawn from his poetry and psalms; she also released a two-disc CD of selected readings interwoven with her music to complement the book.
She has written over two hundred songs for worship and prayer, many of which have been recorded and has been part of two liturgical ensembles. With friend and fellow artist, Evelyn Avoglia, she founded Schola Ministries 1, a project in service to the liturgical and contemplative arts, where she is composer-in-residence. This ministry which began with the worship community at Sacred Heart University, is now located at the Benedictine Grange, 2 where she is composer in residence and leader of song with the sacred song ensemble Anima Schola;. Her music is produced by producer, composer and performer Paul Avgerinos.
As a member of the Congregation of Notre Dame, founded by Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys, she is also engaged in the mission of liberating education, which at times is expressed in peace and social justice concerns, and also spiritual animation. She initiated and formerly directed the Iona College Institute for Peace and Justice Studies in Ireland and the Iona College Spirituality Institute's Celtic Spirituality Pilgrimage to Ireland which has fostered and focused her scholarly and creative interests on the richness of her Celtic inheritance. One of her current projects is exploring the images and metaphors of Celtic ways of prayer and song.
Sister Kathleen is also engaged in the contemporary ministry of interreligious dialogue 3 as a form of peace-making, and her interfaith engagements with Jewish, Muslim and Buddhists have brought her around the world. Her parents, Patrick Paul and Bridget, were born in the west of Ireland and later emigrated to London where Kathleen was born. Another emigration brought the Deignans to New York where Kathleen was raised on Manhattan's Upper West Side.
Her sister Ann Deignan is a physician and poet, likewise engaged in creative expression, and in ministry to the poor of Nicaragua. In her first book of poems, Mythos Gate, Ann escorts us into the creative realm of the poet's imagination in its habit of deep storytelling, largely inspired by the mythologies of the ancient world. Her latest volume is Migration, with poems that explore the mystery of impermanence. Ann's first play, Mind the Way, was performed in a reading at the New Works Series at the Irish Repertory Theater in New York City in April 2006.
The death of their mother has given rise to a memorial in her honor, The Bridie Fund, for orphan girls in Nicaragua. The Deignan sisters have also sponsored scholarships for aspiring Irish musicians participating in the Douglas Hyde Summer School in County Roscommon, Ireland.
Sr. Deignan has been, acclaimed by the National Catholic Reporter as "marvelous, inspiring, comforting, jolting, consoling...".