The Thomas Merton Society – Grand Rapids chapter was started by Bill and Beth Murphy, two members of the International Thomas Merton Society.

Bill was the recipient of a Shannon Fellowship to conduct research at the Merton Center at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky.

From there, it was a short drive to the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsenami, where he interviewed Br. Paul Quenon (a former student of Fr. Louis’) for The Only Love Project web site, visited Fr. Louis’ Hermitage…and got the bug. He knew he needed to return to the Abbey – soon.

MertonHermitage2So Bill booked a week-long silent retreat at Gethsemani for the fall of 2015. It was like nothing else he had ever experienced. Life changing is too cliched a term. But that’s precisely what it was.

Bill plans to enjoy another week-long retreat at the monastery in early May, 2016.

To contact via e-mail:

bill (at) thomasmertonsociety-grandrapids [dot] org

beth (at) thomasmertonsociety-grandrapids [dot] org

NOTE: Substitute @ for (at) and . for [dot] and you should be good to go.

To contact via snail mail:

Bill Murphy
Thomas Merton Society – Grand Rapids
PO Box 120214
Grand Rapids, MI 49528-0104

Photo credits:


  • Image on the left of the white building (Fr. Louis’ Hermitage): Bill Murphy.
  • Image on the right of the monks in the sanctuary at Gethsemani: Bill Murphy.
  • Image of Fr. Louis in the middle: Sibylle Akers, 1958. Copyright the Thomas Merton Center. Used with Permission.
  • All other photos taken by Bill Murphy, descriptions as follows:

    Welcome post on Home Page

    Stone statue overlooking Gethsemani on a nearby hill.

    Life Page

    The walkway to Gethsemani. There are three points of entry along this path. Straight ahead takes one directly into the sanctuary. The door on the left is the entryway for retreatants. The door on the right is for monks to enter into their private courtyard. Over the door on the right are the words, “God Alone.” A plaque on the wall beside the retreatant’s entrance is a quote from the Rule of St. Benedict: “Let all guests that come be received like Christ.”

    Stone sign at the entrance to the monastery.

    Image of Fr. Louis’ marker in the courtyard on the cafeteria side of the monastery.

    Themes Page

    Br. Paul Quenon reading from a book of Merton’s letters, in Fr. Louis’ Hermitage. The passage Br. Paul chose was as close to the date of Merton’s letter as possible, probably within a day or two. His reading of Fr. Louis’ words gave me chills.

    Merton’s prayer room in the Hermitage.

    The living room in the Hermitage.

    Works Page

    A fraction of the Merton books I own.

    The plaque outside the retreatant’s entrance to Gethsemani. The Rule of St. Benedict is the foundation for the Cistercian way of life, as well as other Catholic Orders (Benedictine and Franciscan). Even some Zen monks are adopting a form of the Rule of St. Benedict to govern their daily lives.

    Contact Page

    Br. Paul Quenon outside Fr. Louis’ Hermitage. He was giving me a wonderful tour.

    The sanctuary, where the monks worship, looking back toward the visitor’s gallery and the balcony. This was taken on the tour Br. Paul gave me.

    Photo Page

    Picture of me, taken on October 31, 2014, on hill overlooking the monastery. (Photo taken by Beth.)