Kilian McDonnell, OSB, born in Great Falls, Montana in 1921, joined the monastic community of Saint John’s Abbey in 1945. For the larger portion of his life, Kilian McDonnell was a professional theologian and a university professor. He received his St.D. from the theological faculty of Trier, Germany, and taught in the graduate school of theology of Saint John’s University.
In 1967, he founded and became the executive director of the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research. At present he serves as its president.
He was involved and chaired numerous theological ecumenical discussions both nationally and internationally. He served as the Catholic co-chair of the international dialogue between classical Pentecostals and Roman Catholics from 1972-1992. For fifteen years he also served as consultant to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Vatican ecumenical office. He was a member of the international dialogues with Disciples of Christ, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the national dialogues with Lutherans and Presbyterians. The Catholic Theological Society of America also awarded him the John Courtney Murray Award for distinguished contributions to theology and the church.
At the age of seventy-five he began writing poetry seriously. Today, at ninety-one, he has authored four books of poetry, along with numerous other publications. Kilian is well known for saying that he does not write “pious verse or inspirational verse,” rather he writes about people who had big problems. “They had big problems with God, they had big problems with people around them, and they made terrible mistakes. People like us. Their relationship with God was not an easy one.”
Poetry by Kilian McDonnell, OSB:
Swift, Lord, You Are Not (SJU Press, 2003)
Yahweh’s Other Shoe (SJU Press, 2006)
God Drops and Loses Things (SJU Press, 2009)
Wrestling with God (SJU Press, 2011)
Kilian’s poetry can be purchased at Liturgical Press.
Read former Resident Scholar Parker J. Palmer’s reflection on Fr. Kilian’s “wicked” sense of humor »
Photo by: Adam Konczewski