“The true way…the more I am able to affirm others, to say ‘yes’ to them in myself and myself in them, the more real I am. I am fully real if my own heart says yes to everyone.” Thomas Merton could easily have been talking about Terry Smith who has been doing the good work in the Sophia community for years and he has been doing it quietly. Terry has been in the background at most of the decade-plus Summer Institutes supporting Jim Conlon and Mary Alice Dooley with “whatever needs to be done, no matter what small detail.” His open, inclusive, friendly way is inviting toward everyone around him. He has particularly enjoyed spending time with the speakers, assuring their comfortable stay on the HNU campus as well as their transit to and from the airport. Over the last five years Terry has also given three-day intensives on Thomas Merton during the Sophia school year.
Born in Cincinnati, this bioregion continues to be his home. As a child Terry especially loved spending time in Nature, hiking and camping in the rolling countryside. In 1973 he was ordained a priest, holding various ministries over the years in southwest Ohio as a high school teacher, parish pastor, director of spiritual formation for men preparing to be a priest and currently as a spiritual director and teacher for individuals within the parish system. Once a year he conducts a spiritual institute that is attended by as many as 70 local people, helping others focus on the sacred/divine within each being and within the Universe.
In 1976 Terry attended graduate school at Fordham University to pursue his studies in spirituality. At that time Thomas Berry resided at Riverdale Center. Thanks to the friendship between Thomas Berry and Ewert Cousins, the director of the Fordham program, his class was invited to spend a couple of evenings with Thomas over pizza. A precious memory, “Thomas would spin his magic…a truly enriching time!”
After his work as a parish pastor for 14 years, Terry was drawn to take his sabbatical at Sophia in the autumn 2003. The Sophia program gave Terry more exposure to Thomas Berry to see where Berry intersects with Thomas Merton. Through the joint-taught class of Mary Schmitt and Eric Weiss, his studies provided him a wonderful intersection of East and West by studying the contemporary parallel visions of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Sri Aurobindo, moving Terry to an even higher integrative thinking. He loved the Sophia experience “intensely,” finding it “refreshing… open with great discussion and exposure to faculty. Ever since, the work of Sophia has been important in my life.”
When asked with what words Terry would like to close our interview, he quoted the author Jean-Pierre De Caussade. “Be attentive to the present moment. Every moment is a potential encounter with the Divine.” His quiet wisdom touches us all.
If you wish to email Terry, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article by Kitty Nagler