The John Main Seminar


The John Main Seminar has been an annual event since 1984. It was established to honour John Main’s memory and his legacy. As the WCCM’s Constitution states: One of the goals of the Community is: “to organize events such as the annual John Main Seminar to broaden and deepen the teaching of Christian meditation …”

The first seven Seminars were held at the former Benedictine Priory of Montreal and were relatively small-scale events. The presenters were all prominent members of the Community, including Sanskrit scholar Isabelle Glover, Professors Robert Kiely, Derek Smith and Charles Taylor, publisher John Todd, Palliative Care pioneer Dr. Balfour Mount and Sr. Eileen O’Hea.

The 1991 Seminar was a transformative event in many ways. It was held in New Harmony, Indiana. The 150+ participants were truly representative of the growing worldwide Community. The presenter was Dom Bede Griffiths, OSB Cam, also known as Swami Dayananda, on the theme of The New Creation in Christ. Immediately following the Seminar the leadership of the Community entered into a three-day discernment process out of which the Community’s organizational and structural parameters were established as they exist today. A follow-up Seminar on the teaching and legacy of Fr. Bede was held in 1993 with a panel of three speakers.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama was the speaker at the 1994 Seminar on the theme of The Good Heart: A Buddhist Perspective on the Teaching of Jesus. The resulting book, by the same title, of his talks and the dialogue sessions between his talks became an international bestseller and was translated into many languages. His Holiness also headlined the roster of speakers for the millennium Seminar held in Befast, Northern Ireland. That event and the multiple events around it involved well-over 3000 participants making it the biggest organizational effort of the Community to date.

Other Seminar presenters include: Jean Vanier, Fr. William Johnston, S.J., Dom Laurence Freeman, OSB, Fr. Raimon  Panikkar, former President of Ireland Mary McAleese, Abbott Thomas Keating, Prof Huston Smith, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowen Williams, Bishop Kallistos Ware,

Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, composer and singer Margaret Rizza, Fr. Robert Kennedy, SJ, Fr. James Alison, Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, OP, Philosopher and Theologian Leonardo Boff  & Frei Betto, OFM, Fr. Joseph Wong, OSB Cam, Fr. Daniel Madigan, SJ, and Professor David Tacey.

Still Present: The Life and Legacy of John Main was the theme of the 2007 Seminar to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of his transitus. It featured a panel of speakers headed by Fr. Laurence. Cardinal Walter Kaspar was the keynote speaker at the 2008 Seminar on the theme Unity: Local and Global.

The Seminar follows a set format whereby the talks are framed in between four periods of meditation per day and appropriate liturgical celebrations. The WCCM’s Annual General Meeting is an integral part of this annual event. A three-day silent retreat led by Fr. Laurence precedes or follows the Seminar.


Year Speaker Theme Venue
2019 Sarah Bachelard A Contemplative Christianity for our Time Vancouver, Canada

Laurence Freeman,
Herman Van Rompuy, 
Sean Hagan, Marco Schorlemmer,
Teresa Forcades, 
Charles Taylor,
ert Johnson, Barry White

A Contemplative Response ​to the Crisis of Change Bruges, Belgium
2017 Bernard McGinn Praying with the Masters Today Houston, USA
2016 Jean Vanier Where the Light Comes in... Trosly, France
2015 David Tacey Spirituality and Religion in a Secular Age Hamilton, New Zealand
2014 Daniel Madigan SJ Muslims and Christians - listeners to the Word Chicago, USA
2013 Joseph Wong OSB Cam Desert Wisdom & Oriental Spirituality: Inner Silence Hong Kong
2012 Leonardo Boff & Frei Betto Spirituality and Environment São Paulo, Brazil
2011 Timothy Radcliffe OP Alive in Christ Cork, Ireland
2010 James Alison The Shape of God’s Affection Canterbury, UK
2009 Robert Kennedy SJ When God Disappears London, UK
2008 Cardinal Walter Kasper Unity: Local and Global Mainz, Germany
2007  Laurence Freeman, Balfour Mount, Sarah 
Bachelard, Peter Ng and Yvon Théroux
The Life and Legacy of John Main Quebec, Canada
2006 Margaret Rizza  The Fire of Silence Through Music and Mystics  Penang, Malaysia
2005 Richard Rohr OFM A Lever and a Place to Stand Thousand Oaks, USA
2004 Joan Chittister OSB Heart of Flesh: A Feminist 
Spirituality for Women and Men
Vermont, USA
2003 Andrew Harvey, Shirley Du Boulay, 
Bruno Barnhardt OSB Cam
Panel on Bede Griffiths Reading, UK
2002 Bishop Kallistos Ware The Kingdom of the Heart: 
The Jesus Prayer in our Daliy Life
Ontario, Canada
2001 Archbishop Rowan Williams Spirit in the Desert Sydney, Australia
2000 The Dalai Lama & Previous Presenters The Way of Peace Belfast, Northern Ireland
1999 Huston Smith Return to the Light  
1998 Thomas Keating Heart of the World San Francisco, USA
1997 Mary McAleese Reconciled Being Dublin, Ireland
1996 Raimon Panikkar The Silence of Life London, UK
1995 Laurence Freeman OSB On Jesus San Diego, USA
1994 The Dalai Lama The Good Heart London, UK
1993 William Johnston  The New Christian Mysticism Toronto, Canada
1992 Jean Vanier From Brokenness to Wholeness London, UK
1991 Bede Griffiths Christian Meditation: An Evolving Tradition New Harmony, USA
1990 Eileen O'Hea  Spirit and Psyche  
1989 Balfour Mount  On Wholeness  
1988  Charles Taylor Christian Identity and Modernity  
1987 Derek Smith On Reading  
1986 John Todd The New Church  
1985 Robert Kiely The Search for God in Modern Literature  
1984 Isabelle Glover  Indian Scriptures as Christian Reading