Are We One
In Distribution
A new documentary film tracing the transmission of Zen meditation through the life’s work of Irish-American Jesuit Zen Master Robert Kennedy – and his successors and students – in a contemporary exploration of interfaith dialogue on the common ground of human experience.


Robert Kennedy, S.J., Rosh was born in Brooklyn in 1933 and joined the Jesuits in 1951 at the age of 18.

After an extensive spiritual and academic training, he was ordained a priest in Japan
in 1965 at the age of 32.

In Japan, he studied Zen with Yamada Koun Roshi in the 1970sa central historical figures in 20th Century Japanese Zen.  Yamada had a profound effect on his life. Here was a married layman with a family, who expressed insight and humanity in a way that powerfully touched the young Robert Kennedy.

Returning to the United States the young Jesuit began studying Zen with Maezumi Roshi in Los Angeles and then with Bernard Glassman Roshi in New York City – two central historical figures in American Zen.

Bernie Gassman installed him as a Sensei (Zen Teacher) of the White Plum Asanga lineage in 1991 and conferred Inka (his final seal of approval) in 1997, making him the first U.S. Catholic Roshi (Zen Master) in a ceremony together with the writer Peter Matthiesen and Janet Richardson.  Facing some objections from his students for appointing a Catholic priest as one of his first dharma heirs Glassman famously refuted the objections by asking his students ‘Are we one, or are we not?’.

Robert Kennedy is the former chair of the Theology department of Saint Peter’s College in Jersey City, where he taught theology and Japanese.  In addition to his work at the college, he was a practicing psychoanalyst in New York City and a representative at the United Nations of the Institute for Spiritual Consciousness in Politics.

He is also the author of two books, ‘Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit’ and ‘Zen Gifts to Christians’.

He sits with his Zen students daily at the Morning Star Zendo in Jersey City and holds Sesshins (Zen Retreats) internationally.


To date, Robert Kennedy has installed 22 Dharma Successors; lay teachers who have studied Zen and worked with him over the last thirty years and have been approved by him to teach, including:
Janet Richardson, Roshi (1994/1997), Charles Birx, Roshi (1998/2014),
Ellen Birx, Roshi (1998/2014), Janet Abels, Roshi (2000/2015),
Kevin Hunt, Sensei (2004), Ray Cicetti, Roshi (2004/2015),
Gregory Abels, Sensei (2006), Paul Schubert, Sensei (2007),
Inge von Wobeser-Hopfner, Sensei (2008), Patrick Eastman, Sensei (2009),
Michael Holleran, Sensei (2009), Carl Bachmann, Sensei (2010),
Carl Viggiani, Sensei (2013), Miriam Healy, Roshi (2014/2019),
Dr. Maria “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, Roshi (2015/2019),
Timothy Butler, Sensei (2015), Susan Efird, Sensei (2018),
Monica Maher, Sensei (2018), Mary Laheen, Sensei (2019)
Alice Potz (2020), Russell Michel (2021) & Amy Yee (2022)

Executive Producers:
Miriam Healy
Turlough O’Donnell

And for Morning Star Zendo
Noel Brennan
John Ankele (Old Dog Documentaries)
Dr Cuca Montecel
Amy Yee

Dónal Ó Céilleachair

An Anú Pictures Production in Association with Morning Star Zendo