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Tuesdays with Merton Podcast

Religion & Spirituality Podcas

This podcast brings you the audio of the Tuesdays with Merton webinar series presented by the International Thomas Merton Society and the Bernardin Center at Catholic Theological Union. Each episode features noted speakers and scholars on the life, legacy, and writings of the Trappist monk, spiritual writer, and social critic, Thomas Merton. The webinar is live on the second Tuesday of each month: http://merton.org/ITMS/TWM/. The audio of each month's live presentation is posted here shortly afterward.


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This podcast brings you the audio of the Tuesdays with Merton webinar series presented by the International Thomas Merton Society and the Bernardin Center at Catholic Theological Union. Each episode features noted speakers and scholars on the life, legacy, and writings of the Trappist monk, spiritual writer, and social critic, Thomas Merton. The webinar is live on the second Tuesday of each month: http://merton.org/ITMS/TWM/. The audio of each month's live presentation is posted here shortly afterward.



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David Odorisio - Lessons from the Lost Coast: Exploring Thomas Merton in California

David M. Odorisio, PhD, is Co-Chair and Associate Core Faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, CA. David received his MA in the History of Christian Spirituality from Saint John's University, School of Theology-Seminary (Collegeville, MN), and his PhD in East-West Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies (San Francisco, CA). David is editor of Thomas Merton in California: The Redwoods Conferences and Letters (Liturgical Press, 2024), and Merton & Hinduism: The Yoga of the Heart (Fons Vitae, 2021) and has published in The Merton Seasonal and The Merton Annual. In 1968, Thomas Merton offered several conferences at Our Lady of the Redwoods Abbey, a Cistercian women’s community in Northern California. The material presented in these talks reveals Merton’s wide-ranging intellectual and spiritual pursuits in the final year of his life. This accessible presentation explores Merton’s pilgrimage to California’s remote and rugged “Lost Coast” and unpacks this treasure trove of previously unpublished material. Covering a variety of topics including approaches to modern consciousness, yoga, Sufism, and inter-religious dialogue, Thomas Merton in California fills a long-standing lacuna around Merton's visits to Redwoods Monastery and forms an essential bridge to the Asian journey that was to come.


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Robert Ellsberg - 'It's the Direction that Matters': How Sister Wendy Beckett Changed Her Mind about Merton

During the last three years of her life, Sr. Wendy Becket, an English hermit and art historian, shared an intimate, daily correspondence, largely about holiness and the life of faith. Throughout, the figure of Thomas Merton loomed large. Sr. Wendy held ambivalent feelings on the subject of Merton. Yet in the course of our correspondence she came to a startling reassessment, comparable in some ways to Merton’s own “awakening from a dream of separateness.” Robert Ellsberg is the long-time publisher of Orbis books. He is the author of many books on saints and holiness, including All Saints; Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time, and A Living Gospel: Reading God’s Story in Holy Lives. He contributes the daily entry, “Blessed Among Us” in Give Us This Day. His presentation is based on Dearest Sister Wendy: A Surprising Story of Faith and Friendship.


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Sophfronia Scott - Courageous Conversations on Death with Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton’s death in 1968 at the age of just 53 was tragic and sudden, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that he was unprepared for the end. What does it mean to be prepared? Sophfronia will examine Merton’s writings to see how he can take us beyond society’s “having one’s affairs in order” way of thinking about death to a way of living as a full expression of the life in abundance that Christ offers in the New Testament. Sophfronia Scott is a novelist, essayist, and contemplative thinker whose book The Seeker and the Monk: Everyday Conversations with Thomas Merton won the 2021 Thomas Merton “Louie” Award from the International Thomas Merton Society. She holds a BA in English from Harvard and an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Sophfronia is the founding director of Alma College’s MFA in Creative Writing, a low-residency graduate program based in Alma, Michigan.


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Leslye Colvin - Merton: An Invitation to Unbind Him and Ourselves

Leslye Colvin weaves a tapestry that provides a fresh perspective of Thomas Merton interwoven with glimpses of her journey as a child of the Civil Rights Movement era, and the systems that bind us all. Leslye Colvin is a writer, spiritual companion, and contemplative activist. She has extensive experience in promoting mission and expanding outreach of a variety of sectors including faith-based non profit, government, corporate, and academia. Inspired by the Catholic social justice tradition, she is passionate about encouraging diversity of thought especially as it relates to those often marginalized within the community.


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Anne Pearson - White Man Writing on Racism: Thomas Merton and ”Letters to a White Liberal”

Anne Pearson is a graduate of Bellarmine University, where she earned a degree in political science and psychology and studied the encroachment of prisons into the public school system through disciplinary alternative schools. While at Bellarmine, she completed a thesis on Thomas Merton and racism and has since presented her research at multiple national and international conferences and as a TEDx talk. She currently lives in Washington, DC where she provides resources to graduate nursing students across the country and advocates for more equitable higher education. Thomas Merton's writings on racism, most prominently those found in his "Letters to a White Liberal", have continued to ring true as the racial inequalities of his lifetime persist in the 21st century. This presentation will briefly outline his criticisms and solutions for white liberals before exploring an all-important question: what role should Merton, a cloistered white monk, have in speaking on racism? The answer will investigate how his imperfect approach impacts his continued relevance and reveal the example he sets for white individuals working towards racial justice in 2024.


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Ilia Delio - Merton’s Christophany and the Second Axial Monk

Thomas Merton’s epiphany on the corner of Fourth and Walnut Streets was a significant breakthrough into Christ consciousness and the opening up of what Raimon Panikkar calls, “Christophany.” This new consciousness propelled an inversion of Merton’s monastic life toward ever deepening relationships with a world of complexity. Relying on insights from Carl Jung, Raimon Panikkar and Teilhard de Chardin, I will explore Merton’s Christophany as a radical theology, a mutational disruption of the Neoplatonic quest, and the ushering in of a new monastic consciousness reflective of the second axial age, marked by the hyperpersonal monk of planetary consciousness. Ilia Delio, OSF, PhD is a Franciscan Sister of Washington, DC and American theologian specializing in the area of science and religion, with interests in evolution, physics and neuroscience and the import of these for theology. Ilia currently holds the Josephine C. Connelly Endowed Chair in Theology at Villanova University, and is the author of twenty books including Care for Creation (coauthored with Keith Warner and Pamela Woods), The Emergent Christ and The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution and the Power of Love (Orbis, 2013).


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BONUS episode, Shannen Dee Williams - America’s Real Sister Act: Illuminating the Hidden History of Black Catholic Nuns in the African American Freedom Struggle

Dr. Shannen Dee Williams is Associate Professor of History at the University of Dayton. She is an award-winning scholar of the African American experience and Black Catholicism with research and teaching specializations in women's, religious, and Black freedom movement history. Dr. Williams holds a B.A. in history with magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa honors from Agnes Scott College, a M.A. in Afro-American studies from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Ph.D. in history from Rutgers University. The first Black woman elected to the Executive Council of the American Catholic Historical Association, Dr. Williams is a co-founder the Fleming-Morrow Endowment in African American History at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. In 2020, Williams also submitted successful proposals to establish the Mother Mary Lange Lecture in Black Catholic History at Villanova University and the Cyprian Davis, O.S.B. Prize through the American Catholic Historical Association and the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism. A lifelong Catholic, Dr. Williams authored the award-winning column, The Griot's Cross, for the Catholic New Service from 2020 to 2022. For most people, Whoopi Goldberg's performance as Sister Mary Clarence in Sister Act is the dominant interpretation of an African American nun and the desegregation of white Catholic sisterhood in the United States. In this presentation, Dr. Shannen Dee Williams will explore the story of America's real sister act: the story of how generations of Black women and girls called to the sacred vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience fought against racism, sexism, and exclusion to become and minster as consecrated women of God in the Roman Catholic Church. In so doing, she will turn attention to women's religious life as a stronghold of white supremacy and racial segregation, and thus an important battleground in the long African American freedom struggle. Dr. Williams will also illuminate Thomas Merton's connections to Black sisters' largely suppressed history.


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Cassidy Hall - Queering Thomas Merton

Cassidy S. Hall (She/Her), MA, MDIV, MTS, is an author, award-winning filmmaker, podcaster, and leading voice in contemplative spirituality. She is the cohost of the Encountering Silence podcast and the creator of the Contemplating Now and Queering Contemplation podcasts. Her films include In Pursuit of Silence and Day of a Stranger. Cassidy is widely published and currently resides in Indianapolis, where she is studying for her DMin degree. What Would it Look Like to Queer Thomas Merton? What is queer theory and queer theology and how can they be used as a lens to better understand Merton—and ourselves? In our time together, Cassidy, a cis queer white woman, will examine the ways the traditional western Christian contemplative canon has left out far too many voices from the conversation. She will share a part of her own contemplative journey which led her to traveling to all 17 Trappist Monasteries of the US, Directing a film about Thomas Merton’s hermitage years, and writing the forthcoming book Queering Contemplation: Finding Queerness in the Roots and Future of Contemplative Spirituality.


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BONUS episode, Simone Campbell - Hunger for Hope: Contemplation and Political Action

In our time rife with political division and worry about our democracy, the contemplative practice does not allow us to be idle spectators. Rather, our spiritual practice is a gift for the Body as a whole. Let us explore together the demands of a contemplative life to face and heal the world around us. Sister Simone Campbell (Roman Catholic Sister of Social Service) is a religious leader, attorney, author and the recipient of a 2022 Presidential Medal of Freedom (the United States' highest civilian honor). She has extensive experience in public advocacy and is currently a leader of "Understanding US," a grassroots program to promote political healing in our nation. She is a member of the Auburn Seminary Senior Fellows. For 17 years she was executive director of NETWORK, Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and leader of Nuns on the Bus. In 2010, she wrote the "nuns' letter" that was seminal in passage of the Affordable Care Act. She has twice spoken at the Democratic National Conventions, appeared on numerous television and radio programs. She has received numerous other awards including the "Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award" and the "Defender of Democracy Award" from the Parliamentarians for Global Action. Prior to Washington, this native Californian led interfaith advocacy in Sacramento and for 18 years was the founder and lead attorney at the Oakland Community Law Center. Her two books, A Nun on the Bus (2014) and Hunger for Hope (2020), are award winning reflections on the substance of her life of justice seeking.


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BONUS episode, Sophia Park - Dancing with Thomas Merton in the Borderland

Thomas Merton—an eternal seeker, dislocated immigrant, and sojourner—left his mark on an Asian woman who was seeking a spiritual adventure. In many borderlands, the virgin points, Merton's hidden yet honest struggle inspire a deep connection with the immigrant woman in exile. Through a personal narrative of sojourning, an emphasis begins to manifest that her religious life began in Korea and found home in the US, contrasting Merton's journey of finding a home in Asia. Dancing with Thomas Merton led the woman to see her true self, beyond the East and West. Transformation occurs at the borderland, a space of encounter, struggle, writing, and contemplation. Jung Eun Sophia Park, SNJM, is associate professor at Holy Names University in California. She loves to give retreats, spiritual directions, and workshops in U.S. and other countries. Her academic interests are global justice and spirituality, shamanism, postcolonial feminism, and mysticism. Sophia has authored many books, including A Hermeneutic on Dislocation as Experience: Creating a Hybrid Identity, Constructing a Borderland Community, Conversations at the Well: Emerging Religious Life in the 21st Century Global World, Border-Crossing Spirituality: Transformation in the Borderland, and An Asian Woman's Religious Journey with Thomas Merton: Journey to the East/Journey to the West. She also wrote books in Korean, including Thoughtful Chats: How the Story Changed Women, Time Jor Sorrow, Beauty of the Broken, Seasons that I loved, Joy of Life, and For the Broken Humanities. She also writes articles on ordinary spirituality at the Korean Catholic News and offers women's spirituality lessons through YouTube.


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BONUS episode, Maria Clara Lucchetti Bingemer - Women in Merton’s Life: Notes on His Experience with the Feminine

Thomas Merton had, in his life, important experiences with women. His life and writings are impregnated by those feminine presences and influences who provoked strong reactions and emotions in his heart and mind. We will examine some aspects of his experience with the feminine, including his mother's premature death, the multiple girlfriends of his youth (whose names he would not even remember), as well as some friendships which were important in his Christian journey, such as Naomi Burton, Dorothy Day, and Catherine de Hueck. Merton's life as a monk was also configured by important feminine spiritual figures, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, Julian of Norwich, and others. We will also examine carefully the epiphany that represented Merton's love for the young nurse M., and conclude with a theological reflection about how Merton's experiences with the feminine influenced his writings and provide new insights into mystical experience and service to the Church. Maria Clara Lucchetti Bingemer holds a degree in Social Communication from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (1975), a Master's degree in Theology from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (1985) and a PhD in Systematic Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University (1989). She is currently a full professor in the Department of Theology at PUCRio. For ten years she ran the Loyola Faith and Culture Center at the same University. For four years, she was an evaluator of graduate programs at the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES). For six years, she was dean of the Center for Theology and Human Sciences at PUC-Rio. She has experience in the area of Theology, with an emphasis on Systematic Theology, focusing mainly on the following themes: God, otherness, woman, violence and spirituality. In the last few years, she has been researching and publishing on the thought of the French philosopher Simone Weil. Nowadays, her studies and research are primarily directed towards the thinking and writing of contemporary mystics and the interface between Theology and Literature.


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Mark C. Meade - The Seven Storey Mountain at Seventy-Five: Classic or Déclassé?

The Seven Storey Mountain has reached another milestone. How has Merton’s autobiography fared in the first quarter of the 21st century? Are Merton’s words now less central to the American religious experience, or does his story of spiritual longing resonate with people of our time in the U.S. and the world? Mark C. Meade is the Assistant Director of the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY. The year 2023 marks his 20th year at the Merton Center. He is a past president of the International Thomas Merton Society. He has presented and published on Merton in the United States and abroad on topics including Merton’s correspondence with Victoria Ocampo, Merton and existentialist themes, and Merton and Albert Camus on opposition to the death penalty.


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BONUS episode: Christopher Pramuk’s Presidential Address for Sophia Comes Forth Reaching, the 18th General Meeting of the ITMS

INTERNATIONAL THOMAS MERTON SOCIETY, Presidential Address for "Sophia Comes Forth Reaching": the 18th General Meeting of the ITMS. Dr. Christopher Pramuk is Regis University Chair of Ignatian Thought and President of the International Thomas Merton Society. He is the author of six books, including two award-winning studies of the famed Catholic monk and spiritual writer Thomas Merton, as well as, as well as Hope Sings, So Beautiful: Graced Encounters Across the Color Line, a meditation on race relations in society and church. Chris’s latest book, The Artist Alive: Explorations in Music, Art, and Theology, draws from his many years of using music, poetry, and the arts in the classroom. Chris lectures widely around the country and has led retreats on topics such as racial justice, Ignatian spirituality, and the witness of Thomas Merton.


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Jim Robinson - Spirituality Sustainability and Social Justice: Embodying “Integral Ecology” with Thomas Merton and Rosemary Radford Ruether

From August 12, 1966 through February 18, 1968, Thomas Merton and Rosemary Radford Ruether engaged in a vibrant exchange of nearly 40 letters. In this talk, Robinson builds on this existing exchange by placing passages from Merton’s and Ruether’s broader bodies of work into conversation. He specifically lifts up insights from Merton and Ruether that can aid us in imagining and incarnating sustainable lives, communities, and societies that are grounded in spirituality and committed to social justice. In the process, he considers the links between Merton’s insights, Ruether’s insights, and Pope Francis’s promotion of an “integral ecology.” Jim Robinson is a member of the Religious Studies Department at Iona University, where he serves as Director of the Thomas Merton Contemplative Initiative and Associate Director of the Deignan Institute for Earth and Spirit. He received his PhD in Theology from Fordham University, his MTS from Harvard Divinity School, and his BA from Drew University. He is a recent ITMS Shannon Fellow and a GreenFaith Fellow. He is actively involved in a number of lay Catholic communities committed to embodying spirituality, ecology, and social justice, including Agape Community in Hardwick, MA, and Benincasa Community in Guilford, CT.


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Patrick F. O’Connell - Beyond the Blurbs: Thomas Merton and St. Augustine

Merton's name was associated with Augustine’s from the moment his autobiography appeared with comparisons to the Confessions on its cover. This presentation considers Merton’s ongoing interactions with Augustine in published works, journals and conferences: his reliance on Augustinian distinctions between cupidity and charity, science and wisdom; his measured evaluation of Augustinian mystical teaching and formulation of just war theory; his apprecia­tive novitiate classes on De Doctrina Christiana; to his hermitage reflections on Camus’ university thesis on Augustine. This topic provides a fascinating and illuminating window on the development of various aspects of Merton’s own spirituality. Patrick F. O'Connell is a founding member and former president of the International Thomas Merton Society, edits the ITMS quarterly publication The Merton Seasonal and is co-author with Christine M. Bochen and William H. Shannon of The Thomas Merton Encyclopedia (Orbis, 2002). He has edited twelve volumes of Thomas Merton’s monastic conferences, most recently Liturgical Feasts and Seasons (Cascade, 2022), as well as Merton’s Selected Essays (Orbis, 2012), Early Essays, 1947-1952 (Cistercian, 2015) and Cistercian Fathers and Forefathers (New City, 2018), as well as Merton & Confucianism (Fons Vitae, 2021). He is professor emeritus at Gannon University, Erie, PA.


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Mary Frohlich, RSCJ - Merton as Disciple and Re-interpreter of St. John of the Cross

When Young Thomas Merton first awakened to prayer during his student years at Columbia University, he turned to the writings of St. John of the Cross for contemplative wisdom. Near the end of his life when Merton summed up his teaching on prayer in his book Contemplative Prayer, John of the Cross appeared again as one of his most important sources. This presentation examines how Merton based his approach strongly upon some aspects of John's teaching while creatively weaving it together with a vast array of other sources. Mary Frohlich, RSCJ, is a Professor Emerita at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago after teaching there from 1993 to 2020. She is a noted scholar of Carmelite spirituality, with numerous published essays on Teresa of Avila, Thérèse of Lisieux, and John of the Cross as well as on broader issues in the tradition. Her book Breathed into Wholeness: Catholicity and Life in the Spirit was published by Orbis in 2019, and she is currently working on another to be entitled The Heart at the Heart of the World. She now resides in Cambridge, MA, and focuses primarily on ecospiritual issues.


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Bob Grip - Washington Watches the Monk II

Washington Watches the Monk II is a sequel to Bob Grip’s essay in The Merton Seasonal (available at: http://merton.org/ITMS/Seasonal/11/11-1Grip.pdf) revealing U.S. government files about Thomas Merton. Drawing on his decades as a journalist, Grip filed Freedom of Information Act requests to various agencies to explore the federal government’s archives. He discovered everything from routine records to evidence of illegal surveillance, which he will illustrate. This session will also include comment from a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist on the surveillance of private citizens. Bob Grip devoted his entire professional life to journalism, most of it on the air in television news, including reports from the U.S. Gulf Coast to the Middle East to Europe including a meeting with Pope (and now Saint) John Paul II. He also taught multimedia journalism for 25 years at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. Grip earned his bachelor’s degree from Boston College and a master’s degree in Journalism from The Ohio State University. He is a former board member, treasurer and President of the International Thomas Merton Society.


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David Golemboski - People that God Has Brought together: Thomas Merton on the Hope of Political Community Beyond Nationalism

Recent Years have seen, around the world, a resurgence of political movements and leaders appealing to nationalist ideologies. These movements appeal to the desire for unity and shared identity but have an ugly history of exclusion, xenophobia, and bigotry. This presentation looks to Thomas Merton – particularly some lesser-known writings on German theologian Eberhard Arnold – for insights on the search for political community rooted not in division and exclusion but in charity and grace. Dr. David Golemboski is an Assistant Professor of Government & International Affairs at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He is a former President of the International Thomas Merton Society and is co-editor of The Merton Annual. He is Chair of the Program Committee for the 2023 ITMS General Meeting. In addition to his work on Merton, he writes on politics, law, and religion and is author of Religious Pluralism & Political Stability: Obligations in Agreement (Routledge, 2022).


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2022-11-08 - Partners in the General Dance of the Spirit: Thomas Merton and Ilia Delio Evolving into the Grandeur of God

Merton and Delio are restless in spirit. They embraced the ongoing work of the Spirit in their lives as the evolutionary reality that continually called them out of the ordinary into the extra­ordinary. They accepted the awkwardness of learning how to dance in the Spirit in order to move with rhythm, rather than move through routine. To discover and live in the rhythm of the Spirit is to experience vibrancy – energy, strength and resiliency. And the Spirit invites us all: find a partner and dance. Dr. Alan Kolp holds the Baldwin Wallace Chair in Faith & Life and is Professor of Religion at Baldwin Wallace University. In addition to his work in spirituality, he has authored books with a business colleague and Cleveland Clinic physician in the area of high performance and leadership. His forthcoming book, Better Humans, Better Performance: Driving Leadership, Teamwork and Culture with Intention­ality, will be available in the fall.


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2022-10-11 - Julianne Wallace - Of Messengers of Peace: A Liturgy for Our World in the Voices of Merton and Francis

JULIANNE E. WALLACE Of Messengers of Peace: A Liturgy for Our World in the Voices of Merton and Francis Please join us for a special Tuesdays with Merton as we gather to celebrate a liturgy for peace. This service, integrating music, readings, poetry, and reflections from the wisdom of Thomas Merton and St. Francis of Assisi, will provide a moment of reflection during times where peace often seems just out of reach. We invite you to be renewed and nourished in the wisdom of Merton and Francis. Dr. Julianne E. Wallace is Vice President for Mission at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. She holds a Doctor of Ministry in Educational Leadership from Virginia Theological Seminary, a Master of Theological Studies in Word and Worship from Washington Theological Union, and a bachelor’s in Music Performance from the University of Mary Washington. She has been active in Franciscan higher education for almost twelve years, most recently as Vice President for Mission and Ministry at Alvernia University. She served as Associate Director of Faith Formation, Worship, and Ministry at St. Bonaventure University in New York. She has been an active ITMS member since 2015, site-coordinator for the 2017 Annual Meeting and coordinating the liturgical life at many other ITMS conferences.