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Gospel Women of Advent Retreat

FutureChurch welcomes award winning author and speaker, Kathy Coffey, who leads this beautiful afternoon of reflection to begin Advent. Using an ancient Midrash technique, we imagine the lives of women in the infancy narratives. They invite us to see the scriptures differently, with possibilities beyond the familiar. To what might they call us today?
Art Used:

About our Retreat Leader: 
Kathy Coffey is the author of many books such as Hidden Women of the Gospels, More Hidden Women of the Gospels, A Generous Lap: A Spirituality of Grandparenting (Orbis) and When the Saints Came Marching In (Liturgical Press).

She taught for fifteen years at the University of Colorado, Denver, and Regis Jesuit University. She has won sixteen awards from the Catholic Press Association, the Foley Poetry Award from America magazine, and several others. She has spoken at national conventions such as the LA and East Coast Congresses, NCCL, NCEA and many diocesan gatherings.

Her own spirituality has been shaped by 50 years of parenting and 12 years of grandparenting. A widow, the mother of four and grandmother of six, she lives in the Bay area, CA.

For more information, see her website:

FutureChurch Thanks Deborah Rose for A Decade of Loving Leadership and Faith-filled Persistence; Board Appoints Russ Petrus Executive Director


Russ Petrus, Co-Director – | 216-228-0869 x2

In a November 29th email sent to FutureChurch members and supporters, co-director, Deborah Rose, announced her retirement at the end of the year, writing “I want you all to know that it has been the honor of a lifetime to work for FutureChurch and with all of you.”

Rose came to FutureChurch in 2013, succeeding co-founder and founding executive director, Sr. Christine Schenk, CSJ. “God truly sent a successor I only dared to dream about when Deborah Rose agreed to become FutureChurch’s second executive director ten years ago,” said Schenk. “Her passionate energy, creativity and worldwide connections helped fuel FutureChurch’s international expansion,” she added.

Marie Graf, who served as chairperson at the time and is currently board secretary, recalls, “When FutureChurch transitioned from the founding director, we were delighted to hire Deb Rose. She came to us with experience in running a nonprofit organization while also bringing a passion for church reform.” Graf added that “under her direction, FutureChurch programming expanded, new audiences were reached; and the FutureChurch name and mission were taken to a higher level.”

Among the organization’s many accomplishments under her leadership, FutureChurch successfully advocated for greater and more diverse lay participation in worldwide synods; created engaging online programming spotlighting unheralded biblical, historical, and contemporary women; and founded the award-winning Catholic Women Preach which brings women’s voices and wisdom to the preaching ministry of the Church.

Board chair, Todd Ray, captures the consensus of his colleagues, saying, “Deb Rose has truly been a blessing to FutureChurch. She has been a delight to observe and work with for these ten years – a steady source of energy and creativity advancing the mission to bring meaningful change to the Church she loves.” Commenting on her indomitable spirit, he reflects, “Her resilience in sustaining her passion for the Church may be due to her irrepressible and playful sense of humor, and she was joyful in her work in the face of so much institutional resistance.”

During her time at FutureChurch, Deb became an Associate of The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. Linked by their common friend and mentor, Louise Akers, SC, she met Sr. Andrea Koverman, SC who later joined the board. “Deb is and has been a light in some times of great darkness for me and many Catholics,” says Koverman. “She takes seriously the Gospel message of embodying God’s love in our world. She has lifted up the voices of women, women of color, and those of all sexual orientations. For so many who felt the Church was telling them they don’t belong, Deb’s leadership has been a beacon that we can follow. Where doors are shut and hearts are broken, she flings them open again and says, ‘Come on in, this is your home and you are welcome!’”

Rose led the organization as executive director until 2019 when the board voted to approve a co-directorship with Russ Petrus who had previously served as program director and associate director.

“On behalf of the entire FutureChurch community, I thank Deb for her decade of service to FutureChurch. She has been an incredibly faithful steward of the mission and a true champion for all God’s beloved children,” said Petrus. “On a personal note,” he added, “she has been a caring boss and an empowering mentor, a trusted colleague and a steadfast partner – and she will always be my cherished friend. We will miss her daily presence, but we know the many gifts she leaves behind will continue to bless us and our work each day. We wish her the very best in her retirement.”

The FutureChurch board voted to appoint Petrus as executive director – effective January 1, 2024. “Russ is more than up to the task,” said Sr. Christine Schenk, celebrating the appointment. “His strategic, pastoral, and advocacy skills are extraordinarily well suited to the mission. His grounding in feminist theology, his pastoral experience, and his digital media skills along with his long-standing commitment to reforming the institution make him uniquely qualified to lead FutureChurch well and wisely into the exciting years ahead.”

Rose agrees, writing, “His compassion, vision, creativity, vitality, skill, and work ethic are a rare find. There is no doubt that he will continue to bless FutureChurch and all who are connected to this work with his bright mind, gentle spirit, and unrelenting determination to bring justice to the institution where it is lacking.”

“We have put together an outstanding team of talented, passionate, and bright people of faith who are deeply dedicated to our mission,” Petrus said. “And I couldn’t be more excited to continue working with Olivia Hastie and Martha Ligas on our staff; board chair-elect, Vickey McBride, along with the rest our visionary board; and our consultants, Ann Marie Nocella, Ariell Watson Simon, Tess Gallagher Clancy, and Ben Stegbauer to continue building upon the prophetic legacy of Sr. Chris Schenk, Fr. Louis Trivison, the founding communities and parishes, and – now – Deb Rose.”

FutureChurch will host an online opportunity for the community to come together and pray for Deb, Russ, and our community at this time of transition during its regularly scheduled virtual liturgy on December 17, 2023 at 7pm ET. All are welcome! Register here.


Deb’s Retirement Message

Dear Friends,

Today, I wanted to share that I will be retiring from FutureChurch at the end of 2023 after more than 10 years of service. As the board has already confirmed, my devoted, respected, and gifted colleague, Russ Petrus, will begin service as the Executive Director on January 1, 2024. As you know, Russ and I have worked together for many years and it is certain FutureChurch will continue to build on the legacy begun under Sr. Christine Schenk, Fr. Louis Trivison, and the founding Cleveland parishes. Russ has been pure grace in my life and in the life of our beloved FutureChurch community and the work of justice-making within the institution will thrive and grow under his visionary leadership.

As I move into the next phase of my life, I want to tell you how much each one of you have meant to me as we worked together to open new doors for women in the Church, made Catholic women preaching a weekly reality, recovered our forgotten foremothers in faith, and called the institution to be just in the face of clericalism, corruption, clergy sex abuse, racism within, LGBTQ+ exclusion, and so much more. Together, we have opened new doors for all of God’s people to shape, lead, and minister in the name of the Gospel. Not one bit of this work could have been accomplished without your committed partnership and support. Many of you reached out to encourage both Russ and me with expressions of gratitude and care over the years — notes that made our hearts happy and our workload lighter.

There is no way to thank everyone who has supported me personally and helped guide the work that we have undertaken as FutureChurch, but I want to express my profound gratitude to some of the people who made it possible for me to carry out the work to the best of my ability.

First and foremost, I want to thank the FutureChurch Board of Trustees – an outstanding board who has made our organization effective, strong, and durable. After a lifetime of working for non-profit organizations, the Board of FutureChurch is the best I have ever known. Each member has gifted me and the organization with their passion for justice, their love for the Church, and their wise counsel. They have weathered storms coming from conservative Catholic strongholds and have stood strong as a prophetic Catholic voice in the face of considerable institutional criticism and castigation.

Marie Graf, who was President of the Board when I was hired, was not only a pillar for me as the new Executive Director, but deftly steered the organization through the range of challenges that arise when transitioning from a founding director to the next generation of leadership. Because of her skillful guidance, the changeover was assured, and the organization grew. I admire her immensely and am profoundly grateful for her continuing commitment to FutureChurch.

Board members like James Connell and Todd Ray have always been there, in person or at the other end of a telephone line when I needed advice or guidance. Their constant care for me, for Russ, and for all things FutureChurch has contributed immeasurably to the health and vigor of our organization. I am also deeply indebted to other board members who offered their wisdom, gifts and support during my early years including Rita Houlihan, Sr. Diane Culbertson, Mary Lou Hartman, Jocelyn Collen, Br. Tom Carroll, Bill Daly, Lisa Barczyk, Fr. Gerry Bechard, Arline Nosse, Jane Collen, Bill Wisniewski, Phil Marcin, Annie Burns, Barbara Guerin, Patti May, Gene Kramer, and Bishop Tom Gumbleton. And with the same deep gratitude, I will not forget the generous gifts and commitment of newer board members like Sr. Anita Baird, Joe Miller, Sr. Andrea Koverman, Nontando Hadebe, Sean Gargamelli-McCreight, Vickey McBride, Crystal Catalan, Rose Lue, Yuenen Trujillo, Fr. Andy Switzer, and other board members who have devoted so much time and energy to this important work. It has been a joy to plan, strategize, and work alongside each one of them.

Our weekly volunteers, Maureen Cerny, Fran DeChant, Kathy Rossman, Carol Anders, and Helen Brinich not only folded letters and stuffed envelopes, but they joined us as we witnessed and advocated for Vatican II reforms, women’s ordination, an end to the crackdown on the nuns, clergy sex abuse, and more. I will not forget their quick humor, their keen insights, and their dedication to justice within the Church. Along with these remarkable women are a whole host of other volunteers who serve generously at our online liturgies and events. I am grateful for each one of them.

Ann Marie Nocella and other FutureChurch staff persons have worked diligently behind the scenes keeping our daily operations flowing smoothly and supporting our constituents in all they need. I will miss our daily staff meetings where we not only talked about our long “to do” lists but entrusted our lives to each other as friends. Other colleagues on staff like Olivia Hastie and Martha Ligas are growing the organization with their brilliant, thought-provoking, and Gospel oriented programming ideas. They are an immense blessing to the organization.

My colleagues from Catholic organizations in the United States and beyond have inspired me and worked alongside FutureChurch to create significant change in the Church. The Catholic Organizations for Renewal, Nun Justice Collaborative, Catholic Women Preach initiative, Deacon Chat, Votes for Catholic Women campaign, International Catholic Reform Network, and We Are Church International are just a few examples of this outstanding work. Creating light all over the world, these Catholics have changed the face of the institutional Church and helped it live up to its Gospel mandate for a world in need.

More than any other person, the one who constantly encouraged me, counseled me, and drank a beer with me when I needed one was Sr. Chris Schenk, my predecessor and friend. Her decades of visionary, prophetic leadership and her struggles against the clericalist powers that would silence FutureChurch inspired me to carry on her legacy in whatever way I could. Her constant support, counsel, and encouragement kept me going when I doubted myself.

And lastly, I want to thank Russ Petrus who has been with FutureChurch and me for the last eight years. It has been pure joy to work alongside him as a colleague and co-director. His compassion, vision, creativity, vitality, skill, and work ethic are a rare find. There is no doubt that he will continue to bless FutureChurch and all who are connected to this work with his bright mind, gentle spirit, and unrelenting determination to bring justice in the institution where it is lacking.

Finally, I want you all to know that it has been the honor of a lifetime to work for FutureChurch and with all of you. I have loved this work with all my heart and am grateful that people like Marie Graf, Mary Lou Hartman, Rita Houlihan and the whole board took a chance on me. Everyday has been a gift. Truly.

Deb Rose

Dr. Phyllis Zagano Accepts 2023 Fr. Louis Trivison Award

FutureChurch is honored to present Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D. with our 2023 Fr. Louis Trivison Award in recognition of and immense gratitude for her ground-breaking work researching the history of, promoting discussion and discernment about, and advancing the cause for women in the diaconate.

The Fr. Louis Trivison award is given to a Roman Catholic who exhibits outstanding leadership in advancing FutureChurch’s Vatican II mission or vision in one or more areas of: teaching, administration, research, publication, advocacy, and pastoral care.


Kate McElwee Accepts 2023 Christine Schenk Award for Young Catholic Leaders

FutureChurch is honored to present our 2023 Christine Schenk Award to Kate McElwee in celebration and admiration of her uncompromising advocacy for women in the Church and, in particular, for her leadership on the successful “Votes for Catholic Women” campaign, which certainly played a significant role in achieving a historic first for our Church – 54 women participating as equals – with a vote – in the October Synod Assembly.

Named for FutureChurch co-founder and founding executive director, the Christine Schenk Award for Young Catholic Leaders is given to a young Roman Catholic who has demonstrated promising leadership in advancing FutureChurch’s Vatican II mission in one or more areas of social justice, pastoral care, ministry, advocacy, teaching, researching or publishing.

Sr. Nathalie Becquart Accepts 2023 Fr. Louis Trivison Award

* to view the video Sr. Nathalie references, please click here.

FutureChurch is honored to present our 2023 Fr. Louis J. Trivison award to Sr. Nathalie Becquart, xmcj in recognition of her historic role as the first woman to serve as Under-Secretary for the General Secretariat of the Synod and in gratitude and admiration for her work to include women and all lay people every step of the synodal way.

The Fr. Louis Trivison award is given to a Roman Catholic who exhibits outstanding leadership in advancing FutureChurch’s Vatican II mission or vision in one or more areas of: teaching, administration, research, publication, advocacy, and pastoral care.

2023 Fall Event Benefactors

With Gratitude to Our Many Supporters!

*Listing as of November 13, 2023

Scholarship Sponsors ($1,000 +)
Anonymous (1)
Barbara and Wayne Beimesch
Mary Catherine Bunting
Mary Louise Hartman
Rita L. Houlihan
Anne M. Jenkins
Todd and Mary Ray

Ticket Sponsors ($500)
Anonymous (1)
Association of U.S. Catholic Priests
Joan and Richard Beach
Barbara Houlihan Hecht
Mary Ellen McCarthy
Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati
Jan Valder

Classic Sponsors ($300)
Anonymous (3)
Antoinette C. Allen
Regi and Herb Brosnan
Peggy and Jim Connell
Constance Dubick
Tony Gallagher
Virginia M. Giuffre
Marie and Mark Graf
Penelope S. Jeffrey
Las Vegas Catholic Worker
Janet and Jeff Leitch
Carol Ann Lisanti
Mattie McClane
Rita and Jim Mize
Arline and Joe Nosse
Brad and Sue Pritts
Lucy Rieger
Kathy Rinehart and Lisa Frey
Sisters of Providence
Sue and Gene Tozzi
Dorothy and Bob Valerian

Watch Party

Bill and Bette Downing
Oratory Women’s Community
Lou Keim

Partner ($150)
Regina Bannan
Martha M. Block
Joe Crotty
Frances Dechant
Eleanor Finlay
Meg Foreman
Constance Herron
Mary Kay Hopkins
Alice Krause
Mary S. Laver
Sue Ellen and Greg Maher
Monica Misey
Julia Nieves
Suzanne Polen
Carol Weiss
Jeff and Kathy Weigand

Teresa Baustian
Lucy Bloedorn
Elizabeth R. Brown
Ellen Brzytwa
Gloria Callaci
Jorge L. Camuñas
Julie Canepa
Roxanne Ciatti
Joan and Cornelius Cosgrove
Joan Davenport
Patricia Dzurilla
Opal Easter-Smith
Mary Ann Geskie, PhD
Deanna Grahn
Daryl Grigsby
Joseph Guyon, CO
Elaine Hamlin
Beth Hofstetter
Janice Hogan-Schiltgen
Maryann Hudak
Monica Hughes
Ann Hungerman
Lee Jones
Fran Kearney, SNJM
Mary Kessler
Anne Latour
Jane Cruthirds
Rebecca Michel
Monica Morano
Debora A. Murray
Annemarie O’Connor
Jane Pitz
Joan Poulin
Kathleen and Donald Rynbrandt
Eileen Schneider
Gretchen Shilts
Henry Simms
Jeanne-marie Smith
Art Stoeberl
Kay Vine
Nancy Warfield
Mary Warren