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.