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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.