Firstfruits began with an idea: How could women’s needs to gather with other women, experience God’s love and go forth more centered on their own giftedness and purpose be met? Then the Holy Spirit stepped in and something powerful happened!
In the beginning … Firstfruits began as a vision for a women’s ministry whose purpose was to gather women to experience God’s love. And as a result, be transformed!

As word spread about this unique opportunity, other parishes became interested in hosting a Firstfruits gathering. It became apparent to the founders of Firstfruits that this “gathering” needed to be moveable. We became known as a moveable feast of spiritual opportunities for women.

Presenters

Meet our inspirational presenters!

Erin Alexander

Founder of All Souls Yoga
500 RYT Yoga Therapy

A tumultuous struggle with addiction brought me to the yogic path ten years ago.  While I was a lover-of-God prior to the practice, yoga deepened my love of Him tenfold.  My yoga mat became a place of intimate worship, where I could feel the presence of the Divine living within me and hear the still, small voice of God.  Due to its profound impact on me, I became a certified yoga teacher and began teaching devotional yoga prayer throughout the Milwaukee area.  After teaching Yoga Prayer to the public for eight years, I began to witness the immensely healing impact of the practice on cancer patients, PTSD survivors, mental illness, and more.  This has inspired me to further my yoga certification through intensive training with Inner Peace Yoga Therapy.  I now specialize in Therapeutic Yoga Prayer that combines spiritual devotion with these ancient and powerful practices.  I am thrilled to be a part of the Firstfruits Staff and to serve the incredible women who are a part of this community.  Blessings and Namaste.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Yoga as Moving Prayer

Dr. Kathie Amidei, EdD

Pastoral Associate, St. Anthony on the Lake, Pewaukee.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Do You Have the Skills of a Servant Leader?
  • Roots and Wings: Raising Our Children with Resilience

Kim Boho

Kim Boho, small group facilitator for ‘Encounter Christ’ and a ‘New Evangelization Team’ member at St.James Parish in Menomonee Falls.

Kim is married with three college age sons. She is a convert to the Catholic faith in 2004, is a member of St. James Parish in Menomonee falls, and is currently serving as their Pastoral Council Chair.  Kim leads a monthly mom’s rosary group, is a Confirmation catechist, a small group facilitator for ‘Encounter Christ’ and a ‘New Evangelization Team’ member. “I love God, the Church, my family, interior decorating, organizing and scrapbooking.”

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Encounter Christ

JoAnn Boss, BCC, MA in Religious Studies, MSN, OFS

Degree Programs:
M.A. in Religious Studies, June 1983 Mundelein College, Chicago, IL
M.S.N., May 1997 Texas Woman’s University, Denton Texas
B.S.N., May 1967 Spalding College, Louisville, Kentucky

Certificate Program:
Spiritual Mentoring Program – September 1998 to June 1999
Franciscan Retreat Center, Burlington Wisconsin

Franciscan Vocation – Secular Franciscan Order (OFS):
Profession 1991, St. Francis and St. Louis Fraternity, Chicago, IL

I was born the third, middle child of five children to Joseph and Anna who both were 1st generation Italians. We lived in a two-family home with my mother’s parents who spoke Italian more than English.

We went to Catholic grade school and high school. I was the first adult child in my family to graduate from college – a Catholic college away from home.  Having survived the normal childhood sibling issues and the parental styles of the time, I have a great love and appreciation for my parents, grandparents and my two brothers and sisters.

I still am in my formative years. Some things are always with you and help carry you, knowingly or unknowingly, to that next level of insightful understanding and compassion – Love and Faithfulness taught at a very, very early age!

My initial career began as a registered nurse in 1967. Staff nursing, Head Nurse and Clinical Nurse Specialist were positions held respectively. I have served as a Director of Nursing Education in a hospital setting and taught Nursing at Texas Women’s University Dallas Texas as well as at Loyola University in Chicago, IL.

My nursing career took another turn as I moved into Parish Nursing working in an intercity church.  For over 10 years, this ministry was a wonderful source for professional learning and spiritual growth. During my parish nurse career, I was published four times. Two articles appeared in a Christian journal and two were incorporated in textbooks for parish nursing.

A broad range of hospital chaplain’s experience make-up my clinical practice. They include spiritual care for the medical/cardiac patients, orthopedic patients, cancer care patient, palliative and hospice patients, prenatal loss spiritual service including a semi-annual Memorial and Burial service.  Several years of facilitating both Caregivers support groups and parish nurse support groups have been part of my practice as well. My work has included in the past selected administrative functions such as scheduling, orientation of new staff and volunteers, communications to staff from our Director of Spiritual Services.

Working as a nurse with patients in County facilities and as a parish nurse with those in need in Chicago at the Uptown Ministry, my spirituality was being “shaped.”

I was able to put a name on this way of being as I learned about Franciscan Spirituality. My identity as a nurse or as a chaplain is only one part of who I am. My conduct and identity as a Franciscan who serves and who is embraced by a loving, caring and merciful God is “soul-shaping.”

The collegiality within the Franciscan Order and the understanding of Franciscan Spirituality is a vital element for me on this journey of life. These avenues offer me strength and enlightenment about the goodness in all people and in all creation.  My desire to share this Franciscan way with others has been a calling.  I have served in various ways as a formation facilitator since my profession in 1991. It is my privilege “to preach the good news and, if necessary, use words!”

In 1989, I married Edward Francis Boss who is also a Secular Franciscan. We share our love for the Order as well as gardening, drawing, water color, cooking and walking in parks. Ed is retired but busier than ever with his gardening and with the Secular Franciscan Order as a Regional Spiritual Assistant.

Currently I am an OPT (optional part-time) position at CMH.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • An Alternative Franciscan Theology
  • Finding Faith Support When You or Someone You Love is Ill
  • Franciscan Prayer: To Gaze, To Consider, To Contemplate, & To Imitate
  • Reflective Conversations with a Hospital Chaplain

Joan Carey

Joan Carey is the founder of Firstfruits Apostolate, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women grow spiritually, deepen their relationship with God, and awaken to their giftedness and purpose.

Joan has served as a keynote speaker, presenter and workshop leader. She is the author of Ponder This, a collection of faith based short stories that have aired on Relevant Radio (100.1 FM WPJP) and been featured as podcasts on the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Web site at www.livingourfaith.net. In addition, Joan co-developed Simply the WORD, a scripture study program.

Joan is married with three grown children and five grandchildren.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Ponder This

Sister Karlyn Cauley, SDS

Sister Karlyn is a full time artist with Art Gallery which is open weekdays to the public at Divine Savior Holy Angels High School. She is a Sister of the Divine Savior with a B.A. from Marquette University and M.A. Art from University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI.

She is an exhibiting artist and her web sites are:  karlyncauley.com and sistersofthedivinesavior.org.

She was appointed an Ecumenical Associate with the Presbyterian denomination, Immanuel Church, Milwaukee’s east side.

Sister Karlyn is a companion sponsor to new members, lay and religious Salvatorians. She works in racial relations with Common Ground, and lives in the central city in housing for African American elders sponsored by my community.

My gifts include translating the scriptures into art workshops with emphasis on women and their values, gifts and skills, and prayer forms, and presenting creative experiences to skilled artists and non-artists.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • A Parable of Jesus
  • The Art of Journaling
  • The Church and the Sisters
  • Earthen Vessels
  • The Holy Spirit and Grace
  • Images of Relationship: “Who is This Man Jesus?”
  • Journaling as a Spiritual Discipline
  • Joy Within a Mandala
  • Making Room for Hospitality and Generosity in Christ
  • Parables in Scripture
  • Puzzle Pieces of Our Lives

Kathy Czarniak, R.N.

Kathy is a Registered Nurse and Parish Nurse, whose passion is to care for those who are “walking through the valley of dark places.”  For over twenty years, she has accomplished this by developing bereavement care programs, facilitating grief and caregiver support groups, and through educational forums within the community.

Kathy has experienced multiple losses throughout her life.  When her husband died in an industrial accident, leaving her a widow and single parent at the age of 29, she learned firsthand that there is a great need for support and education.

As a Parish Nurse, she believes our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being play an important role in the way we journey through death and grief related issues.  Focusing on hope and healing, Kathy encourages others to share their story, practice self-care, and to search for their “new normal.”

Kathy created a blog in 2013 for those experiencing any of life’s losses, entitled Greet Grief – entering into the pain as you move through life’s losses (www.GreetGrief.com).  She offers educational resources and inspiration on her Facebook page – Greet Grief and can also be followed on Twitter @greet_grief.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Living Through Loss (1-on-1 Sessions)
  • Living Through Life’s Losses
  • Walking with Those on a Journey of Loss

Fred Depies

Fred Depies is an owner of Trust Local Foods, LLC, with his son, Aaron Depies. They service Eastern Wisconsin with their food distribution business at Appleton Wisconsin. Trust Local Foods provides local grass-fed meats, dairy, locally grown produce and value added foods from small farms and local artisans. Sales and deliveries are made to health food stores and restaurants in the eastern Wisconsin area. This was made possible by publishing the Farm Fresh Atlas of Eastern Wisconsin for the last 14 years and becoming familiar with small farmers and artisan within the region. He had an interest in health food at an early age and that gave him the motivation to learn more about nutrition and enter businesses related to healthy whole foods. He organized sustainable food fairs, food and energy festivals, and farmer grazing events. These events served as an educational outreach to the region.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Eating Healthy is a Spiritual Act

Sister Lucille Flores

Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother

Ministry Experience

  • Elementary teacher
  • School administrator
  • Archdiocese of Milwaukee Office of Education: Director of School Personnel
  • Archdiocese of Milwaukee Office of Vocations: Associate Director
  • Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother Milwaukee Province: Director of Vocation Ministry
  • Sacred Heart School of Theology, Hales Corners: Associate Director of Formation
  • St. Anthony Parish, Menomonee Falls: Director of Adult Faith Formation
  • St. James Parish, Menomonee Falls: Coordinator of Adult Ministry

Thoughts on Prayer

Prayer is the foundation of our spirituality. Prayer is to our spirituality, what gasoline is to a car. Without prayer we go nowhere in our friendship with the Lord. If we want a relationship with the Lord, let’s take to heart Jesus’ words: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.” Come, join Sister Lucille in growing our relationship with the Lord through our prayer together.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Prayer Partners

Wendysue Fluegge

WENDYSUE FLUEGGE is a gifted musician/songwriter who loves putting faith stories and scripture to melodies!  Based out of Milwaukee, WI, she lives with her husband of 21 years and their two amazing teenagers.  She calls herself  ‘chaotically blessed’.  God has given her a unique full time travel ministry that takes her to hundreds of churches and organizations all across the U.S. for worship services, retreats and concerts. Wendysue will boldly talk about Jesus anytime, anywhere, with anyone – always ‘ready to give an answer for the hope she has’.  (I Peter 3:15)  She was recently found strumming a hymn on her guitar singing to Southwest passengers while flying 37,000 feet over Kansas.  See more @ www.wendysue.com

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Healing Harmonies
  • Soul Song

Jean Gatton

Certificate in spiritual direction from the Norbertine Center for Spirituality in De Pere, WI and a certificate in Spiritual Direction from Cardinal Stritch/Casa Romero in Milwaukee, WI.
Bachelors of Social Welfare from UWM in Milwaukee with 30 years of experience working with the elderly and their families.

Jean Gatton is a spiritual director and a small group facilitator.  She has been a small group facilitator for Simply the Word Bible Study at Christ King Parish for many years.  She has also facilitated Bible Study and Ponder This small groups at Firstfruits as well as offering spiritual direction.  She is privileged to share the spiritual journey of those seeking spiritual direction.  She has been in spiritual direction for over 20 years and is deeply committed to the process of spiritual growth and healing which can come through sharing your journey with a spiritual guide.  Also knowing that the real director is God, she is the conduit.  Jean is a member of Good Shepherd Parish in Menomonee Falls.  She is the mother of three grown sons and grandmother of four granddaughters.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Ponder This
  • Simply the Word
  • Spiritual Direction (1-on-1 Sessions)
  • A Spirituality of the Twelve Steps

Diane Gilles

Diane is certified in Pastoral Care and continues to take classes at O.L.O.L. Art Guild that is an ongoing part of her journey toward God

Diane Gilles has been married to her high school sweetheart for 50 years, has four children and nine grandchildren.  She is a stage four cancer survivor for over 20 years which she attributes to her grateful heart.  Diane shares her love of art and faith through offering art classes to individuals to discover their own spiritual creativity.  Certified in Pastoral Care, Diane has been using art to reflect, pray and grow spiritually.  Her classes offer a safe and encouraging place for individuals to explore and reflect on their own Faith journey.  The result is your own individual piece of art as a beautiful reminder of the creativity within each one of us.  Bring yourself and your open heart to explore the hidden beauty within.  With Diane as your guide who knows what you will discover!

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Come to Me, Let Me Speak to Your Heart
  • Creating with Alcohol Ink
  • My Face: My Story
  • Prayer Beads
  • Prayer Flags
  • Repurpose Me, Oh Lord
  • Work of Our Hands

Tammy Groszczyk, M.S., LPC, Licensed Psychotherapist

Tammy is a wife and mother of 4 children. She is member of St Jerome/Queen of Apostles Parishes. She works at Lakefront Wellness Center in Pewaukee as an outpatient mental health therapist. She mostly provides services addressing marital struggles, trauma, depression and anxiety. Her passion is integrating foundational Christian truths into her therapy approach to help empower those who are suffering.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Discerning the Voice of God in the Midst of My Own Interior Voices
  • Finding Balance in Our Lives with Jesus’s Peace

Diane Holzman, BA, MA

Diane is a retired Reading Specialist from the Oak Creek/Franklin School District and is a NAMI Certified Family to Family Facilitator.

Diane retired from the Oak Creek-Franklin school district in June  2013.  As a Reading Specialist, she worked with students and teachers promoting best literacy practices in the classroom. Currently, Diane is involved with NAMI’s End the Stigma movement, volunteers with their family therapy dog Mia through Pet’s Helping People, and is gearing up for her youngest daughters’ senior year of high school this fall.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Finding Serenity, Courage, and Wisdom
  • Taking Shame Out of Mental Illness

Linda Maris, JD

Linda has the privilege of serving the Christian community in Wisconsin with broad charitable and legacy planning as President of National Christian Foundation WI. As scripture tells us that we were made to be givers (generosity is a spiritual gift from God), Linda has specifically been called to help women be confident in God’s plan for their life so that they experience the joy and fulfillment that comes from giving of their L.I.F.E – Labor, Influence, Finances and Expertise. Her vision is to spread the message of generosity so that all can “excel in the grace of giving”. Locally, NCF Wisconsin is one of 30 affiliate offices of the National Christian Foundation – the 9th largest charity in the U.S. and the largest facilitator of donor-advised funds for Christians. Linda practiced law for 25 years in Milwaukee before joining NCF Wisconsin in 2009. Linda met her husband, Charlie, at Marquette Law School. They have been married for over 30 years and have three adult children.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • “Work Out” Your God Given Purpose through “Full Life Generosity”

Mary K. Matestic, MTS

Mary received her Masters in Theological Studies from St. Francis de Sales Seminary. She did her clinical pastoral education at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, and served for 20 years as the Pastoral Associate at St. Mary Parish in Hales Corners, WI.  She is a recipient of the Vatican II award for her work with Families and continues to facilitate Grief Support Groups in her parish.  Mary writes a Scripture column for the Catholic Herald and an online reflection for LPi Connect once a month. Mary addresses women’s life transitions allowing the Scriptures to provide that template for her presentations.   She continues to offer Spiritual Direction and directs an Autumn Women’s retreat each year at Siena Center in Racine.

She is married to Fred.  They have four adult children and nine grandchildren.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Advent
  • Breaking Open the Word, Breaking Open Our Hearts
  • Called To Be Holy
  • From the Garden of Gethsemane to the Cross at Calvary: Pondering the Passion of Christ
  • Give Me the Word of Life: The Practice of Lectio Divina
  • Hail, Mary
  • Mary: A Woman For All Seasons
  • Mary of Magdala: Apostle to the Apostles
  • Praying with Courage
  • Seeing Life with God’s Eyes
  • Spiritual Direction (1-on-1 Sessions)
  • Spiritual Lessons from St. Ignatius of Loyola, Founder of the Jesuits
  • The Spirituality of the Parables of Jesus
  • “Though I Walk Through the Shadow of Death, You are at My Side, Guiding Me”…A Talk on Grief
  • While You Were Waiting…

Cindy Nauertz

Cindy is a Certified Life Coach, Retreat/Workshop Facilitator and Women’s Bible study leader. A wife of 35 years, she is mom to 2 grown daughters, and grandma to 5 precious grandchildren. Aside from living out her faith and loving her family, Cindy’s heart is to equip, challenge and encourage women to become their very best selves, just as God intended them to be!

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • It’s a NEW YEAR … So Let’s BE Intentional
  • Mindfulness … Reclaiming the Present Moment and the Life God has for You!
  • Mindfulness Series
  • Mindfulness Workshop
  • Permission Granted: The Art of Self-Care
  • The Road To Happiness is Paved With CHOSEN Intention!

Pam Olsen, Independent Facilitator of Love and Logic

Bachelors of Education, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Masters in Elementary and Middle School Guidance Counseling

Facilitator training at the Love and Logic Institute, Golden, CO

Pam has worked as an educator and guidance counselor. For the past 17 years she has worked with schools, families, parent groups, churches and businesses encouraging and training people as they work with and raise children. Love and Logic is a wonderful approach to raising children to be respectful, responsible and fun to be around. Helps with ages 8 months to 99 yrs.  It is great human relationship training.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Love and Logic
  • Love and Logic Coaching (1-on-1 Sessions)

Mary Osep

Mary Osep is a wife, mother of five boys, grandmother of four and a retired youth and young adult minister. Mary has worked with youth all of her adult life, as a registered nurse at Children’s Hospital before completing studies at Cardinal Stritch University and working with the youth at four parishes. Mary is a trained virtues facilitator and continues to share a virtue of the week reflection through the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish bulletin.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Awakening the Gifts Within
  • Choosing Character
  • Rediscovering Mercy

Joelle Peterson

Joelle Peterson is an artist, an eternal student, a wife, and mother of four who is passionate about nourishing women and helping people reach their highest potential. She has enjoyed art since before college and has since experimented with and mastered many different art mediums and crafting including silk dying and beading. She loves teaching others how to express themselves through art and believes being creative keeps you healthy by utilizing that wonderful right side of your brain!

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Art Immersion Fridays

Donna Pinsoneault

Donna Pinsoneault formerly served as a peer chaplain for New Horizons retreats and has served with other divorce ministries sponsored by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Blessed Are the …
  • Questions, Doubts, and Fears–Oh My!
  • Saints Alive!
  • That Meal at Martha’s and Mary’s
  • What Are We Waiting For?
  • When Friends Divorce?

Mary Beth Rezek, M.A., L.M.T., RYT 500

(Licensed Massage Therapist and Registered Yoga Teacher 500 hrs.)

Mary Beth has a spectrum of modalities to offer in the healing arts.  Mary Beth trained at Cuyahoga Community College in Highland Hills, OH for Swedish/relaxation massage, massage therapy, and attended workshops in infant massage and Thai yoga massage.

In 2008, she trained under Auntie Maile Napoleon in Hilo, Hawaii, learning the ancient art of lomilomi, Hawaiian massage. In 2008, she attained a certificate from the American Bodywork Professionals and Massage Therapists.  In 2010 she became licensed for massage therapy by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, the Ohio State Medical Board and the state of Wisconsin. With John Barnes, PT, she completed a course in myofascial release.

She owns Profoundly Peaceful Massage LLC. She initially opened in Milwaukee in August 2010.. In spring of 2013 she joined Magnolia Group Health & Wellness Center in Pewaukee. In spring 2015, she accepted the request to also offer yoga and massage at Pathways of Light in Delafield.

Before her career in the healing arts she taught 26 years in elementary schools in the inner city of Cleveland, OH. She has a B.S. in ECED, and a Masters in SPED, a Montessori A.M.I diploma and a reading endorsement. She assisted  special education students part time at Pewaukee high school 2014-2015. Mary Beth is married with three children.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Chair Massage

Michelle “Shelly” Runte

Shelly Runte is Founder and Executive Director of Kayla’s Krew.

Shelly brings a refreshing perspective on happiness, letting go, and believing in all abilities. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Microbiology at UW-Oshkosh and started her career at the Medical College of Wisconsin in the Human and Molecular Genetics Center as a project manager. Little did Shelly know that her biggest research project would come to her in August of 2004 when her daughter Kayla was born and later diagnosed with cerebral palsy. With the odds against them, Shelly, her husband (John), and her daughter (Brooklyn) have a remarkable story of teamwork, love, and belief. Kayla redefined Shelly’s perception of motherhood by revealing new roles such as caregiver, healthcare coordinator, advocate, and instrumental griever.  Through these new roles, Shelly realized an abundance of life lessons and felt an even deeper call from within which later landed her in the position of Founder and Executive Director of Kayla’s Krew whose mission was to build Kayla’s Playground, the first all-accessible and all-inclusive playground in Franklin and Milwaukee County. However, Shelly’s experiences resonate well beyond the foundation of Kayla’s playground and are wrapped sweetly in play and even stronger in faith! As a published author, her recent work, Perspectives of a Lifetime, can be found in the book, Finding Your Voice. Shelly is passionate about encouraging others to find their own unique voice to make a difference in the world both personally and professionally.

www.michellerunte.com

www.kaylaskrew.org

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Perspectives of a Lifetime
  • Moved by the Holy Spirit

Debra Schneider

Debra has been involved with parish ministry for most of her adult life leading youth CF classes, retreats and work camp experiences, facilitating adult scripture study and faith building programs, speaking on Catholic social teaching, and presenting on a variety of issues related to the social teaching of the Church. She is VP of the Waukesha County Green Team, on leadership Council for Catholics for Peace and Justice and on the board for Franciscan Peacemakers. She has also taught Sociology and Ecology at Carroll University and tutors English as a Second Language. Debra co-led the youth jobs campaign for Common Ground, is now a member of SOPHIA and an active member of her parish Human Concerns committee. Her joy is family, community, permaculture/gardening and everything outdoors. She has a BBA in Marketing from UW Whitewater and a Masters in theology from Marquette University.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Pope Francis’s Encyclical on Care of Creation

Annemarie Scobey

Annemarie is an award-winning author who writes locally for the Catholic Herald and nationally for U.S. Catholic on the connection between faith and family life. She is married with four children, two of whom are adopted from foster care. Her book, Discovering Motherhood, chronicles her family’s journey.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Be Who You Are Called to Be

Marianne F. Skrobiak

Marianne is a retired  psychotherapist who was in private practice in the Milwaukee area.  She has been in the counseling field for over 21 years.  She earned a Master’s Degree in counseling and a Master’s Degree in Theology following her own divorce after a long term marriage.  She became active in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in 1978; served as Associate Liaison for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for six years and in October of 2012 became the Liaison.   Marianne continues to serve in that role.   In April of 2012 she was elected to the ADL (Association of Diocesan Liaisons) Steering Committee and participates in The Gathering in Miami each January.  Marianne has been active in River of Life Prayer Group for many years and considers the people there to be her Spiritual family.

She is the mother of two and the grandmother of four (one in heaven).  She has had a ministry to the separated and divorced for over 18 years and has authored a Return to Life DVD set designed to help parishes offer hope and healing to many experiencing the struggle of divorce.   .

In 2013 Marianne participated in the first Prophetic Visioning Consultation for the Charismatic Renewal held in Bethlehem that was sponsored by ICCRS.   Marianne is active in her parish community serving as lector, Eucharistic minister and presider over communion services.   Marianne serves as a national consultant to parishes.  Come hear about the exciting faith journey she has had and how the Holy Spirit continues to be active in her life.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Return to Life-Boundaries: What They Are and How to Set Them

Sister Carol Ann Smith, SHCJ

Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Sr. Carol Ann is a member of the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus, an international congregation of women religious whose charism is rooted in the Incarnation and whose ministry in education is framed by the spiritual works of mercy.   She has served within her community as superior, formation director, and as Chair of its Spirituality Task Force.  She holds Masters’ degrees from Villanova University and from the Catholic University of America.

Sr. Carol Ann has extensive experience in spiritual direction and retreat work.  She was Director of the Internship Program for Spiritual Directors in the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio and for 11 years was Director of the Center for Ignatian Spirituality at Marquette University.  In addition to serving as a resource in spirituality for many groups, she served on Boards of Trustees of Holy Child Schools for over twenty years.

Sr. Carol Ann is the co-author with Fr. Eugene Merz, S.J. of Moment By Moment: A Retreat In Everyday Life  and Finding God In Each Moment: The Practice of Discernment in Everyday Life and  Moments To Remember: Ignatian Wisdom For Aging.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Ignatian Wisdom for the Journey of Aging
  • The Joy of the Gospel

Debbie Strachota

Debbie is the creator of Firm Believers, a faith-based dance aerobic fitness program set to contemporary Christian music with focus on achieving balance of mind, body and soul.  She strives to inspire and motivate individuals to share in the joy of God’s presence through the movement of dance.  To prepare her for her “moving ministry” she owned and operated a jazzercise franchise for 16 years in the Wauwatosa area. With a degree in Special Education she also works with children’s groups, instructing them on health and fitness.  Debbie is a devoted wife of 39 years and grandmother of four abundantly loved children.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Firm Believers

Carol Sullivan, BA

Carol is a wife of over 38 years.  She and her husband, Tom, have 5 young adult children and 9 grandchildren.

Carol has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Elementary Education and a Certificate in Spirituality from AlvernoCollege in Milwaukee, WI.

Carol has been working since 1992 in the area of lay spirituality as a spiritual director, a retreat leader, a dynamic Christian motivational speaker, and a director of Days of Reflection.  She has also been involved with women in the jail system in Milwaukee and has made 4 mission trips to Haiti.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Can You Drink the Cup?
  • Fascinating Faithful Females of the Bible
  • Freshly Squeezed Fruit of the Spirit
  • Journaling with the Labyrinth
  • “Living in the Moment”
  • Living Life Fully Alive
  • No More Sackcloth … Choosing Joy for Lent
  • Praying with Nature’s Elements
  • Spiritual Hospitality … Deeper than Martha Stewart
  • Spiritual Toolbox … “Building” Our Prayer Life
  • Way of the Cross
  • Wired as Women … Feminine Spirituality

Amber Thompson

Amber is a stay-at-home mother of two, with a small, yet budding, online wellness business called Wellness Rising. She started her professional career in the Air Force as an administrative officer who was serendipitously charged with running several wellness and fitness programs.  After four years in the Air Force, Amber began working as a personal trainer at a high-end women’s gym in Boston, Massachusetts, where she led group fitness and nutrition classes for several years.  She’s been a stay-at-home mom since the birth of her daughter in 2010, and quickly learned that convincing a toddler to eat vegetables would be the most challenging job of her life.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Empowered Nutrition

Thelma Walker

Certificates in Theology and Family Ministry.

Past Director, Office for Women, Milwaukee Archdiocese.

Past Staff member, Human Concerns/Respect Life Office, Milwaukee Archdiocese.

Presenter's Portfolio

Sample Topics

  • Advent: Let’s Explore Advent with New Eyes
  • Beatitudes: Job Description
  • Catholic Social Teaching: A Well-Kept Secret
  • Everyday Spirituality
  • Prayer: Food for the Journey
  • Transitions in Life