Fr. John Culkin, SJ, said "we shape our tools and, thereafter, our tools shape us." The Church Communications Ecology Program (CCEP) at the McGrath Institute for Church Life provides a learning community for parish leaders to develop a deeper understanding of the social and psychological effects that digital tools are having on individuals and communities. For parishes to thrive in the digital environment, leaders must be able to promote virtues and practices that lead to true communion.
The CCEP empowers Church leaders to deepen their awareness of technology’s effects and to lead by example. Not limited to communications professionals, the CCEP works with pastors, lay ministers, and educators who are called to respond to the myriad pastoral challenges raised by life in the digital age. The CCEP is funded by a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment.
Sr. Peter Verona has been a member of Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia Congregation for twenty years. She has taught Religion and mathematics at both the middle and high school levels. Sister was also blessed to be a member of the 10th Cohort of the ACE Remick Leadership program at the University of Notre Dame. Currently, she is working at the Dominican Sister’s Motherhouse in Nashville.
Bo is Senior Advisor for Mission Initiatives and Director of the Center for Human Flourishing at Mercy College. He is the Gerber Visiting Fellow of Catholic Studies at Newman University. He has taught for Humanities departments at multiple Universities, has published articles for Church Life Journal, and is the co-host of the UnCommon Good on Iowa Catholic Radio. He converted to Catholicism in the midst of Protestant Seminary and is now a Benedictine Oblate. He and his wife Robyn have been married for 19 years, and they have five children: Elias, Stella, Antonia, Finnian, and Helena. Bo was born on the feast of St. Blaise, the patron saint of throats, and he has not stopped talking ever since.
Sister Matthew Marie Cummings, O.P.
Sr. Matthew Marie is a member of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia Congregation of Nashville, Tennessee and is a professor of education at Aquinas College. Sister is passionate about preparing teachers as witnesses. She teaches Education in the Dominican Tradition, Media and Technology in Education, Classroom Management, and supervises student teachers. Prior to her move to Aquinas College, Sister served in elementary schools for 13 years.
Melissa Downs is the Dean of Innovation and Academic Programs at John Paul II High School in Plano, Texas. She has been a member of the faculty there since 2012. She oversees student activities, clubs, organizations, curriculum, instruction, master schedule, professional development, AP, Dual Credit, and innovative programs (STEAM, EPICS, Social Innovation Lab, Blended Learning, academic competitions, and internships). She also oversees both the new student and new teacher mentoring programs. Ms. Downs piloted the teaching of the Student Leadership Class and the Social Innovation Lab. She is passionate about cultivating student leaders and working alongside teachers to inspire greatness in JPII classrooms.
Ms. Downs grew up in Garland and graduated from Texas A&M-Commerce with a degree in Mathematics and Finance. She received her Master’s degree from Southern Methodist University in Educational Policy and Leadership and was selected the most outstanding student in the program. In her 17 years as an educator, she has taught a variety of math classes and sponsored many student organizations. She has received several awards during her career such as “Teacher of the Year” at Rowlett High School and an award for her meaningful work with students with special needs.
Fiona Holly is a Reference-Outreach Librarian at Conception Abbey and Seminary College, where, in addition to regular collection maintenance, she teaches information and media literacy sessions to college seminarians. Fiona is active in her parish as a catechist for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and is trained in Level I and (almost) II. She is also involved in communications work managing social media for the New York Encounter, an annual cultural event in the heart of New York City. Her academic interests, in addition to librarianship, are at the intersection of education, digital media, and Catholicism. She is a graduate of Benedictine College and the University of Missouri. She resides in Maryville, Missouri.
Allie Howard is a computer teacher for St. Joseph Grade School. During her time in education, she has watched the presence of technology rapidly expand in schools and recognizes the need to consistently evaluate how and when classrooms incorporate technology. It is her hope that this program will better equip her to understand how this ever-increasing use of digital tools affects students beyond academics and also how her role as an educator can help shape technology use in positive ways. Allie’s bachelor’s degree is in Elementary Education and she recently completed her Masters in Curriculum and Educational Technology.
Deacon Randy Kraft
Randy is a deacon at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, studying to be a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He entered the seminary right out of high school. This is his seventh year in priestly formation. He was ordained a transitional deacon at the end of this academic year, and will be ordained a priest in May of 2023. In Deacon Randy's various parish assignments throughout his time at the seminary, he has seen how effective technology and social media can be in building up the Body of Christ. Deacon Randy is excited to be a part of this program so that he can reflect on these experiences and develop the tools to better serve Jesus Christ and his Church in our changing world.
Bill Maier is the Secretary for Communications for the Diocese of Brooklyn and also heads DeSales Media Group, creators of content and technology for use in formation, discipleship building, and evangelization in the Diocese of Brooklyn and beyond. With 25+ years of experience in media, marketing, and digital technology, Bill’s specialization is in using these tools for bringing people with shared passions and interests together into communities. During his career, Bill has created and produced multi-platform content for clients and partners including ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, ESPN, Discovery, SiriusXM, the NFL, Major League Baseball, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo, and others. His publishing partners have included Simon & Schuster, Rodale, Scholastic, Triumph Books, and NFL Publishing. He also headed a television marketing and technology division of Interpublic Group, creating strategies and campaigns for brands such as Coca Cola, General Motors, Kraft, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, L’Oreal, Disney and Capital Music, among others.
Born and baptized in the Diocese of Brooklyn, his family moved to Long Island and the Diocese of Rockville Centre when he was young. A product of Catholic primary and secondary schools, he received his undergraduate degree from St. John’s University in New York and is currently earning his MA in Theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary and College in Dunwoodie, New York. Bill lives in Long Island with his wife, Carol, and their four children. He and his family are parishioners at St. Anthony of Padua in East Northport. Together, Bill and Carol are also recipients of the Diocese of Rockville Centre’s St. Agnes Medal of Service.
Bud Marr is the Associate Provost at Mercy College of Health Sciences in Des Moines, Iowa. He is the author of Seeking God with St. John Henry Newman (Our Sunday Visitor, 2019) and To Be Perfect Is to Have Changed Often (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018) and has also contributed essays to Newman and Life in the Spirit, Learning from All the Faithful, and The Oxford Handbook of John Henry Newman. Before coming to Mercy College, Dr. Marr served for three years as the director of the National Institute for Newman Studies in Pittsburgh, during which time he was also Associate Editor of the Newman Studies Journal. He and his wife Rachel have been blessed with seven children.
Dave Plisky is a very flawed follower of Jesus Christ. As Director of Product & Innovation for DeSales Media, Dave leads DeSales Tech, crafting and delivering real value for the Church in the form of solutions that together create a communications hub for dioceses, parishes, ministries, and schools. He has spent over 15 years marketing music, beauty, mobile communications, social media management, and now the Gospel, in Los Angeles, Prague, and New York. He graduated magna cum laude from the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a degree in business, and is an alumnus of Seth Godin's altMBA. He is a parishioner of St. Aloysius in the Diocese of Bridgeport where he lives with his incredible wife.
Nicholas Powers is a physics teacher at All Hallows High School in the Bronx with a background in classics and computer science. He has a keen interest in developing the thought of Pope Francis and his influences viz. sensing the "delicate equilibria" of the times and engaging the world amid the "rapidification" we all experience from new technologies, and inculturating these lessons in secondary education. He is also a former college rower, Spongebob enthusiast, and he has nearly perfected the art of making tiramisu.
Deacon Louden Redinger is from Hastings, Nebraska, and comes from a large Catholic family – he’s the oldest of 9. In 2014 he entered the seminary for the Diocese of Lincoln, NE, and graduated from St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward, NE in 2018. Currently he is enrolled at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia and was ordained to the transitional diaconate in Lincoln at the end of the school year. He’ll be ordained a priest in May of 2023. In his free time Louden enjoys travelling, learning about American history, and rooting for the Chicago Cubs. Louden hopes the Church Communications Ecology Program can equip him with tools to proclaim and preach the Gospel in a digital age.
Renée D. Roden
Renée D. Roden is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame's Master of Theological Studies and is a writer in New York City reporting on religion and social issues. Her work has appeared in the Associated Press, Washington Post, Religion News Service, the revealer, Christianity Today, and America Magazine.
Matt Romkey is the vice president of enrollment and marketing at Mercy College of Health Sciences in Des Moines, IA. During his tenure at Mercy College, he has provided leadership and oversight to the recently launched online division, continuing education division, foundation, and enrollment management teams, which are comprised of admissions, academic advising, financial aid, and marketing. Matt's track record of delivering innovative, high-value solutions by aligning problems with analytics, technology, and process improvement has led to initiatives that have been featured at The White House, unprecedented enrollment growth, transformational public-private partnerships, and record-breaking philanthropy. Matt spent the first decade of his career developing innovative drive-to-retail and cause marketing partnerships with Fortune 250 companies. During that time, he successfully raised more than $50 million to support local children’s hospitals across the United States and Canada. Matt has three young children (3, 3, and 2) and he's currently earning his doctorate in leadership and innovation at Arizona State University. His research focus centers around deploying alternative learning pathways for adult learners.
Frank serves as the Director of the Social Innovation Lab at John Paul II high school in Plano, TX. He collaborated with JPII school leaders and faculty in 2018 to found the 2-semester course which offers juniors and seniors a hands-on experience of practicing innovation methods and mindsets. Partnering with local non-profits, students conduct design research projects to ideate, prototype and test solutions that improve youth-targeted services. The students’ efforts supporting the North Texas Food Bank’s outreach to youth experiencing food insecurity earned them an invitation to Design for Change’s Global Summit in Rome in 2019. Frank brings 25 years of professional experience serving nonprofit and mission-driven organizations. He is an evangelist for social innovation, seeing opportunity where others see deficits. As the Senior Director of Research & Innovation at Catholic Charities Fort Worth until 2017, Frank oversaw the launch of the Padua Pilot, a first-of-its kind randomized control trial testing holistic, data-informed approaches to tackling the complex issues faced by families living in poverty. Based on the insights and experiences leading Padua, Frank co-founded fintech startup, Credit Mountain, which aims to expand access to fair and transparent credit for financial strivers. Frank earned a BA in Government and an MA in Theology from the University of Notre Dame. He lives in Richardson with his wife and their three sons.
Will Sipling is a writer and researcher exploring the intersection of human, media, and systemic ecology. As a communications professional, he has lead teams in tech, workforce management, higher education, and nonprofit industries. He earned a MA in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas and a master’s in biblical and theological studies from Dallas Theological Seminary.
Jane Wageman teaches English and creative writing at Marian High School in Mishawaka, Indiana. Originally from Minnesota, she moved to South Bend to attend the University of Notre Dame, where she received a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish. She taught for two years through the University of Portland’s PACE program, earning an M.Ed. with an endorsement in ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) before returning to Notre Dame to complete an M.A. in English. Outside of the classroom, she moderates Marian’s creative writing club and also helps lead a small group of adult writers in South Bend. She is interested in questions concerning the role of technology in education, the ways in which media impact our ability to encounter ourselves and one another, and the effects of media on the formation of community.
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