When it comes to women in the Church, the Spirit is stirring. 

On July 19-21, 2023 in Collegeville, MN the third Women of the Church national conference was hosted. It was sponsored by Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary. The conference did as St. Paul urged the early Roman Church: to Welcome Her and all her extraordinary gifts. 

Everyday, through diverse vocations, women share their leadership skills, liturgical and ministerial talents, theological insight, and prophetic imagination. These gifts were celebrated and, in community with others, we imagined a Church even more welcoming of women.

Romans 16:1-2

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.


Thank you to our sponsors who helped make this conference possible:











  • Kristin Colberg, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor, St. John's School of Theology and Seminary

    St. John’s School of Theology and Seminary associate professor Kristin Colberg is the only theologian from the United States named to the Vatican Theological Commission charged with assisting the Synod of Bishops. The commission is composed of 25 experts in Communications, Theology, Methodology and Spirituality from around the world, including the United States, Italy, Spain, Burkina Faso, Syria, Tanzania and Mexico.

    Kristin holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame, Master of Divinity from Yale University Divinity School, and a doctorate from the University of Notre Dame. She has been teaching at St. John’s in Collegeville since 2012. She teaches classes in systematic theology, ecclesiology, theological anthropology and theological method which examine fundamental issues in theology.

  • Sarah Hart
    Grammy-Nominated Singer/Songwriter and Liturgical Composer

    Sarah Hart is one of the leading figures in contemporary Catholic music today. A singer, songwriter, and speaker, Sarah is known for the spirit of joy she weaves throughout her words and work. Many of Sarah’s songs are part of the common worship experience of Catholics in the U.S. She has recorded 12 full-length collections with a signature blend of folk, pop, and rock, which delight listeners of every age. Sarah’s most recent collection, Love As Never Before, includes four new titles, a psalm and the well-loved Mass of St. Mary Magdalene.

    Among her many accolades is a Grammy nomination and BMI Song of the Year Award for “Better Than a Hallelujah.” Her music has been recorded by many artists including Amy Grant, Celtic Women, Matt Maher and The Newsboys. In 2013, Sarah had the extraordinary honor of performing for Pope Francis and a crowd of 150,000 in St. Peter’s Square.

  • Gloria Purvis
    Radio and Media Personality and Host of The Gloria Purvis Podcast from America Media

    Gloria Purvis is an author, commentator and the host and executive producer of The Gloria Purvis Podcast.

    Through her media presence, she has been a strong Catholic voice for life issues, religious liberty, and racial justice.

    She has appeared in numerous media outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fox News, PBS Newshour, NPR, Newsweek, and Catholic Answers Live and hosted Morning Glory, an international radio show.

    She presented a powerful video series entitled Racism, Human Dignity and The Catholic Church through the Word on Fire Institute.

    She was part of a groundbreaking, exclusive interview with Pope Francis with a delegation from America Media.

    She is the Inaugural Pastoral Fellow at the McGrath Institute for Church Life at Notre Dame University and recently received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from the University of Portland in Oregon and Saint Martin’s University in Washington State.

  • Casey Stanton, M.Div.
    Co-Director of Discerning Deacons

    Casey Stanton is the co-director of Discerning Deacons, a project serving the Church by engaging Catholics in the active discernment around women and the diaconate. She most recently served as Adult Faith Formation minister at Immaculate Conception Parish in Durham, North Carolina. She holds a BA from the University of Notre Dame, and a Masters of Divinity from Duke Divinity School where she graduated with a certificate in prison studies.

    Casey spent a decade working in the field of faith-based organizing where she witnessed the impact of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development as a key anchor in efforts to promote the common good and seek justice for those on the margins.

    Casey is proud to make a home in Durham NC with her husband Felipe and their two children Micaela and Teddy. She is inspired by Pope Francis’ call “For a Synodal Church,” and believes the global synod is an invitation for each of us to recognize ourselves as pilgrims walking together in equal dignity, discovering communion.

  • Carolyn Woo, Ph.D.
    Former President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services and Dean of the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business

    Carolyn Woo served as president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States from 2012 to 2016. As president of CRS, Carolyn was featured in the May/June 2013 issue of Foreign Policy as one of the 500 Most Powerful people on the planet and one of only 33 in the category of “a force for good.” 

    From 1997-2011, Carolyn served as dean of the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. During her tenure at Notre Dame, Mendoza College was frequently recognized as the nation’s leading business school in ethics education and research. 

    Carolyn holds a bachelor’s degree in economics, a master’s degree in industrial administration, and a doctorate degree in strategic management. In 2022, Carolyn published her book, Rising: Learning from Women’s Leadership in Catholic Ministries. In it, she discusses the role of women leaders in the Church.

  • Breakout Speakers
  • Lisa Amman

    Lisa Amman, the deputy director of engagement for Discerning Deacons, has learned, prayed and worked in Catholic institutions her whole life. Inspired by the civic and ecclesial leadership of Benedictine sisters, she attended the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota. She served for five years as the director of social justice at her parish in St. Paul, and she worked for 10 years as a community organizer with ISAIAH, an alliance of more than 100 faith congregations. She coached, mentored and trained thousands of lay and ordained people of faith to advance the Gospel vision of justice and equal dignity in public policy. She is an active member of Saint Thomas More Parish, where she is currently working her way through the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises in everyday life. A native of Louisiana, she and her husband have two daughters. Lisa’s work to ordain women deacons is for her daughters.

  • Jessie Bazan

    Jessie Bazan is a theologian, spiritual writer, and oblate of Saint Benedict’s Monastery in Saint Joseph, MN. She teaches a course on Benedictine spirituality at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University and serves as a program associate for the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research. Jessie edited and co-authored the book, Dear Joan Chittister: Conversations with Women in the Church (2019) and is a contributing author at The Liturgical Press.

  • Jane Cavanaugh

    Jane Cavanaugh’s passion is the reform and renewal of the Catholic Church. After a 12-year career in comedy in Minneapolis, Chicago and Los Angeles, Jane got a Masters degree in Theology and a Certificate in Spiritual Direction. She facilitates upbeat, heartfelt retreats through her company, ChurchBeat. She lives with her handsome husband and spunky daughter in the Twin Cities and is a parishioner of St. Joan of Arc Church. If you’re looking for her, you can find her at the intersection of Faith and Funny.

  • Cynthia Bailey Manns

    Cynthia Bailey Manns, DMin, is the director of adult learning at Saint Joan of Arc Catholic Community — a community whose vision is to be a visible, progressive Catholic Community, compassionate and welcoming to all. She holds a DMin in Spiritual Direction from the Graduate Theological Foundation in Florida and has served as professional faculty in St. Catherine University’s Theology Department, as the coordinator of the Spiritual Director Certificate Program, and as co-director of the Thriving Congregations Coordination Program funded by the Lilly Endowment.

    Dr. Manns has served as adjunct faculty at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, and Drew Theological School, teaching courses in human development, spirituality, spiritual formation, soul care for lay and ordained leaders, and sacred activism. She is a contributor to the anthology, Embodied Spirits: Stories of Spiritual Directors of Color (2014), and she is an experienced soul companion, supervisor, and retreat leader. She lives with her family in Bloomington, Minnesota.

  • Genevieve Mougey

    Genevieve Mougey is originally from western Nebraska and brings over 20 years’ experience in Church ministry. She has served in several national leadership positions and worked in Justice and Peace ministries for a variety of different national Catholic and Christian organizations, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bread for the World, as well as in parish and campus ministry. In May of 2022, she was named Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Wyoming.

    Genevieve has presented on topics around the intersections of community, the Church, and justice initiatives.  She has published articles in several theological publications. In 2021, the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND awarded her The University of Mary Presidential Leadership Award.

    Genevieve received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Mary and a Master of Divinity from St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN. Genevieve is a watercolor artist and enjoys a 5k run.

  • Heidi Schlumpf

    Heidi Schlumpf was named executive editor of the National Catholic Reporter in 2020, after serving as the publication’s national correspondent for three years. As national correspondent, Schlumpf did in-depth coverage on the influence of money in the church, sex abuse, politics, women’s issues, racism, and young people in the church.

    Schlumpf has three decades of experience covering religion, spirituality, social justice and women’s issues, having previously served as managing editor of U.S. Catholic magazine and as a reporter at Chicago’s archdiocesan newspaper and secular newspapers in California and Wisconsin. Her work has been published by CNN Opinion, Sojourners, and Huffington Post. She taught journalism as an associate professor of communication at Aurora University in Illinois.

    A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she also earned a Master of Theological Studies from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary at Northwestern University, where she studied with feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether.

    She is the author/editor of three books, including Elizabeth A. Johnson: Questing for God (Liturgical Press, 2016), the Notre Dame Book of Prayer (Ave Maria, 2010) and While We Wait: Spiritual & Practical Advice for Those Trying to Adopt (ACTA, 2009).

    Schlumpf is based in Chicago, where she lives with her husband, Edmund, and their two children.

  • Mary Stommes

    Mary Stommes, OblSB, is oblate director at Saint Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota. A writer and formerly the editor of Give Us This Day, she loves Scripture, storytelling, and the wisdom of St. Benedict’s “Little Rule for Beginners.” She and her husband are the parents of four and grandparents of eight.


  • Barbara Sutton

    Barbara Sutton, D.Min. is the Director of the Thriving Congregation initiative at Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary.  Formerly, she was director of Field Education and Ministerial Formation, also at Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary.  She is the editor of the Saint John’s Bible curriculum, Seeing the Word, and three volumes of Illuminating Ministry.  She has served in parish, diocesan, health care and university ministry throughout her service to the Church.

  • Minnesota Planning Committee
  • Kelley Deshler

    Kelley Deshler is the Grant Coordinator at Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary. She also serves as the Assistant Director of Youth in Theology and Ministry, a high school theology institute hosted at St. John’s University. Before moving to St. Joseph, MN, she worked for nearly a decade in youth ministry in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Theology and Family Studies from the University of St. Thomas and a Master of Divinity from St. John’s University.

  • Angela Dimler

    As a Product Design Accelerator for General Mills, Angela coaches cross-functional business teams to uncover consumer insights that inspire product innovation. Previously, Angela served as Director of Strategic Communications for the Catholic Community Foundation of Minnesota. She began her professional career as an elementary teacher in Phoenix, AZ with the Teach For America program. While earning her MBA from St. Catherine University in Saint Paul, MN, Angela was inspired to become a consociate of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. She has volunteered as a catechist and currently serves as a community member on the board of the Aim Higher Foundation, a scholarship organization serving K-8 Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

  • Meg Payne Nelson

    Meg has a BA from the University of Notre Dame that includes a minor in theology.  She spent over 20 years in leadership at a firm that provides technology consulting to community foundations, and has spent the last eight years at the Catholic Community Foundation of Minnesota, now serving as its Vice President of Impact.  Meg oversees all the grantmaking programs and leads many impact initiatives.  Over the years she has held a variety of volunteer and leadership positions at her family’s parish and Catholic school and is in formation to become a companion of the Visitation Sisters of North Minneapolis. She is married with two daughters, and lives in Minneapolis.

  • Donelle Poling

    Donelle Poling is the Director of Conversatio: Creating a Culture of Encounter through Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary. Previously, she worked as a Lay Ecclesial Minister and teacher in the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis for 25 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Theology and Psychology from the College of St. Benedict and a Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry from St. John’s University. Most recently, she graduated from the first cohort of the Living School of Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, NM. She resides in Richfield, MN with her husband and two children.



  • Wednesday, July 19, 2023
    • 1:00 - 5:00 p.m.Registration
    • 3:30 - 4:30 p.m.Opening Prayer Service
    • 5:00 - 6:00 p.m.Dinner
    • 6:30 - 7:45 p.m.Keynote: Kristin Colberg
    • 8:15 - 9:30 p.m.Reception
  • Thursday, July 20, 2023
    • 7:00 - 8:15 a.m.Breakfast
    • 8:30 - 8:45 a.m.Morning Prayer
    • 9:00 - 10:00 a.m.Breakout Sessions
    • 10:30 - 11:45 a.m.Keynote: Casey Stanton
    • 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.Lunch
    • 2:00 - 3:15 p.m.Leadership Forum: Carolyn Woo
    • 3:30 - 4:30 p.m.Breakout Sessions
    • 5:00 p.m.Mass
    • 6:30 - 9:30 p.m.Formal Dinner, Breath of Beauty Concert: Sarah Hart
    • 9:30 - 10:00 p.m.Star-Gazing (optional)
  • Friday, July 21, 2023
    • 7:00 - 8:15 a.m.Breakfast
    • 8:30 - 8:45 a.m.Morning Prayer
    • 9:00 - 10:00 a.m.Gathering the Wisdom: Synodal Listening
    • 10:30 - 11:45 a.m.Keynote: Gloria Purvis
    • 11:45 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.Closing and Sending


  • Founding members Kimberly Baker and Janet Millen loading up supplies at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology
  • Founding members Kimberly Baker, Agnes Kovacs and Janet Millen before heading to Minnesota
  • Beautiful St. John's Abbey Church
  • Conference check in at St. John's University New Science Center
  • Conference registrant Louise Johnson and her husband review the schedule
  • Participants bless each other with this blessing during the Opening Prayer Service: "(Name), may you live by the visions you have been given. Like the saints before you, may you remain connected to the Church, while claiming your own visionary and creative space within it. May you be fierce in following wherever the Spirit takes you."
  • Participants get to know each other during dinner in the Quadrangle Refectory. Where connections are made and meaningful conversations happen!
  • Keynote Speaker Dr. Kirsten Colberg kicks off the conference in Pellegrene Auditorium
  • Conference planning team members Kelley Deshler and Meg Payne Nelson help participants navigate the property
  • Participants Jane Rush, Jane Cruthirds and Joan Huber attend reception at Br. Willy's Pub
  • Participants inquire at the Mary's Pence table
  • Conversations during break
  • All are welcome! We were pleased to have supportive men join us for the conference
  • Meg Payne Nelson introduces Casey Stanton
  • Second keynote speaker, Casey Stanton, Co-Founder of Discerning Deacons
  • Quiet time between sessions
  • Angela Dimler introduces our Leadership Forum: Panelists Kristin Colberg, Casey Stanton, Sarah Hart, Gloria Purvis and moderator Dr. Carolyn Woo
  • Participants embark on buses going to College of Saint Benedict, Sacred Heart Chapel for Mass
  • College of Saint Benedict, Sacred Heart Chapel
  • Ann Garrido proclaims the first reading from Exodus
  • Preacher Mary Stommes
  • Fr. William Skudlarek OSB, Presider
  • A group of participants visited the burial site of Mother Benedicta Riepp, OSB.
  • A contingent of participants from Regis Jesuit High School in Denver, Colorado at the banquet
  • Breath of Beauty concert by Sarah Hart
  • Notre Dame alums who attended the conference
  • Keynote speaker, Gloria Purvis
  • Minnesota Planning Team: Kelley Deshler, Donelle Poling, Angela Dimler and Meg Payne Nelson
  • Women of the Church Founding Members Janet Millen and Kimberly Baker with Minnesota Planning Team Kelley Deshler, Donelle Poling, Angela Dimler and Meg Payne Nelson