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Empowering Ourselves:

flourish & thrive

Joan Chittister, OSB, needs no introduction. She is one of the most influential religious and social leaders of our time. For over 50 years she has passionately advocated peace, human rights, women’s issues, and monastic and church renewal. A greatly sought-after international speaker, she is also a best-selling author of more than 60 books, hundreds of articles, and an online column for the National Catholic Reporter. She has served as president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and president of the Conference of 


American Benedictine Prioresses, and as Prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania. She holds a doctorate in communications from Penn State University.

We are deeply honoured that she opens our gathering with blessing and her thoughts

on Empowering Ourselves.


Tony Flannery, CSsR was a much-loved Redemptorist preacher of missions up and down Ireland over four decades. Tony wrote about priestly celibacy, women’s ordination and homosexuality in Reality Redemptorist magazine. He co-founded the Association of Catholic Priests to give Irish priests a voice and a presence. Then in 2012, the Vatican authorities painfully and opaquely suspended him from ministry. Courageously, he has turned this last decade into a rich time of study, thought and writing.

We rejoice that he will spend the weekend with us at Empowering Ourselves, sharing the fruits of his most recent book and his thinking: From the Outside.

Penny Brown works in mental health. Originally a Catholic, she has been recently drawn back to considering the ways in which our feelings, our inner authenticity, and the question of spiritual growth, may be hampered by institutional Church teachings. Watch her fascinating discussion with Kevin Gallagher, of R&B Core Team, who also works in mental health, here. Penny will facilitate safe space at Empowering Ourselves, whereby we can share our stories and find deeper understanding of our fears and joys.


She asks: Why does the Church not teach what God really wants for us? Which is simply, to see us flourish and thrive?

Listen to Penny & Kevin here....


Reverend Ruth Gee is a supernumerary presbyter stationed in the Wrexham Circuit. A past President of the Methodist Conference (2013-2014), she was Chair of the Methodist Council and Moderator of the Churches Together in England Forum. Currently Ruth serves as Co-Chair of the British Methodist Catholic Dialogue Commission. She has an M.Litt in theology for research into Christian concepts of parenthood and the new reproductive technologies. She enjoys teaching, preaching, walking, writing and time with her family. We welcome her most warmly, and to our Open Table.

Anthony Cassidy CSsR studied theology at the University of Kent at Canterbury as part of his seminary training, in a nondenominational course with female and male students. After his ordination within the Redemptorist Congregation, he studied Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, after which he spent fourteen years teaching at the Franciscan Study Centre in Canterbury, now closed. Most recently in charge of a parish in South London, where his focus was on parochial self-empowerment, he was summarily


removed following anonymous false accusations. He is now in Liverpool, where his preaching and teachings are well-received.


Angela Hanley (right, with Mary McAleese) is a theologian, communicator and author of several books. She is specifically interested in the ways exclusion is enacted within Catholicism. Her most recent book is What happened to Fr Sean Fagan? which tells the story of an Irish moral theologian's treatment by the Vatican. This courageous and compassionate pastor asked her before he died to tell the story of how he was censured and silenced by the CDF, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in Rome.

We welcome her deeply pertinent contribution to Empowering Ourselves.

Lisa Loveridge served her Catholic church as a reader and on Parish and Deanery Pastoral Councils, and as Chair of the Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission. Her parish work came to an abrupt end after her notes about being a 'poor parish for the poor’ were deleted from the Parish Council Minutes. Lisa trained with OneSpirit as an Interfaith Minister and ordained herself in 2021. She is a Pastoral Care Coordinator, working with 250 older people near Bristol. Whilst currently a Eucharistic Minister, Lisa retains an uneasy


relationship with local Catholic clergy; fine, as long as she doesn't challenge anything, especially lack of accountability and autocratic decision-making.


Penelope Middelboe, the driving force behind Spirit Unbounded, will tell us of its inception in 2022 as a worldwide platform for reform organisations. With her husband Jon Rosebank, she led the creation of over 115 videos of Voices from all parts of the world, set in a context of Human Rights in the Emerging Catholic Church. These astonishingly beautiful stories may all be seen on the SU website and

are a rich treasury for thought and discussion. Penelope also enjoys writing a regular column for the Synodal Times and being a grandmother.

Listen to Penelope here....


Katharine Salmon studied Languages at Leeds University followed by Theology at York St John. She is Head of Religious Studies and in charge of Year 11 at Sheffield High School where she has taught for 24 years. She is an LLM (Licensed Lay Minister) in the Anglican Church, which involves preaching and leading services. She is discerning a calling with the Immaculate Heart Community, California and, God willing, she says, will be welcomed as a full community member this October. Involved since 1991 with MOW and WATCH, the Anglican movement for women


priests and bishops, she has also been a member of CWO (Catholic Women's Ordination) since 1997. She writes liturgies and celebrates life events with people from all backgrounds.


Rev’d Heston Groenewald, is a vicar at All Hallows Anglican Church in Hyde Park, a diverse inner-city parish where his near neighbours include three mosques and a mandir. He thinks that makes him the luckiest vicar in the world!We’re deeply grateful to him and Katharine for extending the offer of All Hallows to host our Open Table gathering to conclude our day on Saturday 31st August, and for making us feel so very welcome there.

Vic Camp will launch Root & Branch’s new Spirit Unbounded Access Course at Empowering Ourselves. Vic has devised an easy-to-use means of bringing this rich treasury of 115+ Voices videos to parishes internationally. The initial 8 sessions allow individuals, small groups of friends, or parishes to better understand some of the very real human rights and other questions facing Catholics across the world, and to deepen our Christian values as we do so. Of herself, she says “My recent introduction into Catholic reform sees me supporting the


Church and has aligned my faith, my personal and professional skills, my hopes and my values perfectly. I feel blessed to be on this journey.”


Rhiannon Parry Thompson is a member of Root and Branch and Catholic Women's Ordination core teams. She's a Green Trade Union Branch rep in her workplace, a member of Catholic Concern for Animals and is active in party politics in the area in which she lives. Rhiannon has a strong commitment to ecumenical and interfaith relations and is the Catholic Church representative on her local Christian Aid Committee.

Geoffrey Brome Thompson was brought up in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and has a strong commitment to ecumenical dialogue and collaboration. Having been a social worker, he's now a modern languages lecturer and occasional translator, a branch union rep, particularly concerned with short term and precarious contracts and an active member of Greener Jobs Alliance. He's a keen student of languages.

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