20/30 Project for Mentoring and Leadership 2018

The 20/30 Project for Mentoring and Leadership aims to cultivate young leaders who live in the paradoxes of Catholic identity. We recognize that our faith is the source of holy, unique, and revolutionary potential for personal and common good and at the same time is the source of unreconciled (and often unacknowledged) oppression and injustice, specifically for LGBTQ people; people of color, women, and lay people throughout the world.

This new program brings together young visionaries and change-makers across the country to support and inspire one another as part of a cohort, each discerning and initiating a project that puts faith into action for social justice. Each Young Leader will be paired with a mentor to accompany them as they explore how their Catholic faith and personal gifts and passions intersect with the social needs around them.

The 20/30 Cohort of Young Leaders will join us at Call to Action’s 2018 National Conference in San Antonio, Texas, to share their learnings and efforts from the past six months with their fellow Young Leaders and the broader Call to Action community. Learn more about National Conference.

On May 18-20, the cohort gathered for a leadership retreat in Minneapolis, MN where they prayed, learned, and strategized about their projects together. View photos from the retreat.

Introducing our 20/30 Cohort of Young Leaders

John Noble

John is a Roman Catholic student pursuing a Master of Divinity at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas. His research interests include Catholic history, the ecumenical movement, and applying liberation theology to the daily lives of Catholics around the world. He has recently worked with groups like Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement on issues of environmental and economic justice, the Des Moines Catholic Worker, and Roman Catholic Womenpriests-USA. John hopes to eventually pursue a Ph.D. in Church history or theology, and to develop strategies for empowering laity and the poor through community organizing. When he’s not working or studying, John can be found reading, posting theology memes, and spending time with his girlfriend Quinn and new puppy Shiloh. He’s excited to continue his work with Call to Action, and to participate in this project for intergenerational transformation.

Derek (Black Moses) Rankins, Jr.

Black Moses is a native of New Orleans, LA and a member of St. Mary’s of the Angels Parish. He is an anti-racist organizer with the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond Training Team and a graduate of Tulane University with a Bachelor’s in Afrikan Studies and Sociology. His work includes being Co-Convener of Color for Students Organizing Against Racism at Tulane (S.O.A.R.), providing leadership for Young Leaders of New Orleans’ Freedom Library, and working with the People’s Institute Youth Agenda and Kwanzaa Freedom School. He has also worked with College Track New Orleans as a Student Life Mentor and recently taught a course called “Brotherhood.” Black Moses is currently a 2017 Soros Justice Youth Activist Fellow and the Program Director at Boys and Girls Westbank Unit.

About Black Moses’ Project:

“I have created a Liberation Rosary and Prayer Packet. The pamphlet and rosary have been designed from the Africana perspective of Catholicism. As a Black Catholic, I believe it is very important for BLACK people to see ourselves in our GOD, our Savior (Jesus), and our Mother (Mary). Our communities are suffering at the hands of systems that question the value of Black Life.

Inspired by Prayer and Works in James 3: 14- 16 and Ask, Seek, Knock in Matthew 7: 7 -12; I am inviting others to join me in prayer on the anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s apology for the Roman Catholic Church’s involvement in the enslavement of the Africana Community (August 9). I am inviting others to pray this rosary with the intent:
(1) End of Individual, Institutional and Cultural Racism within our church and country; and

(2) for the strength and energy to be honest and take action as the body of Christ to address racism.

The rosary is designed in Pan African colors; Red for the Blood of the People & Jesus, Black for the People & GOD, and Green for the Land & Heaven (Home). The hope if for this rosary to hang, be worn, and prayed in the church, in front the courthouse, government office & programs, and wherever Racism is being practice on an institutional level.”

Kelly Hanley

Kelly is a cradle Catholic and San Francisco native, which she lovingly calls “a glorious combo.” She’s a proud product of Catholic education and second generation Catholic educator. Kelly graduated from Holy Cross and Providence College, earned her Masters in Education through the PACT Program, followed by the Notre Dame ENL Program, and taught in Santiago, Chile. She’s currently in her 7th year of teaching and 2nd year at Cristo Rey San Jose Jesuit High School, where she teaches social justice to juniors, English to seniors, and helps run campus ministry. Kelly finds the work to be “holy, joyful, occasionally devastating, and hard.” She hopes to design her social justice curriculum in a way that will continue to break down classroom walls and build mutual relationships where her students’ voices and experiences are honored and learned from. Kelly is passionate about justice, and has a particular interest in juvenile ministry and how it’s related to issues of police violence and incarceration.

About Kelly’s Project:

“I’m working on building a resource manual filled with tools, guide, and philosophy behind implementing restorative practices at schools. Through campus ministry retreat programs, and in partnership with teachers and counselors, I hope that we can build up the vocabulary and practices to address conflict in more relationship-building ways. My project will include: a curated library of restorative justice resources, a slideshow to share with teaching staff, and a guide book for bringing the practices to life. Ideally, this will be shared beyond just our school community!”

Morgan Bengel

Morgan is a recent graduate of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI, and was recently accepted as a Candidate to the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids. She loves to read, explore, write, travel, drink coffee, and chat. She writes: “I could never tire of listening to people share their stories. Through these stories and my relationship with God I have been moved in tremendous ways toward wonder & awe, unity, and grace. I have been inspired by the women of my Dominican community who make social justice a way of life and infuse their love into everything they do. I am grateful for their example and I am emboldened by their support as I embrace the future that God and I are co-creating.”

About Morgan’s Project:

“My project with Call To Action will combine two of my greatest passions: religious life and LGBTQ+ advocacy. As a Candidate with the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, I will empower myself and my sisters to be a part of the conversation surrounding the LGBTQ+ community by facilitating and implementing ally-training workshops. Following these workshops, the sisters and myself will share time and space with members of the LGBTQ+ community in Grand Rapids. We will share and hold one another’s stories, and give ourselves over to the radical kinship that is found at the heart of the Gospel.”

Stephen Njau

Stephen was born in Mombasa, Kenya and raised in Philadelphia. He’s part of St. Gabriel Small Christian Community, African Catholic Young Adults of Philadelphia and is a member of St. Catherine of Siena parish. He has a particular passion for mentoring youth and writes: “My Catholic faith grants me comfort in knowing that everything I do for the love of Christ has a purpose in bringing me closer to Him.”

About Stephen’s Project:

“In short, my project is focused on forming a bridge between those individuals who are imprisoned with the youth in the community. I am hoping to turn their tough experiences into inspirational wisdom. I want to make an impact and change the way we reform as a society by providing funding, time and care to change those who made a mistake into model citizens.”

Emily Morris

Emily is a native of London, Ohio, where she grew up in a big Irish-Catholic family. She attended the University of Notre Dame and went on to serve as a Jesuit Volunteer for two years in the Pacific Northwest. Emily currently lives in Yakima, Washington where she hikes, cooks, and works at a community health center. She loves to visit her elderly friends and imagines a future working in hospice care. Emily is inspired by a vision of the Catholic Church where all church members are actively engaged in work for Justice, Peace, and Reconciliation both inside and out of the walls of the church.

About Emily’s Project:

“My hope is to gather women from my local community to learn from one another, hold space for sharing joys and struggles, and discuss social justice issues that impact our local community. The goal of this kind of gathering is to foster a sense of community, have tangible support for one another, and continue to inspire folks to keep working for the common good for every member of our community.

Over the years, I have been involved in planning and hosting an International Women’s Day potluck brunch. Each year has been unbelievably “successful’ in the way that relationships are formed, women feel connected and supported by one another, and there is sacred space to share stories, art, music, and memories. I am hoping to continue the spirit of this yearly gathering into something more frequent, particularly as many of the guests at this year’s International Women’s Day brunch left saying, “I already can’t wait for next year’s gathering!” The goal is to make this a safe space for all kinds of women, a space were we can all show up as ourselves while we learn, grow, challenge and support one another, all the while finding more ways to commit ourselves to justice and peace in our world.”

Revalon Wesson

Revalon is from Stillwater, MN and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in theology, concentrating in social transformation. She’s passionate about advocating for social change on behalf of those who feel like they do not have a place to belong, particularly the LGBTQ+ community, people of color, and women. Revalon wishes to aid in strengthening faith-based communities for people who are often pushed to the fringes of society by creating safe spaces where they can spiritually flourish. She hopes that by celebrating and uplifting humanity’s diversity she can inspire those with faith and a heart of justice to strive for a more beautiful, complete, and welcoming church community.

About Revalon’s Project:

“The Bible tells us that human beings are created in the image of God, but what does that mean? For my project, I will be exploring the theological concept of imago Dei, both its implications and its complications in regard to those whose divine image is often marred by the patriarchal, heteronormal, classist, racist, and ableist ideas that permeate today’s society. Using art as a medium, I want to build community around people in the LGBTQ community, women, people of color, and those with disabilities or who are chronically ill, examining what the image of God means to them and how they reflect that image with the full dignity of any other human being.”

Abby Rampone

Abby is a Vermonter, a writer, and a feminist Catholic. She’s concerned with creating radical, resilient communities in the face of environmental degradation and patriarchal violence. After graduating from Williams College last June, she moved to New York City, where she is pursuing an MDiv at Union Theological Seminary. At Union, she enjoys living and working with the Women’s Interfaith Residency Program – and hopes to continue to foster interfaith feminist communities after graduation. Abby also loves reading, hiking, travel, and cats.

About Abby’s Project:

“For my CTA 20/30 project, I am organizing a conference, which will foster ongoing relationships and grow into some sort of network (formal or informal). The conference’s theme will be “reimagining vocation.” It will be a space for young Catholics who don’t see space for themselves in traditional ministry to explore how they might serve – and challenge – their Church and world.

What might a vocation look like for women and LGBTQ Catholics? What might it look like for people with families and disabled people? What if our gifts are more unconventional – what if we are artists or activists, heterodox theologians or techies, or something else? The conference will offer space for questioning and community. Its primary audience will be Catholic students in divinity school and college students/young adults in the NYC area.”

Breanna Mekuly

Breanna currently lives in Erie, PA and works with the Benedictine Sisters at their soup kitchen and with Sister Joan Chittister’s ministries. Breanna studied theology at Vanderbilt Divinity School. She is fascinated by the intersection of sexuality and spirituality, which she approaches through a feminist lens. Whenever possible, Breanna loves taking adventures and is often joyfully distracted by the beauty of the natural world.

About Breanna’s Project:

“I will be conducting intentional conversations with small groups of people around the intersection of sexuality and spirituality. Using a feminist Catholic perspective, these conversations will begin with dialogue on the beauty of diversity as a gift from a creative and playful God and enter into an exploration of LGBTQ terms and identities using the “Genderbread” person. My goal is that these conversations will encourage people in my community to encounter new perspectives of the intersection of sexuality and spirituality, specifically as it relates to those in the LGBTQ community who have been told by the official teachings of the Church that their orientation or experience is ‘intrinsically disordered.'”

Betsy Ericksen

Betsy is a community organizer and experiential learner who currently lives in Boston, MA. Catholic social teaching has inspired and guided her, from being fascinated by the saints as a child, to combating sexism and racism in her high school, to studying sustainable urban development on 3 continents, and (most recently) to becoming a community organizer. Betsy works with mothers and grandmothers concerned about climate change and the power of the fossil fuel industry. She is also committed to developing a contemplative practice and rhythm, both for herself and in community with other young adults. Betsy received a BA in Peace and Justice Studies from Wellesley College in 2014 and served with Life Together, a program of the Episcopal Service Corps, from 2015-2017. She is inspired by supportive communities, empathetic and brave leadership, and hard working women around the world.

Karina Varela

Karina is a recent graduate of St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX where she studied English Literature and Religious and Theological Studies. After graduation, she moved back to her hometown on the Texas-Mexico border. Karina works as a tutor at a public alternative high school for 14-20 year olds where she regularly witnesses the ways that the US’s unjust immigration policies impact education, incarceration rates, healthcare and a variety of other issues. She writes: “Being from a small border town has shaped who I am and my worldview… My grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico in the early 60’s through the Bracero program. I believe that people like myself who have experienced these issues first-hand are key in finding ways to best help the people affected by them. Immigration is an issue that I feel deeply connected to because it has directly impacted my life in many ways.”

About Karina’s Project:

“My 20/30 project is focused on young people in my community who struggle with issues surrounding mental health and/or substance abuse. It is all too common in my community (like in many other corners of the country) to loose a young person to addiction or suicide. The goal of my project is to work toward creating a communal dialogue within my parish centered on how to combat these issues as well as providing my church with partnerships/resources to local agencies already involved in this kind of work.”

Support these young leaders and our other programmatic work by donating to CTA’s Annual Appeal.

Do you have questions about the 20/30 Project for Mentoring and Leadership? Email Claire Hitchins at claire@cta-usa.org.