Speakers

MARY RICE HASSON

Mary Rice Hasson is a Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. where she directs the Catholic Women’s Forum, an initiative that responds to Pope Francis’s call for Catholic women to assume a higher profile within the Church and to think with the Church in addressing the problems of today.

Mrs. Hasson is the editor of a new book, Promise and Challenge: Catholic Women Reflect on Feminism, Complementarity, and the Church (Our Sunday Visitor: 2015), and the co-author of the groundbreaking report, What Catholic Women Think About Faith, Conscience, and Contraception (EPPC, 2012), which offered new data and analysis of the views of church-going Catholic women, ages 18-54, on faith, conscience, and contraception. She is currently writing a book that proposes ways to engage Catholic women more effectively on topics related to sexual morality, conscience, and reproduction, in order to accompany women towards a deeper life in Christ.

Mrs. Hasson speaks on Catholicism, culture, women, sexual morality, and family life and writes for a variety of websites, policy journals, and scholarly publications. She has been interviewed by media outlets ranging from MSNBC to the BBC to EWTN, and by numerous Catholic radio programs. Before joining EPPC, Mrs. Hasson worked as an attorney and writer and served the Church for over twenty years in leadership positions in Catholic marriage preparation programs, diocesan education efforts, and Catholic ministries to women and families.

She is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Notre Dame Law School. Mrs. Hasson and her husband, Kevin J. “Seamus” Hasson, the parents of seven children, have been named the recipients of the 2015 Saint John Paul II Award for the New Evangelization.

STACY THOMLISON

In 2008, Stacy Thomlison joined a Holy Land pilgrimage led by Scott Hahn, and she fell in love with the Catholic faith.  The experience ultimately led the registered nurse to leave her “dream job” and boyfriend in New York, enter the Church and join the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (Focus) as a missionary at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.  “As I walked where Jesus had walked, God really grabbed my heart, and he said, I want you back, and I want all of you,” Thomlison recalled.  “The world tells you that money, fame and power will make you happy, and I had all of that in New York and felt empty inside. Working for Focus, my heart is now full with joy and a priceless peace.”

During her stint as a missionary, Thomlison has encouraged Catholics and other students to make hard, courageous choices in an undergraduate social environment that can penalize distinctively Christian behavior. In campus groups, Focus student leaders commit themselves to chastity, sobriety and excellence in their studies.  “We teach them the dignity of being women — that they are worthy to be waited for. It has been amazing to watch these women come alive,” said Thomlison, with characteristic 

Stacy Thomlison isn’t the only one in her birth family to join the Catholic Church. Her brother, Father Steve Thomlison, a priest in the Diocese of Lincoln, paved the way for her and introduced her to a Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program in the city.  “My sister, like everyone, had been searching. Her heart had been restless, as St. Augustine said, until it rested in the Sacred Heart. Now she is resting more deeply, and her joy has grown and become more vibrant,” he said.  His sister’s journey to faith, he added, served as a reminder that “whenever we encounter these difficulties, the Lord is able to do great things with them.”

DALE RECINELLA

Dale Recinella, author of Now I Walk on Death Row: A Wall Street Finance Lawyer Stumbles into the Arms of a Loving God (Chosen Books: April 2011) and The Biblical Truth about America’s Death Penalty (Northeastern University Press: 2004), “Ending the Death Penalty: What One Catholic Supreme Court Justice Could Do,” America, April 28, 2008, and “Why American Catholics Must Say ‘No’ to the Death Penalty,” America, November 1, 2004, has served for 20 years as a spiritual counselor and Catholic lay chaplain in Florida’s prisons. On behalf of the Catholic Bishops of Florida, in 1998 he began ministering cell-to-cell to the approximately 400 men on Florida’s death row and the approximately 2,000 men in Florida’s long-term solitary confinement. He and his wife, Dr. Susan Recinella, minister as a team during executions: he serving as spiritual advisor to the condemned and his wife serving as a lay minister to the condemned’s family and loved ones. They also minister to the families and loved ones of murder victims. Mr. Recinella, who received a Masters in Theological Studies (M.T.S.) summa cum laude from Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology (2009) and law degree magna cum laude from Notre Dame University Law School (1976), is a licensed Florida lawyer and has taught international law/business ethics in Europe at St. John’s University at the Vatican (Oratorio) and at Temple University in Rome. His column about respect life, the death penalty and prison ministry has appeared regularly for eleven years in The Florida Catholic, and he received a Year 2000 Press Award from the Catholic Press Association. In 1997 he was named a University of Notre Dame Exemplar for modeling faith and citizenship in action, and received the Year 2001 Humanitarian Award from the Franciscan Alumni Association. He appears frequently on worldwide Vatican Radio and extensively addresses audiences nationally and in Europe.

MOTHER SUSAN CATHERINE KENNEDY

Mother Susan Catherine is a former Nacogdoches County judge who founded the order of the Daughters of Divine Hope in 2010. After the death of her husband, Deacon Bill Kennedy in 2007, she began discerning a call to enter religious life, but had difficulty finding communities open to accepting older women. Through discussions with then Bishop Álvaro Corrada, SJ, she felt a calling to establish just such an order.  Bishop Corrada issued the decree establishing the order in November, 2010, and named Mother Susan Catherine Superior.  

Prior to becoming a consecrated woman, Mother Susan was once introduced as a renaissance woman.  Her diverse business, government, civic, volunteer and educational background clearly attests to this description and brought her public recognition as a leader.  Her for-profit business experiences include banking, telecommunications, and hospital services.  In 2008, she founded Hope Leadership Alliance, a leadership development, strategic planning and mediation firm.
In addition to the world of business, Mother Susan also worked as a director of music and worship at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Nacogdoches, Texas. In that ministry, she was able to use her certification in pastoral ministry.  

In 1999, she won election for Nacogdoches County Judge, the first woman and first Catholic to do so.  She became internationally known while in this position in 2003 when she led the Shuttle Columbia recovery effort in that county.

The Daughters of Divine Hope is open to women over the age of 25, with a particular openness to widows and older women. The community’s charism is one of service to the church and solidarity with her sacred ministers. Sisters of Divine Hope wear habits of green, the liturgical color of hope.