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2018 Speakers


Marguerite Barankitse (Maison Shalom—Kigali, Burundi)

Marguerite Barankitse
Founder and President, Maison Shalom
(Kigali, Burundi)

Marguerite (Maggy) Barankitse was born in Ruyigi, in eastern Burundi, one of the poorest regions of the country. She first worked as a teacher at a local secondary school but was fired because of her protests against discrimination in the field of education between Hutus and Tutsis. She then went to work as a secretary for the Catholic bishop in Ruyigi. She had a dream of ethnic harmony, and despite mounting tensions in Burundi, she put that dream into practice by adopting seven children: four Hutus and three Tutsis. 

Violence escalated between Hutus and Tutsis, and following the assassination of Burundi's first democratically elected president, a group of armed Tutsis descended on Ruyigi on October 23, 1993. They were there to kill the Hutu families hiding in the bishop’s estate. Maggy managed to hide many of the children, but she was caught by the gunmen. They beat and humiliated her, forcing her to watch as they killed 72 Hutus. But she refused to divulge where the children were hidden. Ultimately, she was only spared because she was a Tutsi.

After this terrible ordeal, she gathered her adopted children and the surviving orphans and hid them in a nearby school in Ruyigi. As more and more children sought shelter with her, she decided to create a small NGO: Maison Shalom, the "house of peace." Maggy’s house was, and is, open to children of all ethnic origins: Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa. She calls them “my Hutsitwa children,” and they call her “Oma,” or grandmother.

In the following years, Maison Shalom was one of the few places in Burundi where Hutus and Tutsis lived together. Since the terrible events of 1993, over 10,000 children and youth have benefitted from Maison Shalom. Before the current crisis in Burundi, Maison Shalom employed more than 270 people, including nurses, psychologists, and educators who implement special  projects for the children.

Maggy set up small income-generating initiatives run by the youth themselves, such as a guesthouse, a cinema, a car workshop, etc. When they become independent, the young people receive a small house and a plot of land. By 2015, over 300 houses for children and youth between the ages of 4 and 20 had been built. Maison Shalom also helps internally displaced persons and returning Burundian refugees to reintegrate in Ruyigi and to trace their missing relatives. And Maggy is on the frontlines in the battle against AIDS, setting up counseling projects to promote AIDS prevention. She and her staff care for over 100 HIV-infected children who have been abandoned or orphaned.

She also started an initiative to help youth who were in prison. Some children were born in prison, and she worked to find them a better life—through education especially and a home outside the prison. Her team also promotes agriculture and established microfinancing to enable the mothers and fathers to develop small businesses.

However, in April 2015, when Maggy spoke out against the third presidential term of Pierre Nkurunziza, she was obliged to hide for a month in an embassy in Bujumbura. Ultimately, she had to flee, because the government had her name on a list to be eliminated. Having joined the youth demonstrations denouncing President Nkurunziza, Maggy found herself a refugee. But her refugee status did not stop her devotion to alleviate suffering. 

She has now opened a branch of Maison Shalom in Rwanda where she sought refuge. There, her focus is to obtain education for children and those secondary and university students who are in refugee camps. Maggy has received many accolades for her indefatigable work for children. Among her many honors are the 2008 Opus Prize, the World's Children's Prize for the Rights of the Child, the North-South Prize, the Four Freedoms Award, and in 2016, she was the inaugural recipient of the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity.

Melinda Roper, MM (Maryknoll Sisters Congregation—Darién, Panama)

Melinda Roper, MM
Past President, Maryknoll Sisters Congregation
Missionary & Co-Director, Pastoral Center of Santa Fe
(Darién, Panama)

Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Sr. Melinda Roper attended Michigan State University and then entered the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation in Maryknoll, New York. She served in various roles with the Maryknoll Sisters, beginning with Sisters’ Novitiate at Topsfield, Massachusetts, from 1960-63. She then taught at Colegio Monte Maria in Guatemala from 1963-65.

The following year, Sr. Melinda joined the Pastoral Center in Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico, where she was involved in catechetical work. She spent a year in Chiapas, Mexico, studying the dialect of the indigenous peoples. In 1971, she earned her BA in theology from Loyola University Chicago. Returning to Guatemala, she served as a staff member in the Centro Apostólico in Huehuetenago.

After 14 years of serving in Central America, Sr. Melinda was elected president of the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation, an office she held from 1978 to 1984. Just two years into her role as president, on December 2, 1980, four U.S. churchwomen (among them, two Maryknoll sisters) were murdered in El Salvador. As National Catholic Reporter's Global Sisters Report describes in June 2017 article, "[u]nder her leadership, the Maryknoll sisters fought for justice, for the churchwomen and for those they represented. At a time when Americans were mostly unaware of the U.S. role in training and financing right-wing death squads terrorizing much of Central America, the Maryknolls awakened the faith community in particular and the country in general. The churchwomen became a symbol for a system that was repressing and killing tens of thousands of innocents, many simply for the profession of their faith. Their deaths helped inspire Central American solidarity groups throughout the U.S. and a sanctuary movement that gave shelter to refugees fleeing the violence."
During her years as president, Sr. Melinda received various honorary degrees, including the Doctor of Humane Letters from Loyola University Chicago, Emmanuel College, Fordham University, Catholic University of America, Regis College, New School of Research, and Albertus Magnus College.

In 1985, Sr. Melinda was assigned to the Vicariate of Darién, Panama, where she remains in ministry today, 32 years later. In this tropical jungle region, she is engaged there with a team of Maryknoll Sisters who live and work with indigenous, Afro-Darienitas and mestizo settlers. For many years, the Sisters traveled to 38 different communities instructing Delegates of the Word, catechists, teachers, and young mothers. Their main objective was the formation of Ecclesial Basic Communities, small groups that pray and work for a more just and compassionate world. Through the years the Sisters’ ministries have evolved to be more ecological given their recognition of the importance of the tropical rainforest to the survival and well-being of our planet. Much of their ministry happens in Darién's Pastoral Center of Santa Fe, whose purpose is for the human community to learn to live in harmony with the whole community of life.



Maricarmen Bracamontes, OSB (St. Scholastica's Center for the Development of Women—Torreón, Mexico)

Maricarmen Bracamontes, OSB

Superior, Bread of Life Monastery
Founding member and instructor, St. Scholastica's Center for the Development of Women
(Torreón, Mexico)

A Benedictine nun, Maricarmen Bracamontes is the superior at Bread of Life Monastery (Monasterio Pan de Vida) in Torreón, Coahuila, Mexico. She is also a founding member and instructor at the monastery's St. Scholastica's Center for the Development of Women (Centro de Desarrollo Integral de las Mujeres, Santa Escolástica). She completed her licentiate in theology at the Jesuit seminary at Ibero-American University (Universidad Iberoamericana, or IBERO) in Mexico City, and went on to participate in the DMin program at Catholic Theological Union (CTU) in Chicago.

Maricarmen serves in an advisory capacity on initial and ongoing formation for religious communities in Mexico and other countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, the United States, and Europe. Her areas of interest are Biblical spirituality, the theology of consecrated life, human development, and affectivity and sexuality in the celibate person. She studies all of the above with a holistic, interdisciplinary perspective in the context of the culture of innovation and the building of knowledge societies.

Since 2006, Maricarmen has formed part of the Theological Team for CLAR, the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious, and was the Team's coordinator from 2009-12. She has worked closely with the CLAR Commission for Religious life inserted among the poor and the Biblical Spirituality Commission.

Agnes M. Brazal (De La Salle University—Manila)

Agnes M. Brazal
Associate Professor of Theology
De La Salle University

Agnes M. Brazal is associate professor of theology at De La Salle University in Manila, Philippines. She is also past president and a founding member of DaKaTeo (Catholic Theological Society of the Philippines) and one of the first coordinators and "mothers" of the Ecclesia of Women in Asia (an association of Catholic women theologians in Asia). She has been a planning committee member of the Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church since 2007; an editorial board member of the journals Theological Studies, Asian Christian Review and Budhi; and an international advisory board member of Louvain Studies. She obtained her STL/MA and STD/PhD in theology at the Catholic University of Leuven.

Among her various publications are her co-authored book on Intercultural Church: Bridge of Solidarity in the Migration Context (Borderless Press, 2015) and the co-edited Feminist Cyberethics in Asia: Religious Discourses on Human Connectivity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014); Transformative Theological Ethics: East Asian Contexts (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2010); Faith on the Move: Toward a Theology of Migration in Asia (AdMU, 2008); and Body and Sexuality: Theological-Pastoral Reflections of Women in Asia (AdMU, 2007). Additionally, she has published articles in journals such as Theological Studies, Concilium, Questions Liturgiques, Asian Christian Review, Asian Horizons, Hapag, and others.

In 2003, she was awarded the MWI (Institute of Missiology—Missio, Aachen) prize in the international academic essay contest on contextual theology and philosophy on the theme, “Religious Identity and Migration.” And her book Body and Sexuality was a 2007 National Book Award finalist, an honor given by the Manila Critics Circle and the National Book Development Board.

Rekha Chennattu, RA (Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth Pontifical Institute—Pune, India)

Rehka Chennattu, RA
Professor of Biblical Studies
Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pontifical Institute of Philosophy and Religion
(Pune, India)

Rekha M. Chennattu is professor of Biblical studies and an aassociate faculty member at Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pontifical Institute of Philosophy and Religion in Pune, India. She is also the provincial superior of the Congregation of the Religious of theAssumption (RA), an Indian province of the RA since May 2011.

She was promoted to the rank of professor of theology in 2010 by the Congregation for Catholic Education (CCE), in consultation with, and with the approval of, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) at the Vatican in Rome. She was a participant (auditor) at the Synod of Bishops on New Evangelization in October 2012. She is a member of numerous organizations such as the Ecclesia of Women in Asia and the Indian Women Theologians Forum; since January 2017, she has also been a member of the FABC-OTC (Federation of Asian Bishops Conference's Office of Theological Concerns).
She holds a licentiate in Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and a PhD in Biblical studies from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Since 1996, she has taught Scripture in India and abroad and presented papers at various national and international conferences. She has published more than 90 scholarly articles in journals and books in India and abroad, and some of these articles have been translated from English into more than 20 European and Asian languages. Her books include Johannine Discipleship as a Covenant Relationship (Hendrickson Publishers, 2006) and two forthcoming titles: Biblical Women as Agents of Social Change and A New Commentary on John's Gospel from Indian and Feminine Perspectives.

Emilce Cuda (Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina—Buenos Aires)

Emilce Cuda (Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina)
Research Professor of Theology
Department of Theology, Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina (UCA)
(Buenos Aires)

In addition to her faculty position at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina (UCA), Emilce Cuda holds a similar position in the University of Buenos Aires (UBA)'s Philosophy Department and is also an associate professor in the Philosophy Department of the National University Arturo Jauretche (UNAJ) in Buenos Aires. Currently, she also serves as the Latin American president of Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church (CTEWC) and the International Political Science Association (IPSA) for Religion and Politics and as coordinator of the international "Theology, Ethics, and Politics" research team through CLASCO, the Latin American Council of Social Sciences, in the company of theologians such as Juan Carlos Scannone. 

An active member of the Argentine Theological Society (SAT), Emilce belongs as well to the academy of the Escuela Social (Social School) within CEBITEPAL, the Pastoral-Biblical-Theological Center for Latin America, created as a training and formation body by the Latin American Bishops' Conference. She holds both her MA and PhD in moral theology from UCA, and among the books she has published are the following:

Additionally, she has published numerous book chapters on theology and politics in the company of authors such as James Keenan, SJ, as well as over 30 journal articles on these topics. As a conference speaker, she has traveled throughout Latin America and to Norway, Sweden, the UK, the U.S., Canada, Italy, and Spain, and since 2013, she has also organized several international conferences in both the UK and Argentina.

Tandiwe Lucia Chipoka (International Order of St. Luke the Physician—Harare, Zimbabwe)

Tandiwe Lucia Chipoka
Member, International Order of St. Luke the Physician Healing & Deliverance Ministry
Member, Anglican Mothers' Union
(Harare, Zimbabwe)

A Zimbabwe native, Mrs. Tandiwe Lucia Chipoka was raised in a Christian family and was baptised and confirmed in the Catholic Church. After attending Commercial Careers College for professional training in secretarial studies, she was employed in 1992 by the National Railways of Zimbabwe where she rose in the ranks to become a branch head secretary to the Eastern Area manager in Harare.

Today, she serves as a member of the Anglican Mothers’ Union working with the Roman Catholic Sacred Heart Guild. She is also an active member of the International Order of St. Luke the Physician, a healing and deliverance ministry. Her role in this ministry includes intercession, counseling, teaching the Word, and doing charitable work among those in need of food and clothing, including home-based care for the sick. She has also worked closely with the following organizations:

Wendy M. Louis (Office of Laity & Family, Federation of Asian Bishops Conference—Singapore)

Wendy Louis (Federation of Asian Bishops' Conference, Singapore)
Immediate Past Executive Secretary in the Office of Laity and Family and the Women's Desk
Federation of Asian Bishops' Conference (FABC)

Of Indian ethnic origin, Wendy Louis was born and raised in Singapore. She holds an MA in pastoral studies. After some years teaching English, she began working for the Archdiocese of Singapore, where she served from 1987 until 2014. For part of this time, she was the executive director of the archdiocese’s Catholic Schools Commission and from 2004 to 2008, she was the director of the Singapore Pastoral Institute.

For the past eight years, she worked for the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), where, until 2017, she held the position of executive secretary in the FABC Office of Laity and Family and Women’s Desk.

She continues to serve on the Asian Integral Pastoral Approach (AsIPA) Resource Team which works to promote a participatory church in Asia through Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECS). She has been an active writer and trainer for BECs since 1992.


MarySylvia Nwachukwu, DDL (Godfrey Okoye University—Enugu, Nigeria)

MarySylvia Nwachukwu, DDL
Associate Registrar
Godfrey Okoye University
(Enugu, Nigeria)

Sr. MarySylvia Nwachukwu is a member of the Daughters of Divine Love Congregation. She holds a BA in philosophy and theology, a Licentiate in Sacred Scripture, and a PhD in Biblical theology. She was previously a lecturer at Bigard Memorial Seminary in Enugu, Nigeria, and is now the associate registrar of Godfrey Okoye University, also in Enugu.

Sr. MarySylvia is a member of many international and national biblical and theological associations. She has authored two books and several articles as well as edited many journals; between 2009 and 2015, she served as the editor-in-chief of the African Journal of Theology. After fifteen years as a lecturer, Sr. MarySylvia is extending her teaching ministry to the parish setting where she does Bible study for different lay groups.

Jeane C. Peracullo (De La Salle University—Manila)

Jeane Peracullo (De La Salle University—Manila, Phillipines)

Chair and Associate Professor of Philosophy
De La Salle University

Dr. Jeane C. Peracullo is chair and associate professor in the Department of Philosophy at De La Salle University in Manila.  Her conference presentations and published articles delve into environmental philosophy, environmental ethics, feminist philosophy and theology, the triangulation of gender, religion and postcoloniality, international relations (with a particular focus on human identities and spaces), and the relationship between youth, religion, and culture.

She is a founding member of also the Asian Association of Women Philosophers and the international coordinator of the Ecclesia of Womenin Asia, a forum of Asian Catholic women theologians and pastoral workers. In addition, she serves as a resource person on the technical panel that is working on policies, standards, and guidelines for the Master of Arts in Women and Gender Studies for the Philippines' Commission on Higher Education.

Ahida Pilarski (Saint Anselm College—Manchester, NH)

Ahida Pilarski, PhD (Saint Anselm College—Manchester, NH, USA)
Associate Professor & Chair of Theology
Saint Anselm College
(Manchester, NH, USA)

Ahida (Calderón) Pilarski has a PhD in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and is an associate professor as well as chair of the Theology Department at Saint Anselm College. Dr. Pilarski is one of the editors of the Wisdom Commentary Series (58 volumes published by Liturgical Press) and a member of the Hispanic Theological Initiative's Steering Committee. Her research is focused on three main areas: (1) the prophets; (2) Latino/a biblical hermeneutics; and (3) the intersection of gender and culture in biblical interpretation. Her publications include the coedited volumes, By Bread Alone: The Bible Through the Eyes of Hungry (Fortress Press, 2014) and Pentateuco: La Biblia en Perspectiva Latinoamericana/Introducción al Antiguo Testamento (Verbo Divino, 2014). In addition, she has published numerous journal articles and book chapters such as
  • "A Latina Biblical Critic and a Latina Intellectual: A Person at the Intersection of Gender, Ethnicity, Hermeneutics, and Faith," in Latino/a Biblical Hermeneutics (SBL Press, 2014)
  • "The Past and Future of Feminist Biblical Hermeneutics," in Biblical Theology Bulletin 41:1 (2011)
  • "Una Transversal en el Pensamiento de Phyllis Bird: Pasos Hacia una Hermenéutica Bíblica Feminista," in Estudios de Autoras en América Latina, el Caribe y Estados Unidos (San Pablo, 2009)

Barbara Reid, OP (Catholic Theological Union—Chicago)

Barbara Reid, OP (Catholic Theological Union)
Vice President, Academic Dean, and Professor of New Testament Studies
Catholic Theological Union (CTU)

Barbara Reid is a Dominican Sister of Grand Rapids, Michigan. She holds an MA from Aquinas College in Religious Studies and a PhD in Biblical Studies from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. She serves as general editor for Wisdom Commentary Series, a 58-volume feminist commentary on the Bible published by Liturgical Press. Her introduction to the series can be downloaded for free at

She is also the author of many journal articles and books, some of which include