Meet the Presenters

Learn more about the presenters for Ministry Day 2023


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Dr. William (Bill) Atwood is the Diocesan Director of Music and Director of Music for The Cathedral Parish in Bridgeport. He has a Doctor of Music Arts Degree in Sacred Music from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and is active as an organist, pianist, conductor and published composer.

Deacon John DiTaranto is currently the Director of the Permanent Diaconate for the Diocese of Bridgeport. In this newly expanded role, he is responsible for the entire Diaconate Office, including men inquiring about becoming a Deacon, Men in formation and the ongoing formation of the ordained

Previous to his newest appointment by Bishop Caggiano, Deacon John was the Assistant Director of the Institute for Catholic Formation. He was responsible for leading a number of diverse initiatives for the Institute including the Ambassador program, the RCIA Collaborative, Adult Formation for Confirmation along with assisting parish Faith Formation Leaders in reimagining how parish communities bring their parishioners into a closer relationship with Christ.

He is currently assigned to St. Stephen Parish in Trumbull to fulfill his Diaconal obligations within a parish community and is actively involved in the Pastoral Council, Faith Formation and guiding the Liturgical Ministries.

Jim Flanagan is the coordinator of Youth Ministry at the Christ by the Sea Catholic Collaborative in the Archdiocese of Boston. He has been doing full-time ministry for 30 years and has the best job in the world. He is the husband to Paula and the father of Liam who is 14 years old.

Fr. Ford was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Bridgeport on June 1, 2019.

A native of Naugatuck, CT, Fr. Ford is the youngest of 4 siblings. He attended St. Francis of Assisi School and Naugatuck High School before graduating from Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven in 2011 with a degree in Political Science. Fr. Ford then worked in the Department of Residence Life at Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA, while obtaining a Master of Education degree in Evaluation & Measurement from Kent State University (OH) in May 2013. He entered St. John Fisher Seminary in August 2013 and earned his M.Div./S.T.B. degree from St. Joseph Seminary (Dunwoodie) in Yonkers, N.Y. before his ordination in 2019.

Fr. Ford professes deep love for Our Blessed Mother, St. John Paul II, and Van Morrison, all of whom played major roles in getting him through seminary. A lifelong Connecticut native, he somehow found himself an avid Minnesota Twins and Alabama Crimson Tide fan – which also means he likely won’t have the vigil mass on Iron Bowl Saturday.

Fr. Ford currently serves the Diocese as Vocations Director, Director of Campus Ministry and Chaplain to the Office of the Superintendent of Schools.

Fr. Joseph Gill is originally from Maryland. After a deepening of his faith during high school due to retreats and Eucharistic Adoration, he sensed God's call to the priesthood and was ordained for the Diocese of Bridgeport in 2013. Since then he has worked in parish ministry and as a high school chaplain. He currently serves as chaplain of Cardinal Kung Academy in Stamford, and as pastor of St. Jude's in Monroe. In addition to his priestly ministry, Fr. Joseph has been involved in media work, having published two books (available on Amazon) and several CDs of original Christian music. If he's not in the church, he can be found out in nature, kayaking and hiking and anything else outdoors.

Paul and Sarah Jarzembowski have been married since 2002 and have a shared love of ministry in the Church. Paul serves as the Associate Director of the Laity at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in Washington DC, and Sarah serves as the Director of Marriage and Family Life at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Crofton, Maryland, within the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Paul is also the author of two recent books from Paulist Press: Hope from the Ashes (2022) and Hope for the Holidays (2023). Sarah and Paul both have Masters in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University New Orleans and Loyola University Chicago, respectively, and are known, in their personal lives, as Walt Disney World aficionados.

Blythe Marie Kaufman is a wife, mother of three children, dentist, and Associate Professor at the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine. She is the founder of the Children’s Rosary, an international prayer group movement for children. She is the author of the book the diocese will be using for the 2024 Consecration journey.

Asher Kaufman is the Spanish translator of the Consecration book the diocese of Bridgeport will be using for the 33 Day Consecration journey which will begin in January 2024. Asher has assisted in past Consecration journeys in other dioceses. He has also helped in developing resources in English and Spanish to teach the Rosary.

Asher Kaufman es el translador del libro de Consagración para el español que el diócesis de Bridgeport estará usando para el viaje de Consagración de 33 días, que empezará en enero de 2024. Asher ha asistido en crear recursos en inglés y en español para enseñar el Rosario.

Mary Ellen Kovacs is the Pastoral Care Director at Saint Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull. For decades, Mary Ellen has helped countless grieving families prepare parish funeral Masses for their loved ones. In addition, Mary Ellen is a Eucharistic Minister, Reader, and organizes visits to the sick and homebound.

Reverend Monsignor Robert M. Kinnally was ordained to the priesthood in 2005 by Archbishop William E. Lori.  Born in Yonkers, New York to Ann O’Brien Kinnally and Robert Seton Kinnally, Monsignor Kinnally attended Iona Preparatory School in New Rochelle and Manhattan College in the Bronx. He holds a master’s degree in English and American Literature from NYU.  Prior to entering the seminary, he had a twenty-year career in university admission and financial aid, culminating in his position as Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

A professional musician, Monsignor Kinnally was organist and choir director in Catholic churches in New York City and Westchester.  In 1986 he served as organist and choir director at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport.

Monsignor Kinnally’s seminary studies commenced at St. John Fisher Seminary in Stamford, Connecticut where he later served as rector from 2011 to 2016.  He completed a Pontifical Degree in Theology at the Catholic University of America in 2005. Since his ordination he has been a parish priest, director of vocations, chancellor, and currently serves as Vicar General of the Diocese of Bridgeport. In December of 2016 he became the thirteenth pastor of Saint Aloysius Parish in New Canaan, Connecticut.

Joe Long currently serves as the Director of Children’s Faith Formation for the Archdiocese of New York. His work includes supporting parish faith formation leaders, assist parishes in developing faith formation programs from the time of baptism through 5th grade.

He was raised in Philadelphia and served there as the Catholic School teacher and Director of Religious Education in two parish. Joe moved to North Carolina and served there in a parish as the Pastoral Associate for Evangelization, Formation and Liturgy for 23 years. He moved to New York 8 years ago and worked in the area and was a Pastoral Associate in the Diocese of Rockville Centre before his opportunity to serve in the Archdiocese.

Joe attended Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales (now DeSales University) and Villanova University.

Bob McCarty is a pastoral ministry consultant and trainer and has been in professional ministry since 1973, serving in national, diocesan, parish, school, and community programs. He offers workshops, retreats, and training programs in ministry skills and issues internationally. Bob is the project coordinator for Saint Mary’s Press research, Going, Going, Gone: The Dynamics of Disaffiliation in Young Catholics and he assists Catholic ministry organizations in developing strategic pastoral plans.

His recent books are Thriving in Youth Ministry and The Vision of Catholic Youth Ministry: Fundamentals, Theory and Practice through Saint Mary's Press, Be A Champion for Youth: Standing With, By and For Young People, co-authored with his wife, Maggie, and his newest book, Faith Talk: Having Conversations with Youth that Matter!

Bob is a volunteer in his parish youth ministry/catechetical program and chairs the adult faith formation team at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Fulton, MD. Bob has a BS in Sociology/Theology from St. Joseph’s University, an MA in Religious Education from LaSalle University, and a D.Min. from the Graduate Theological Foundation. Bob is adjunct faculty at the University of Dallas and at the Catholic University of America. His hobbies include rock climbing, cycling, and grandparenting!

Maggie McCarty is a freelance consultant in fundraising and non-profit management. She previously was the director of development for the Bethlehem University Foundation, the only Catholic/Christian University in the Holy Land. She has also worked for her home parish as Business Manager, the Christian Brothers Conference, and Catholic Climate Covenant. Maggie was the founding executive director of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry.

Amy McEntee is a Publisher at RCL Benziger. Amy has presented locally and nationally, particularly in the areas of catechist formation.

Ela Milewska

For more than twenty-five years, Ela Milewska has been blessed to minister in a variety of environments, from a small community in West Virginia to a large parish in Raleigh, NC. She has also served as the diocesan youth ministry consultant for the Diocese of Raleigh. In 1999, Ela joined Cultivation Ministries, a nationally recognized youth ministry training and consulting organization based in the Chicago area. While pursuing her doctorate in catechesis at the Catholic University of America, she also worked as the coordinator for the National Initiative on Adolescent Catechesis. Ela began serving the Archdiocese of New York as the director of the Office of Youth Ministry in October of 2015. She is currently the executive director of the Department of Youth Faith Formation supporting parishes in their ministries to form young people and their families from baptism to twelfth grade.

Ela has trained youth ministry and catechetical leaders, catechists, and educators across the United States and internationally. In 2016, she was the recipient of the National Youth Ministry Award.

She lives in Yonkers, New York overlooking the Hudson River with her incredibly weird cat, Mr. Frank A. Noodles.

Chris Otis is a parishioner of St. Aloysius in New Canaan, where she is also the Youth Minister. She is in her tenth year leading the youth ministry effort and before that was the Confirmation Coordinator for 4 years. Chris graduated from University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Journalism, where she also played on the intercollegiate Field Hockey team. Upon graduation, she began a career in the hotel industry in sales and marketing which spanned 15 years, after which she stayed at home to raise three boys, Evan, Ben and Logan. Chris and her husband John have been married 38 years. Her heart is with leading young people to encounter Christ through prayer, service and worship and asks for the intercession of Saint Teresa of Calcutta and Saint Mary Magdalene in her daily life.

Bertha Peralta-Rodriguez is the Director of Ministry Formation for the Archdiocese of New York. She has been a catechist and youth minister for over 20 years and has worked in the areas of higher education and mental health as well. She has also taught leadership and faith formation courses for the Diocese of Rockville Centre. Ms. Peralta-Rodriguez is currently a Confirmation teacher at Queen of Angels in Sunnyside, Queens and tries to keep up with her 13yr old daughter, Liliana, and her husband of almost 15yrs, Johnny. She is passionate about thinking of creative ways of reaching and evangelizing!

Laura Phelps is a Catholic speaker, author, and Content Creation Manager at Walking With Purpose (WWP), a national women's Bible study that enables women to know Christ through Scripture. Laura started as a parish volunteer WWP program leader and has served in many roles at WWP, from blogger to co-host of Truth With Handles, a WWP Youtube series. Laura speaks to women across the country, in parishes and at women’s conferences. Relatable, honest, and often hilarious, Laura generously shares the pain of her life, offering you the hope and healing she has found through Jesus and Mary.

Serra Vocations Ministry

Without priests there are no Masses. Without priests there is no Eucharist. Without priests there are no leaders to guide us on our faith journeys. The St. Serra Vocations Ministry of Bridgeport is the local presence of Serra International. Begun in Seattle, Washington in 1935, it is now composed of over 20,000 members in over 1,100 ministries in 46 countries.

Serra is a lay Catholic ministry that encourages and supports vocations around the world. It was named after a Spanish priest, Father Junipero Serra who, in the 18th century, was responsible for spreading the Catholic faith across what is now California, particularly to the native Americans there. His rich history led to his beatification in 1988 and in September of 2015, he was canonized as a saint by Pope Francis in a Mass in Washington, DC.

Our Diocesan ministry (the only one in Connecticut) was chartered in April of 2015 by Bishop Caggiano at a Mass at St. Pius X Church in Fairfield. In the 8 years since our origin, we have provided prayers and much other support to both the Diocesan and Redemptoris Mater seminarians, including joint prayer services, dinners, and annual barbecues. We have attended both transitional and full Deaconate ordinations, and Priest ordinations, and supported each of them in their roles following investiture. We have also begun to host “workshops” for parishioners from churches within the Diocese to assist them in establishing vocation ministries within their own parishes.

We continue to look for new ways to provide both support and resources to Father Ford, our Diocesan Vocations Director. For example, we look forward to the opportunity to have seminarians speak to the youth of several parishes, telling them of their journeys to where they are today.

Valerie St. Jean is the newly appointed Coordinator of Adult and Family Ministry for The Center for Catholic Education and Formation at Archdiocese of Hartford, CT. In this role she is dedicated to supporting parish leaders of RCIA and Adult Confirmation, marriage preparation and ongoing enrichment and support to couples as they live out their vocation of marriage in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Prior to joining The Center, Valerie served as Director of Religious Education, grades K-8 at her home parish in Avon, CT for more than nine years. During her tenue as DRE, she earned a Masters in Pastoral Studies from the Graduate School of Religious Education at Fordham University. Valerie is married to her husband Rob and they have been blessed with twin boys who are successfully “adulting”.