Church Communications Ecology Program welcomes new leadership cohort

Author: Brett Robinson

CCEP cohort announced
CCEP cohort announced

The McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame has just launched the second year of a program designed to help Catholic Church leaders confront the social and psychological effects of technological change on the Church and culture. The Church Communications Ecology Program (CCEP) is a six-month educational formation program for leaders charged with helping their communities thrive in the digital age.

“Catholic leaders must be prepared to respond to the tremendous technological changes of our time,” said Brett Robinson, associate professor of the practice and director of the Church Communications Ecology Program. “Each new wave of technological transformation, from the printing press to artificial intelligence, has transformed the ways we come to know the world and one another. We want to provide leaders with the theological and philosophical vision to navigate this new environment with virtue and wisdom.” 

Seventeen participants were selected from across the United States. The cohort of Church leaders includes executives, educators, media professionals and seminarians. 

The CCEP participants take part in a six-week online course with theology, philosophy and communications faculty from Notre Dame and Mount Saint Mary’s University. An immersive workshop will be held in April in Pittsburgh, where participants will visit the Carnegie Mellon Argo AI Center, the Andy Warhol Museum and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College. The program culminates in June at Notre Dame, where leaders will share their transformational ideas with their peers and faculty. 

“Like a natural ecosystem, communities are interconnected systems in need of support and preservation,” said Robinson. “The Catholic tradition can lead us to a deeper awareness of the ways in which technology reshapes culture and how we are called to respond to that change in light of our faith.” 

In July 2019, the McGrath Institute was the recipient of a $50,000 planning grant from the Lilly Endowment. The planning grant supported a summer symposium for more than 30 theologians and Church leaders to consider the impact of technological change on congregational vitality. The CCEP welcomed its first cohort in 2020. 

The Church Communications Ecology Program is made possible by a $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment. 

The 17 members of the 2021 CCEP cohort are: 

  • Sister Peter Verona Bodoh, Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia Motherhouse, Nashville, Tennessee
  • Bo Bonner, senior adviser, mission initiatives and director, Center for Human Flourishing at Mercy College of Health Sciences, Des Moines, Iowa
  • Sister Matthew Marie Cummings, O.P., professor of education at Aquinas College, Nashville
  • Melissa Downs, dean of innovation and academic programs at John Paul II High School, Plano, Texas
  • Fiona Holly, reference-outreach librarian at Conception Abbey and Seminary College, Maryville, Missouri
  • Allie Howard, teacher at Saint Joseph Grade School, South Bend, Indiana
  • Randy Kraft, seminarian at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, Wynnewood, Pennsylvania
  • Bill Maier, ​​secretary for communications for the Diocese of Brooklyn and head of DeSales Media Group, New York City
  • Bud Marr, associate provost at Mercy College of Health Sciences, Des Moines, Iowa
  • Dave Plisky, director of product and innovation for DeSales Media, New York City
  • Nicholas Powers, teacher at All Hallows High School, New York City
  • Louden Redinger, seminarian at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, Wynnewood
  • Renée D. Roden, writer, New York City
  • Matt Romkey, vice president of enrollment and marketing at Mercy College of Health Sciences, Des Moines
  • Frank Santoni, director of the Social Innovation Lab at John Paul II High School, Plano
  • Will Sipling, writer and researcher covering the intersection of media and religious studies, Dallas
  • Jane Wageman, teacher at Marian High School, Mishawaka, Indiana

To learn more about the Church Communications Ecology Program and this year’s cohort, visit

Contact: Brett Robinson, director of communications, McGrath Institute for Church Life, 574-631-6109,

Originally published by Brett Robinson at on Jan. 24.