Michael Poffenberger holds the tension of the and. As the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC)’s executive director since 2014, Michael sees CAC as uniquely positioned to support inner work for those seeking to build a more just and humane world. He guides our mission with vulnerability and humility—another tension to hold in a world often preoccupied with hoarding power.
A graduate of Notre Dame, Michael served previously as the executive director of Resolve, where he worked alongside religious and civil society leaders to build peace and aid war-affected communities in Central and East Africa, and co-founded the Crisis Tracker. He believes that transforming consciousness can solve many of today’s challenges, and seeking that truth in his own life led him to the work of CAC. Michael lives this mission beyond CAC as the board chair for Invisible Children, in supporting movements for peace and collective liberation, and as a dad to his daughter Madeleine. In his contemplative practice, he asks himself “What can the world look like when love is awakened?” That’s the vision he holds for all touched by CAC— that love is both who we are and where we are going.
Doug Murrell is an embodiment of service. A decorated Navy officer and a former executive pastor with 25 years in operations management, Doug’s leadership came during a pivotal time in our 30+ year journey. As the Chief Operating Officer at the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC), Doug knows the pattern of order, disorder, and reorder impacts both individuals and organizations. It is within this framework he supports CAC staff and constituents on a journey of transformation grounded in perennial wisdom.
Doug’s passion for our mission is as contagious as his smile. The gracious way he supports people, organizations, and movements illuminates the “action” part of our name. Holding degrees in human and organizational development and public administration, he was the director of global faith engagement at Habitat for Humanity International before joining the CAC in 2019. When not leading CAC’s operations, you can find Doug enjoying sports, spending time with his wife, Felicia, or grounding himself contemplatively with good music.
Kirsten Oates listens from her heart. She knows God’s presence in both love and suffering—and that we deepen that presence when we treat each other with divine dignity. As the Managing Director of Program Design and Teacher Relations at the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC), Kirsten keeps the organization grounded in the Christian contemplative lineage.
Kirsten heard the call of divine love in 2014 when she joined the Living School, and again a few years later when she officially came on staff. Originally from Australia, Kirsten has a degree in Economics and Laws with Honors and spent much of her career in business and nonprofit management. Married to Hal for more than 15 years, her family recently grew to include her nephew, Will, the “heart of her heart.” When Kirsten is not leading the Living School and program design teams, you will find her hiking with her dogs or settling into her contemplative practice, an inner space of her most loving, most patient, and most forgiving self.
Tisha Ford is a dancer. She is intimately acquainted with the life-saving dance of contemplation and action. Service lights her up, and it is through that light, as well as her gentle sense of humor and nurturing presence, that Tisha choreographs the rhythmic art of collaboration throughout the organization. As the Managing Director of Production and Outreach at the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC), she supports the creative, engagement, and programs teams as they create pathways for personal transformation and help reintroduce the world to the Christian contemplative movement.
Before joining the CAC in 2019, Tisha worked with the New York Open Center, overseeing the Art of Dying Institute. A journey through her eclectic career… she danced the lead in ballets such as the Nutcracker, Cinderella and Balanchine’s Tarantella, led a diversity procurement initiative for the Super Bowl, earned her MBA, and is a certified yoga instructor and a life coach. When not leading the production and outreach team, you can find Tisha lost in her worn copy of Richard Rohr’s Just This, practicing her asanas, writing and, of course, dancing.
Cindy Kroll has a vision. She sees a world where our financial decisions don’t have to conflict with Jesus’s teachings of humility, simplicity, and love. She joined the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in 2019 as the Managing Director of Finance and Business Analytics. She works tirelessly to align the CAC’s financial model with our contemplative tradition and Richard Rohr’s teachings.
Cindy has always had a bit of wanderlust in her heart. Growing up on a small Minnesota farm she learned to appreciate the contemplative beauty of nature, a place she finds grounding to this very day. Like many, it was Fr. Richard’s Falling Upward that steered her path toward CAC, first as part of the 2019 Living School cohort and then as a member of the Board of Directors’ Finance Committee. Cindy is a Certified Public Accountant, has a master’s in software systems, and earned a business coach certification. When she’s not leading the finance team, you can find her on a meditative nature walk, journaling, writing poetry or with her two children, Kaitlyn and Evan.
Ananda Robie is all about empowerment. As the Managing Director of Digital Products at the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC), she innovates and evolves technology so everyone feels empowered—from staff examining dashboards to students registering for online courses.
Born into a Tibetan Buddhist family, Ananda saw her own tradition reflected in many of Richard Rohr’s books, especially Everything Belongs. There she read about reclaiming Christianity in love and inclusivity, ideas that reflected her own heart.
Ananda discovered her niche in systems administration at the nonprofit Invisible Children. In 2016 she moved cross-country to join the CAC as the CRM Product Manager and earned her Salesforce Admin Certification. When not leading our Digital Products Team, you can find Ananda camping in her 1998 Dodge Ram Van or empowering young girls in STEM through a non-profit, which she co-founded and serves on the Board of Directors.
Patricia Salwei wants to have a conversation. As the Managing Director of Organization and People Development at the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC), Patricia is committed to transformational conversations about the learning and leadership needed as humble stewards of Richard Rohr’s legacy and values. When she first encountered Fr. Richard, decades ago listening to Mark’s Good News, she felt free to finally discharge her loyal soldier build a spiritual practice based on God’s love.
Patricia sees the transformation of consciousness not only as theory of change, but also as humanity’s purpose on this earth. Humans are story-making creatures, she says, and missions like ours can help us create stories where see one another interconnected as one through the Infinite. Patricia’s own story weaves through many transformative experiences— from a master’s in organizational leadership, to an ontological coaching certification, to, most recently, a Kundalini yoga teacher training. Her contemplative practice, the Hawaiian tradition of Kahuna flying, balances the art of being still and moving—much like the wind through the North Dakota prairie grass that she calls home.
CAC Board of Directors
Christopher Ferebee believes that unity in our world starts by finding common ground in our faith traditions. That’s what makes the Center for Action and Contemplation’s mission so important—he sees this as an opportunity to rethink the way our spiritual beliefs and practices impact those around us. Christopher sees this impact every day. As an intellectual property attorney and a literary agent, he works with authors, like Richard Rohr, who encourage us to shake off the illusion of separateness and embrace each other as beloved.
Chris is passionate about the foundational message of The Universal Christ. He is encouraged by the CAC board’s grounding in this message and its contemplative approach to governance. In addition to his work with the CAC, Chris also serves on the board of the Orange County Rescue Mission, which provides life-changing services for the least, the last and the lost throughout Southern California. An avid scuba diver, Chris feels most connected to creation and the creator right after jumping into the ocean—an underwater contemplative practice that deeply connects us to our breath.
Wally Goulet has felt, at times, the loneliness of the spiritual journey. That’s what led him to the Center for Action and Contemplation—first in online courses, next as a teaching assistant, then in the Living School and now on the board. Throughout this journey, Wally has gone from feeling judged by God to knowing he is loved by God. And he has witnessed a similar transformation in others, filling that loneliness with radical love and solidarity.
A retired lawyer and author, Wally is passionate about CAC’s offerings that give people spiritual refreshment. When he’s not working on the board’s contemplative governance and mission and strategy committees, you’ll find Wally volunteering for various causes, such as Brave the Shave, the YMCA of Bismarck, ND, and the nonprofit Nature Health, which he also helped to establish. Much like his winding spiritual journey, Wally’s contemplative practice isn’t about finding answers. It’s about letting go and welcoming what is as it is—and Centering Prayer is the path that takes him there.
Franciscan friar Richard Rohr is always gazing both inward and outward. When he founded the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) over 30 years ago, he was gazing at a gap in the world where the “and” should be. He knew that healing hinged on that union—action AND contemplation. Fr. Richard is honored to continue his life’s work alongside fellow CAC board members, servant leaders he finds both inspiring and humbling.
Following the threads of Perennial Wisdom and the Alternative Orthodoxy, Fr. Richard gazes at the Christ in every thing. Whether walking his dog, Opie, under a canopy of cottonwoods or speaking before hushed audiences at CONSPIRE, he knows the transformation of consciousness can end scapegoating and undo the devastation we have caused each other and the earth. The loving work of undoing requires rising a generation of true elders—through programs like the Living School, for which he is the founder and academic dean. His gaze rests upon a truth that, through God’s abundant grace, we can transform pain and embrace our birthright as beings made of Divine Love.
Heidi Franklin believes that the healing of the world requires us to be open to God’s loving presence in all things. Part of the 2019 Living School cohort, she is passionate about the Center for Action and Contemplation’s role as a “front door” to the Christian contemplative movement, a path that helped her emerge from fundamental Christianity and expand into a more loving dialogue with God.
A retired CPA with an MBA, Heidi is grateful to serve on the CAC board, and even more grateful for their fellowship, which has graciously helped her on her personal anti-racism journey. As the board treasurer and chair of the finance committee, she is dedicated to helping the organization find congruence in what the CAC teaches and how it conducts business. In addition to supporting CAC, she offers emotional first aid as a Trauma Intervention Program (TIP) volunteer and provides spiritual direction. For Heidi, contemplation is all about action—taking deep breaths (preferably in nature) and following the call of the Holy Spirit.
Drew Jackson sees faith as an invitation to love. It’s no surprise then that he found Richard Rohr’s “Eager to Love” to be another invitation—into the Christian contemplative movement, where love is the essence of living one’s faith. He is passionate about helping the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) engage more people in this deep and meaningful, yet often unfamiliar, tradition.
Drew has a degree in political science and master’s in theology, and is the lead pastor of Lower Manhattan’s Hope East Village. He serves as the president of Pax, a peace-making organization that he also co-founded. He joined CAC’s board in 2019 and dove right in—he is the board secretary and on the contemplative governance and mission and strategy committees. When not leading his faith community, Drew enjoys playing board games with his wife, Genay, and their twin daughters. A poet with two books in the works, writing is one of Drew’s deepest connections to the Divine. Entering into the silence of the moment, he invites his words to hold together contemplation, peace and justice.
Dr. Kelly Burton bridges gaps. When she felt a spiritual gap, she fueled her inner work with YouTube videos and audio books of Richard Rohr. His talks on true self, false self and second half of life spirituality helped refresh her journey. When she attended 2019 CONSPIRE, a black Generation X woman sitting with a primarily white and retired audience, she saw another gap to bridge. Kelly hopes her service on the board at the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) can help engage younger generations and communities of color with the healing wisdom of the Christian contemplative movement.
Kelly’s passion for increasing access is clearly evident in her diverse life callings. She earned a doctorate in political science from Emory University and founded Nexus Research Group and Founders of Color, and co-founded the Black Innovation Alliance. Her work is dedicated to closing the racial wealth gap by helping minority entrepreneurs grow their business. Kelly fuels her own growth with a seven-point spiritual practice—prayer, meditation, reading spiritual texts, journaling, yoga, exercise and occasional fasting.
LaVera is humbled to serve on the CAC board since 2016, and 3 years as board chair (2018-2020). As a physician, clinical pastoral educator, and director of spiritual care for a hospital system, LaVera knows firsthand the power of contemplation to sustain a life of compassion-in-action. A sendee of the first Living School cohort, she is passionate about the Center for Action and Contemplation’s movement support and directs her “radical servanthood” toward helping CAC grow more deeply into the “action” part of our name.
Central to LaVera’s faith is an unwavering reliance on the Trinitarian spirit for guidance and a deep yearning for infinite oneness in her heart—that is what led her to CAC and also guides her on the formation path of the Secular Franciscan Order. LaVera is sustained by her commitment to her faith, her love of creating things – whether it be gardening, craft making, or designing research, educational, or health service programs – and her beloved husband and son.
Don Samuels believes that the spiritual journey is ongoing, never finished. Committed to reversing the brain drain in his urban Minneapolis neighborhood, Don was holding vigil when a friend approached him with two words—Richard Rohr. Shortly after, Don participated in one of Fr. Richard’s men’s rites workshops, and he saw this as another blessed beginning.
Don is passionate about the Center for Action and Contemplation’s multiple entry points to Christian contemplation. He is honored to be part of a mission where people from all faiths feel supported and united in their diverse spiritual journeys. A former minister and the CEO of the nonprofit MicroGrants, Don is very active in civic life. A long-standing city council member, his byline can often be found in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He lives with his wife, Sondra, CEO of the nonprofit Northside Achievement Zone, which the couple co-founded. Don stays grounded in his daily contemplative practice—a long, silent sit by a window overlooking a place close to his heart—his community.
Alexie is honored to serve with the CAC board as the chair of the mission and strategy committee, learning how contemplation can inform and transform organizational structures. In fact, transforming systems is elemental to who Alexie is— her work is dedicated to helping others live a life full of value, freedom and dignity. She founded Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, co-founded the Bronx River Alliance and the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance, and serves as executive director of Access Strategies Fund. As a “cradle Catholic,” Alexie says that Richard Rohr keeps her Catholic by helping her journey into the mystical roots of her faith. When Alexie settles into contemplative stillness you’ll find her smiling, absolutely grounded in the absolute love of God.
Jack Willome believes that contemplation transforms individuals and the world. He has witnessed this impact first-hand in himself, as a member of the first Living School cohort, and in those around him, from activists striving to dismantle systems of oppression to his fellow board members, who inspire him every day. He is passionate about the Center for Action and Contemplation’s programs that emphasize experiential learning as a gateway to spiritual maturity.
Jack is honored to serve with the CAC board, as it strives to hold a contemplative stance in support of the organization. A board member since 2016, he serves on the contemplative governance and finance committees. A retired business CEO, Jack enjoys spending time in nature at his Estes Park, CO home, playing board games with his grandchildren and going on long winding bike rides. In addition to Jack’s more traditional seated contemplative practice, he tunes into the deep Divine indwelling through soulful saxophone notes, as a member of a contemporary worship team.