Michael Poffenberger, Executive Director
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.
Tisha Ford, Managing Director of Production and Outreach
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, Managing Director of Finance and Business Analytics
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.
Chris Zezza, Managing Director of Digital Products
Chris Zezza is a musician. And he strives to encourage and enable harmony in all his pursuits. Co-founder of The Build Tank, a firm that helps organizations use innovative thinking to build teams around people and technology, Chris has been consulting with the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) since 2016. In 2023 Chris transitioned from his consulting role and joined the CAC full time as the Managing Director of Digital Products.
Chris was “lit up” when he discovered Richard Rohr and the CAC, and over the years has deepened his recognition of the importance of this work. A contemplative seeker, Chris feels that CAC’s mission is a crucial path for hope and healing in today’s world of muddy theology and harmful religious dogma. With an emphasis on relationships and shared understanding, Chris helps teams find alignment and harmony in working together with technology. When he’s looking for his own alignment, he takes long contemplative hikes with his dog Yoshimi in the hills of Beacon, New York, where he lives with his wife, Katrina, their two children, Francis and Josefine, and a rabbit named Squid.
Christopher Ferebee, Chair
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, Vice Chair
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.
Richard Rohr, Founder
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 raising 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.
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.
Eileen Coogan is all about the “action.” With a master’s in social work and a career focused on helping others, Eileen exemplifies the spirit of St. Francis. For 18 years she has served as the president and CEO for Allegany Franciscan Ministries, focusing on building safe and connected communities. With her non-profit leadership and expertise, along with a certification in Franciscan Studies, Eileen believes the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) sits squarely at the intersection of her personal and professional life.
Eileen lives in Florida with her husband, spending much of her time on the water paddleboarding. In fact, being on the water is not just a hobby, it’s also her contemplative practice. “Water has always called to me,” Eileen says. “Even when the water and wind are not calm, it’s a centering place to me,” Like many of us, she begins each day with the Daily Meditations and finds them to be a source of peace and harmony.
When Josephine Garnem hears the call, she answers. Whether she’s helping immigrants adjust to their new lives or improving health care and education in Sierra Leone, Josephine has over 25 years’ experience in the international humanitarian sector. She believes serving as a board member for the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) is another call, one that inspires her journey in helping others.
Sent from CAC’s Living School in 2020, Josephine not only found the way she approached life had changed, but also the way life approached her. Through the Khalil Garnem Foundation, and as director of Montgomery Moving Forward, Josephine helps communities address key issues through systems change. She serves on the boards of Pax Christi USA , and Healey International Relief Foundation, and is also a facilitator of Centering Prayer through Contemplative Outreach of MD/DC. It’s in Centering Prayer where Josephine finds herself most often, sitting in gratitude and awareness—asking for nothing, yet finding an abundance of love, strength, consolation, and forgiveness in return.
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.
Jeri Eckhart Queenan
Jeri Eckhart Queenan knows the contemplative path can change the world. From the first time she read Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward to her time spent in the Living School, Jeri has experienced the benefits of personal transformation spiritually, professionally, and personally. In a time when more people are leaving religious institutions, Jeri believes the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC)’s work can help people find paths that restore their faith and fulfill their spiritual needs.
As a partner with The Bridgespan Group, Jeri provides strategic guidance to nonprofits dedicated to justice and equity. Her role in taking the group global deepened her awareness of the interconnectedness and belovedness weaving throughout all creation. It gives her great joy to walk a mission-driven path; yet this isn’t the only path Jeri walks. Whether hiking the Sangre de Cristo mountains with her husband or practicing Thich Nhat Hanh’s walking meditation, Jeri embraces movement—moving boards, missions, and her very being—as a path toward a more just and loving world for all.
Brandon Wrencher is passionate about community. As a senior organizer for the Carolina Federation, a grassroots organization building a new political majority and culture of belonging among the multi-racial working class, Brandon believes communities built around action can heal the world. A board member for the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) and a long-time reader of Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations, he is eager to support CAC’s commitment to the action part of its name.
For Brandon, Fr. Richard’s The Universal Christ helps him follow Jesus and explore religious traditions from his ancestry. In fact, if you ask Brandon about his contemplative path, both the words family and community come up a lot. On any given day you’ll find him working with the Good Neighbor Movement, a network of multi-racial, queer-affirming, Black-led contemplative activists. In the evenings he sits on his porch with his partner, Erica, and their children Phillip and Morris, listening to good music, sipping good whiskey, and watching the universe unfold.