Author, blogger Jennifer Fulwiler will keynote Diocesan Summer Institute June 3

Jennifer Fulwiler

Catholic author, blogger, speaker and radio host Jennifer Fulwiler will help people explore “The Splendor of Truth” at the Diocesan Summer Institute. This year’s event will be held on Saturday, June 3, at the Peoria Civic Center.

In addition to the keynote by Fulwiler, there will be breakout sessions led by:

  • Father Chase Hilgenbrinck, who was ordained in 2014 and serves as assistant chaplain at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign;
  • Msgr. Steven Rohlfs, a priest of the Diocese of Peoria who is rector emeritus of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg Maryland. He has assisted with spiritual direction at St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, since 2015;
  • Jenny Witt, director of evangelization at St. Philomena Parish in Peoria; and
  • Steve Mattern, vice president for mission services at OSF HealthCare.

Like last year’s Summer Institute, the day will include a Holy Hour with an opportunity for eucharistic adoration and the sacrament of reconciliation. It will close with a Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral celebrated by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC.

While Catholic school teachers and administrators will attend as part of their continuing faith formation and professional development, the Diocesan Summer Institute is open to all interested clergy, consecrated women and men, and the laity.

It is being coordinated by the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Faith Formation, Office of Catholic Schools, and Office of Priestly Vocations.


Shirley Plaag, coordinator of the Office of Evangelization and Faith Formation, said she is excited to be able to bring Fulwiler back to central Illinois. Fulwiler’s last visit took her to Washington in 2011 as one of the keynote speakers for “Behold! A Catholic Conference on the Dignity and Vocation of Women.”

She is also well-known to young people who attended SEEK 2015 in Nashville.

“I was drawn to her honesty and she’s really funny, yet she’s really well-read,” said Plaag, who has been following Fulwiler on social media for several years. “She is very accessible to people, easy to understand . . . but she also has a lot of deep things to say.”

Fulwiler grew up as an atheist, but a religious awakening and subsequent search for truth led her into the Catholic Church in 2007. Her husband, Joe, was received into the church at the same time. They have six children and live in Austin, Texas.

She wrote about her spiritual journey in her blog, which was originally called “Conversion Diary,” and in a memoir, “Something Other than God.” She recently released a humorous e-book, “Like Living Among Scorpions: One Woman’s Attempt to Survive Her Suburban Life.”

Father Timothy Hepner, vocation director of recruitment for the Diocese of Peoria, said with her background in science and technology, Fulwiler is the right speaker at the right time.

“We all wanted teachers to be able to communicate the reasonableness of the faith — a faith that makes sense,” he told The Catholic Post. “It’s true, it’s beautiful. We’re not afraid to share the faith, to share the reasonableness of it. She’ll do a good job of talking about that.”

Father Hepner said this is vital because vocations cannot survive without an environment that supports evangelization, discipleship and faith formation.


Dr. Sharon Weiss, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Peoria, said the Diocesan Summer Institute fosters Bishop Jenky’s vision that people across central Illinois, especially Catholic educators, be well-formed in the faith. Not only is this important for their ministry with the students, but it is something they will benefit from personally.

“The topic is timely — we do have the truth,” she said. “Why can’t we share the splendor and beauty of the truth? That’s what we’re trying to do as Catholics and as educators in our schools.”

The Diocesan Summer Institute will begin with a continental breakfast at 9 a.m., and close with Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral at 4 p.m.

Registration is $20, which includes admission and meals, and is required by May 24. Online registration with a credit card is available by visiting Plaag said registration forms may be printed and sent with a check to the Office of Evangelization and Faith Formation, 419 N.E. Madison Ave., Peoria, IL 61603.

Catholic school teachers and administrators are registering through their schools.

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