AQUINAS CENTER BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Sr. Ruth Bolarte, IHM serves as Board President. She is a member of the Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Immaculata, PA. A native of Peru, she holds degrees in theology from Immaculata University and St. Charles Seminary in Pennsylvania. In 2006 she submitted a project, “An Integrative Spiritual Formation Program for Hispanic/Latino Laypeople in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States,” for a doctorate in ministry from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She is now the Director of the Office of Multi-Cultural Ministry at the Diocese of Metuchen, NJ.
Daniel Colbert, Esq. was introduced to Aquinas Center through a law fellowship with Drexel University. He helped to facilitate the center’s partnership with Liberti Church, which includes the annual Easter Outreach, an ecumenical retreat program for college students, and volunteer opportunities for adults and families. Daniel provides important support to the community through immigration related advocacy. He enjoys backyard gardening and home brewing. Daniel and his wife recently bought a home near the center.
Matthew Davis serves as Treasurer for the board. He is the Director for the Office for Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Matthew is from Millville, New Jersey and studied Religious Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. He did an additional 2 years study of Philosophy at Kenrick Glennon Seminary and St. Louis University. He has taught ESOL in St. Louis, Boston, and in the Dominican Republic. For six years, he helped refugees in Boston secure employment and job training. He spent 1.5 years living and working in the Dominican Republic before taking his current position.
María Paula Ghiso, Ed.D serves as board Secretary. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University whose scholarly interests include early childhood literacy, multilingualism, teacher education, and children’s literature. Her current research investigates the transcultural and multilingual literacy practices of Latina/o emergent bilinguals as they document their neighborhood experiences through multimodal forms of inquiry. María Paula is a former New York City dual language teacher and has facilitated professional development in a range of national and international contexts.
Michael Jordan Laskey serves as Vice President of the board. He is the director of Life & Justice Ministries for the Diocese of Camden, NJ. Before moving to the diocese, Mike was a program coordinator for the Center for FaithJustice, a Catholic nonprofit that runs service immersion trips near Trenton, NJ. Mike completed an MA in theology from the University of Notre Dame through the university’s Echo: Faith Formation Leadership Program, and he has a BA in English, also from Notre Dame. Mike lives with his wife in Haddon Township, NJ. He blogs for the Camden diocese at http://camdenlifejustice.wordpress.com.
Roedy Wibisono is a proud husband and a proud father. He seeks to live everyday in God’s name and spread his word thoroughly. Roedy is an active member of the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Community with leadership roles in the Indonesian Catholic Community or KKI. He resides in South Philadelphia.
AQUINAS CENTER TEAM
Bernard Convento was the very first Aquinas Center volunteer back in 2012 and is a graduate of our Youth Voices program. Bernard serves a dual role currently, as a member of Facilities/Operations team and as instructor of the Art & Folklore program with Green & Growing Summer Camp. He is a South Philly resident.
Danielle Croom is our Youth Team leader through a field placement with West Chester University to obtain a Master of Social Work degree. She will coordinate activities across Youth Researchers, Youth Voices, and the Youth Entrepreneurship, as well as launch support for Aquinas teens who are now first generation college students. Over the years, Danielle has developed a desire to help and assists others during their life journey in any capacity. She also enjoys being involved with anything dealing with poetry and music, and loves an adrenaline rush.
Shirley Dessein is serving as a part time youth organizer and the social work supervisor for Aquinas Center. She is a recent graduate of West Chester University with a Masters in Social Work. She loves working with people and enjoys cooking and dancing. Shirley is from Maplewood, New Jersey now living in Northeast Philadelphia.
Rachel Dunlap serves as our Encounter Coordinator through a partnership with the Franciscan Volunteers: No Risk, No Gain program. Rachel is originally from Iowa, completed an internship with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development during college, and relocated to the Philadelphia area to pursue a social justice focused volunteer program. Rachel communicates with visiting groups, handling all the scheduling and business side of these experiences.
Chris Geraghty serves as the resident advisor and summer camp director. He provides hospitality in a variety of ways, frequently welcoming visiting groups with a hot cup of coffee and plenty of pens to complete forms. Chris is a regular volunteer in the adult English Class and is a catechist for the parish’s Spanish language sacramental prep program.
Martina Hyacinth is a part time operations coordinator who provides a welcoming presence and facility support at the center. She is a native of the Commonwealth of Dominica, which is located in the West Indies. She came to Philadelphia in 1999 by way of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Martina loves to garden, practice yoga at Studio Mandala, and help the parish with decorations and flowers in the church. She attends Mass daily and likes to bring people together across cultures.
Mara Imms is an Americorps VISTA volunteer serving through a partnership with Catholic Charities USA at the Aquinas Center. She will be coordinating the Youth Mural Corps, building capacity with our ESOL program, and assisting with YEP. Mara graduated in May from Colgate University with a degree in Spanish, although her interests extend to art and education as well. In her free time, Mara can be found drawing, reading, spending time outside, or hanging out with her family.
Carid Maranan works with high school students and community-based small businesses as coordinator of the Youth Entrepreneurship Project (YEP). He functions in the role of a youth organizer as part of the Aquinas Center Advocacy Team. He is a member of the Green & Growing Summer Camp team, serving as Gym Coordinator.
Kim Quintero serves as our part-time Advocacy Coordinator. She is currently pursuing her graduate degree in Global Affairs with a concentration in Gender studies at NYU. During her free time, Kim enjoys learning new languages and exploring new cuisines! She is excited to be back at the Aquinas Center and looks forward to learning and growing with the community.
Bethany J. Welch, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of Aquinas Center. Her research on the Catholic Church and urban revitalization prompted Philadelphia’s St. Thomas Aquinas parish to invite her to help them repurpose a former convent to create a space that builds unity in diversity, supports learning, and inspires thoughtful action. In 2014, Dr. Welch was recognized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops with the Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award for how her work addresses poverty and injustice. Welch, a VISTA volunteer from 2003-2004, also received a Spirit of Service Award in 2006 from the Corporation for National and Community Service for advancing transformational change in urban communities through research, planning, and capacity building. She has a PhD from the University of Delaware, MS from the University of Rochester, and BS from Roberts Wesleyan College. Dr. Welch recently co-authored a book on the unique collaborative research undertaken by the Aquinas community and students at the University of Pennsylvania. Partnering with Immigrant Communities was published in 2016 by Teachers College Press. Bethany is an adjunct faculty member in the Religious Studies department at Cabrini University. To see a list of recent publications and upcoming talks, click here.
Monika Zurowski is our current Youth Voices Coordinator through her field placement with West Chester University’s BSW program.