Margarita Solis-Deal has served as director of Dominican Center at Marywood since May 2015. She is daily inspired by the Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids and is blessed by the village that contributes to advancing the mission of Dominican Center. She remains spiritually hopeful and is grounded in her belief in a loving God that surpasses all understanding.
One of Margarita's spiritual inspirations is Jean Donovan, one of the four churchwomen murdered by the Salvadoran military in 1980 during that country’s vicious civil war. Her short-lived life was guided by a calling she felt a strong need to answer. Her zeal for the people she met in El Salvador and her commitment as a laywoman to join the Cleveland Diocese mission team, inspired Margarita when she heard of Jean's story as a 20-year old. Being from northern Ohio, Jean Donovan's story moved quickly through the Cleveland Diocese. Her story in Ana Carrigan's book, Salvador Witness: The Life And Calling of Jean Donovan continues to inspire Margarita today.
Journeying and caring for her mother while Alzheimer's slowly overshadowed her mother's mind and memories - yet, could never take her spirit.
Early morning prayers, morning coffee, photographing beauty, immersion experiences into diverse cultures, walks that feel like workouts. and just being with her husband, Darryl Deal.
The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela, edited by Sahm Venter
Diane Zerfas, OP, is the coordinator for the Spirituality Center for Dominican Center at Marywood, and is deeply involved in the center's Spiritual Formation programs through the planning and teaching of Foundations in Spirituality, Spiritual Companioning, and Spiritual Direction Practicum. She holds bachelor's degrees in math, chemistry, theology, and education from Aquinas College; master's degrees in Arts in Religious Studies and in Pastoral Studies; a Specialized Certificate in Parish Life and Administration; and a Certificate in Spiritual Direction. Sr. Diane has ministered in many ways, including teaching high school as well as serving as formation director for Grand Rapids Dominicans, initiation and evangelization director at St. Mary Magdalen in Kentwood, Diocesan director of RCIA for the Diocese of Grand Rapids, co-director of Pastoral Life at Marywood, and leadership team member for the Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids.
Carmelita Switzer, OP, serves as a staff facilitator and presenter for Dominican Center at Marywood. She holds a Master of Arts Degree in Religious Studies from Aquinas College and a Master of Arts Degree in Biblical Studies from Providence College. She completed Pastoral Studies with an emphasis in Formation Studies at Aquinas Institute on the campus of St. Louis University. Her ministries include teaching, pastoral ministry in a parish setting, and pastoral administration in a parish that had no priest. She has also spent time in ministry on behalf of the Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters as director of formation and as co-director of Pastoral Life for the Marywood Campus. Coming from a rural farm community background she loves Michigan’s many lakes and natural beauty and God’s creatures large and small. Study of spirituality and living an integrated contemplative and active lifestyle have been long-time interests and priorities.
Ann Walters, OP, earned her master’s degree in Christian spirituality from Creighton University. Sr. Ann is active in leading adult faith formation classes, workshops, and seminars; preaching at and directing retreats; and providing spiritual direction. Her past work includes serving as co-director of Collaborative Dominican Novitiate of the United States Dominican Women’s Congregations; director of formation for Grand Rapids Dominicans; and elementary and high school education administration. She has also been active in inner-city ministries in Detroit; Chicago; rural northern Michigan; St. Louis, Missouri; and Gusau, Nigeria, West Africa.
Nancy Brousseau, OP, has been a spiritual and retreat director for more than 30 years. She facilitates an interfaith committee, and her work with group spiritual direction with the people of the Heartside Neighborhood in Grand Rapids is published in Group Spiritual Direction: The Lived Experience. She offers ecumenical retreats, spiritual direction, workshops, and programs in prayer, spirituality, and spiritual formation for churches in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. Sr. Nancy has certificates in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and Spiritual Direction, and is a certified grief-recovery specialist. She was director of Dominican Center at Marywood for five years and director of Spirituality Programs for six years. Sr. Nancy has a Master of Arts in Religious Education, a Master of Divinity, and a Doctor of Ministry in Spiritual Direction. She taught middle school students for 17 years and served five years in school administration.
I am working toward my bachelor’s in business administration at Aquinas College.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work at Dominican Center for 11 years now.
Finding quiet, still moments to process life and escape into silence.
I try to live out the values of the Sisters both in my professional and personal life: dignity, service, stewardship, collaboration, hospitality, inclusion, and learning.
It changes often, but right now it is “we rise by lifting others.”
Amanda Dobson is the associate coordinator for the Foundations in Spirituality Program and is a member of the Formation Team at Dominican Center. Amanda is a 2019 graduate of Richard Rohr's Living School (Albuquerque, New Mexico), a spiritual director, wife, and mother of three.
In addition to serving as a volunteer crisis counselor, Brian McCourt is a certified spiritual director with the Kaufman Interfaith Institute serving the Grand Rapids interfaith community. He is passionate about helping people become aware of their inner journey, which includes healing, wholeness, unity, and action.
The work around Brian's Spiritual Belonging program builds on the need for a more practical and accessible approach to spirituality, which includes providing people with tools and experiences through group work. While a contemplative at heart, he believes that our journey eventually needs to move to a place of serving others with an emphasis on justice and equity. After all, if the extent of one's spiritual journey is limited to their own healing and connection with the divine, then there is a missed opportunity to pour our important work into helping others.
Brian has lived, worked, and traveled overseas extensively, including various faith pilgrimages. His passion for social justice includes work done in Sudan, Rwanda, and Guatemala. When he is not working with Dominican Center at Marywood and Kaufman Interfaith Institute, he manages a team of architects for Steelcase, where he has worked for 25 years. Brian holds a master's degree in contract law, served on many boards, and is committed to helping to address systemic racism in this country.
Brian J. Plachta is a writer, spiritual director, and speaker. A lay ecclesial minister for thirty-five years, Brian holds a master's in pastoral counseling and is a frequent teacher on a broad variety of practical spirituality topics at workshops, retreats, conference centers, and colleges. He is an adjunct faculty member at the Dominican Spiritual Life Center in Michigan and is the founding partner of Plachta, Murphy & Associates, where he practices law. Brian’s passion is helping men and women discover their Inner Compass—the divine voice of wisdom in their souls.
Brian’s blog, Simple Wisdom for Everyday Living, has more than a thousand subscribers, and he’s been sending a new blog post to his subscribers every week since April 2016. He is also the author of two self-published books: Pillars of Steel: How Real Men Draw Strength from Each Other and Life’s Toolbox: Blueprints Included.
A life-long learner, Brian recently graduated from the two-year program at the Rohr Institute for Action and Contemplation and has taken theological courses at Western Theological Seminary and Creighton University. Brian has been a spiritual director for twenty-five years and volunteers at Guiding Light Mission, an addiction recovery center.
He and his wife of thirty-six years live in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with their dog, Riley, and cat, Rascal. Having successfully launched their fourth child, the Plachtas are empty-nesters who now enjoy an ever-growing brood of grandchildren.
Cindy Warner came to the Dominican Center in February 2020 as a program intern and now serves as virtual program developer and designer. Dominican Center has always held a sacred space in Cindy's heart and is a place she considers “home.”
Cindy has more than 12 years of experience in the book publishing industry where she worked as a sales representative. She also works with a local high school assisting students with testing, work permits, job shadows, and educational development plans. In 2019, after many years away, Cindy returned to Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to complete her Bachelor of Arts degree and to follow a new path. Her passions include studying the mystics, learning about transformation, and reading all the books from the Dominican Center Bookstore.
Cindy lives in Jenison, Michigan, with her husband, three children, and dog.
Esther Yff-Prins listens to sacred stories in spiritual direction and mentors aspiring spiritual directors. She writes poetry and lives an intentional, contemplative life.
Liz Collver has worked at the Versiti Blood Center of Michigan since July 2019 as an account representative. Her role is to connect with the Grand Rapids and Wyoming community to find sites to host mobile blood drives and educate about the constant need for blood donation in our local community. Before working at Versiti, Liz worked in higher education for 10 years as an administrator and faculty member. A constant thread in her career has been building relationships to bring about positive change, and she feels blessed to do this type of work each day.
Lorilyn Wiering is a soul care practitioner who is passionate about facilitating spiritual freedom rooted in Original Blessing, the acknowledgment that we are made in the image and likeness of God and pronounced to be not only good, but very good. She believes that this Original Blessing finds expression through Open Mind, Open Heart, and Open Will. Trained as a teacher, spiritual director, and Enneagram practitioner, Lorilyn is at ease speaking boldly and listening deeply, always drawing on her commitment to the nurture of her own and others' Open Mind, Open Heart, and Open Will.
An avid gardener, she comes alive in the presence of Nature’s rhythms, recognizing, honoring, and nurturing self and others in seasons of growth, fullness, loss, death, rest, and rebirth. She is married to Vernon, her husband of more than 28 years, and is mom to their three children, Madeleine, Basil, and Reuben.
Matthew J. Laidlaw is a student, teacher, pastor, author, and spiritual director. Matthew is the director and lead teacher of Open Circle, an "inclusively-Christian" spiritual community in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is an ordained minister and has served in executive and administrative leadership while working in both school- and church-based pastoral ministry for the past 15 years. Matthew is a graduate of Kuyper College, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and the Living School for Action and Contemplation. He has also lived in the Middle East, studying at both Jerusalem University College and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Matthew and his wife, Stephanie, live in West Michigan with their two young children. You can find out more about Matthew at matthewlaidlaw.com.
Mindy Hills is a spiritual director and assists with retreat coordination at Dominican Center. For her directees, she holds a grace-filled space so they can deepen their awareness of how God illuminates their faith journeys. Mindy is attuned with spiritual wisdom and loving intentions to walk with others. She believes when we connect with our inner light, we renew our sense of joy, thereby empowering our soul's purpose to reveal itself. Mindy's experience also includes working as both a respiratory and physical therapist, which allows her to lead with a compassionate heart for enhancing wellness.
Nahed Fernando is a certified spiritual director in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Nahed emigrated from Egypt to America at a young age and has a diverse Christian church background and multicultural perspective that informs her worldview. She enjoys sharing contemplative readings of Scripture and meditative prayer processes one-on-one or within group settings. Nahed is a former homeschool mother and enjoys reading, writing, watercolor journaling, and sharing tea-time with others. She also offers retreats guiding others through meditation on God’s word with the use of watercolors.
For 25+ years, Sandra Mitchell served as a writer and marketer for corporate healthcare, higher education, nonprofits, and small business. Now that she's an independent writer and marketer, Sandra finds she's most gratified when collaborating with those who nurture heart-centered wellness practices, ministries, nonprofits, and solo entrepreneurships. Specific experience includes designing and managing websites and blogs; writing content for online and print publication; designing print materials; leading social media efforts and paid search campaigns; and much more. Sandra's degree is a bachelor of arts in English from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Combining her coaching background with her experience as a creative, it’s Sandra's honor to provide creativity coaching as well as facilitate writing circles. It’s always her intention to hold a safe space for clients and fellow creatives to explore, make sense of, and find freedom from that which may be holding them back from fully
stepping into their creative gifts.
Susan is passionately committed to continually living a life of authenticity and to loving herself and others fiercely, knowing that her heart’s wisdom will never lead her astray. She feels deep gratitude for many things: vibrant relationships, yoga, meditation, nature, travel, a good book, and abundant laughter.
Susan’s heartfelt intention is to help her clients remember their wholeness. She specializes in assisting individuals to understand their core stories and to see how these stories can negatively impact their health, their relationships, their happiness, and their ability to fulfill their life’s purpose. She offers concrete ways to help people let go of thoughts and perceptions that prevent them from living a life filled with love, peace, and joy.
Although Susan has been an energy intuitive since childhood, in 2004 she pursued formal training with Master Intuitive Kathy Reider of Intuitive Services Inc. and with Reiki Master Jan Atwood, LLC. After working for several years with Kathy and with Jan, she earned her Reiki Master certification and honed her innate intuitive energy reading abilities. She has been an intuitive counselor and energy therapist in private practice ever since.
Susan holds a graduate certificate in Holistic Health from Western Michigan University and has taught WMU’s graduate course on managing stress. She is a certified integrative life coach with The Ford Institute, specializing in Jungian shadow work; a 500-hour yoga teacher with more than ten years of teaching experience; a Reiki master; a certified labyrinth facilitator with Veriditas; and a holistic stress management facilitator with The Paramount Wellness Institute.
In addition to working privately with clients as an intuitive counselor and as an energy therapist at The Eagle Park Wellness Collective in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Susan hosts retreats and presents transformative workshops as well as offers private yoga therapy, breath work intensives, meditation sessions, and weekly public yoga classes.
To learn more about Susan, please see her website www.susanduesbery.com