2016 Speakers


Deacon Alex Jones

Alex is 75 years of age and is married to Donna Camille. They have three grown sons, Joseph, Benjamin, and Marc; 12 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. He graduated from Wayne State University in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in art education, and received his master's in pastoral studies (MAPS) degree from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in 2007. He taught in the Detroit school system for 28 years.

From April 1975 to December 2000, he was the senior minister of two churches in the city of Detroit: Zion Congregational Church of God in Christ (1975-1982), the second oldest Pentecostal church in Michigan, and Maranatha Christian Church (1982-2000), an evangelical/charismatic church.

In March of 1998, while reading the apostolic fathers and subsequent church history in preparation for a Wednesday evening Bible study, he discovered the Church to be charismatic, liturgical, hierarchical, and Eucharistic-centered. In light of that discovery, Alex and Donna began a two-year journey into the Catholic Church that culminated in 54 members of his previous congregation, including 14 members of his family, entering the Catholic Church. They entered RCIA at St. Suzanne Catholic Community on September 10, 2000, and were welcomed into the Catholic Church through confirmation during Easter Vigil on April 14, 2001.

Alex was ordained as a permanent deacon in the Archdiocese of Detroit on October 1, 2005. On May 31, 2007, he retired from the position of evangelization coordinator for the Archdiocese of Detroit. On July 1, 2013 he retired from his diaconal responsibilities at St. Suzanne/OLGH and his work as the pastoral associate at SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church. He is a member of Prince of Peace Catholic Church in West Bloomfield, Michigan. He is also the author of No Price Too High, a book chronicling Alex’s and Donna’s journey into the Church.

For more about Deacon Alex Jones, visit alexjonesministries.com.


Chris Lowney

Chris Lowney, a one time Jesuit seminarian, later became a managing director of J.P. Morgan & Co. on three continents until leaving the firm in 2001. Since then, he has authored five books, including the bestselling Heroic Leadership, which was a #1 ranked bestseller of the Catholic Book Publishers Association and has been translated into a dozen languages, and Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads. His latest book is Everyone Leads: How to Revitalize the Catholic Church. Chris currently chairs the board of Catholic Health Initiatives, which is the nation's second largest Catholic healthcare system, with more than 100 hospitals in 19 states. He is a graduate of Fordham University, roots for the New York Mets, and hates the New York Yankees without feeling shame.

For more about Chris Lowney, visit chrislowney.com.


2015 Speakers


Deacon Larry Oney

Deacon Oney is founder and president of Hope & Purpose Ministries and Chairman of the Board and CEO of HGI Global, a third party administration project management firm headquartered in New Orleans, Louisiana. HGI Global is one of the largest African American owned firms in the country. Deacon Larry is a permanent deacon for Diocese of New Orleans and is assigned to St Louis King of France Cathedral in the historic French Quarter. He is a member of the New Orleans chapter of Legatus International which is a group of Catholic CEOs and their wives. He is also a member of the Board of Regents for Our Lady of Holy Cross College. Additionally, he is on the Board of Directors for Renewal Ministries, an international ministry of evangelization; and on the Board of Directors for Crossing the Goal Ministries.

Deacon Oney has published three books: Amazing Grace, Overcoming Race; Up Faith (God Loves a Faith that is Always Looking Up) and Reflections on the Kingdom of God.

Deacon Oney ministers internationally and has appeared on EWTN, Franciscan Radio, Ave Maria Radio and Focus TV. He has just concluded several missions, one to Canada and one to Brazil, where over 120,000 were gathered to hear his teaching over four days. Deacon Oney uses humor, sacred scripture and his love for the people of God to speak to the heart of God's people in an uplifting manner.

He is married and has five children and lives in the New Orleans area.


Deacon Ralph Poyo

As founder of New Evangelization Ministries (NEM), Deacon Ralph Poyo seeks to be a useful tool for assisting pastors in training their parish leadership in evangelization. He has traveled extensively around the United States, serving as an evangelist and speaker. He incorporates what he learned and experienced in five years of research in rural, inner-city, and suburban parishes. After almost thirty years of parish ministry, he understands the complexities of various ministry environments.

When Deacon Ralph is not consulting with parishes through NEM (www.newevangelizationministries.org), he is a popular national speaker capable of communicating with a wide variety of audiences. His passionate, humorous, and playful style has captivated adult and teen audiences across the country with the truth of the gospel of Christ. His presentation style disarms audiences and speaks directly to the issues that plague our efforts to live the Catholic faith. Information about his presentations can be found at www.DeaconRalphPoyo.com. You can follow Deacon Ralph on twitter at @HobbitDeacon.

Deacon Ralph is married to his high school sweetheart, Susan, and has five daughters, one son-in-law, and two granddaughters.


Teresa Tomeo

Teresa Tomeo is an author, syndicated Catholic talk show host, and motivational speaker with more than 30 years of experience in TV, radio and newspaper and spent 19 of those years working in front of a camera as a reporter/anchor in the Detroit market. In the year 2000, Teresa left the secular media to start her own speaking and communications company, Teresa Tomeo Communications, LLC. Her weekday morning radio program, Catholic Connection, is produced by Ave Maria Radio in Ann Arbor, Michigan and now heard on over 200 Catholic stations nationwide through the EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network and is also carried on Sirius Satellite Radio.

Teresa is a columnist and special correspondent for the national Catholic newspaper Our Sunday Visitor and appears frequently on the EWTN Global Catholic Television Network. Teresa co-hosts the EWTN television series, The Catholic View for Women, and is the field reporter for their annual March for Life coverage in D.C. Teresa has also been featured on The O’Reilly Factor, Fox News, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, and the Dr. Laura Show, discussing issues of faith, media awareness, and Catholic Church teaching, especially as it relates to the culture.

Learn more about Teresa by visiting her website, follow her on Facebook or Twitter.


2014 Speakers

Kelly Wahlquist

Kelly Wahlquist is a dynamic and inspiring Catholic speaker whose gift of weaving personal stories and Scripture together with practical advice allows her audience to enter more fully into what Blessed John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict, and Pope Francis have called us into —to be witnesses of our faith and part of the New Evangelization.

In addition to speaking, Wahlquist is the Program Manager for the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute, which serves Catholic adults in the Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis. Wahlquist also initiated the Hearts Afire Parish-based program, which, through parish-based small group faith renewal programs helps people live lives of Faith, Hope, and Christian Charity in the Sacraments. Walquist also writes for The Integrated Catholic Life, CatholicMom.com, NewEvangelizer.com, and the Divine Mercy and The Marians of the Immaculate Conception websites.

Wahlquist lives in Minnesota with her husband, Andy, and their three children. Read more about Kelly Wahlquist or visit her blog.


Fr. Brendan McGuire

Fr. Brendan McGuire is pastor of Holy Spirit Parish as well as co-pastor of Our Lady of Refuge in San Jose, California. He is also Vicar General of the Diocese of San Jose. In this role, he is responsible for special projects, in particular the implementation of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan. Before being ordained a priest in 2000, McGuire was executive director of PCMCIA, the PC Card trade association that promoted the international computer standard for laptop computers. He has a Master’s degree in theology from St. Patrick’s Seminary and University in Menlo Park, CA. He also has an undergraduate degree in Electronic Engineering and Master’s degree in Computer Science from Trinity College, Dublin. He is a native of Ireland and the youngest of twelve children.

To learn more about Fr. Brendan McGuire’s parish, visit Holy Spirit Parish’s website or follow Fr. Brendan on Twitter.


Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith was a Protestant minister who was received into the Catholic Church in 1996. Bringing a wealth of experience and insight on the Word of God to audiences across the U.S., Thomas is a repeat guest on EWTN and Catholic radio as well as a sought after parish mission and conference speaker.

Smith is the co-author of “Revelation: The Kingdom Yet to Come” and an international presenter for the Great Adventure Bible Timeline. He has taught as an adjunct professor at the St. Francis School of Theology in Denver, and is the former Director of the Denver Catholic Biblical School and the Denver Catechetical School. With Dolly Banzon and Dr. Amy Ashmann, he cofounded the Philippine Catholic Biblical Mission Foundation which has trained over 3,500 lay leaders and catechists in the Philippines and provided thousands of scriptural materials to dioceses, parishes and adult faith formation programs in the islands. Smith lives on his family ranch in southeastern Idaho where he continues to explore the riches of our faith. Read More about Thomas Smith.