Speaking

I would love to speak at your church, conference, event, group, retreat, or gathering!

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I can cater my talks to adult parishioners, teens,  young adults (like Theology on Tap),  volunteer catechists, professionals in ministry, professional educators, as well as non-religious groups who cultivate leadership and support (Leadership Forums, MOMS clubs, etc.).

I’m a professional religious educator with a background in pastoral theology, which basically means that my area of expertise is explaining complex theological topics in an interesting way that relates to life.  I am engaging and passionate about whatever I teach, so participants are rarely (if ever) bored.  I tell lots of stories to draw people in and demonstrate points, I use analogies and kinesthetic (bodily) activity to help people understand, and I explicitly invite participants to evaluate and apply concepts to their own lived experience.   My lectures are substantive, accessible, and stimulating.

My standard talk is 45 minutes, plus a Q-and-A session, though some subjects warrant more time for presentation and discussion.  I am also available for half-day, full-day or weekend events.   Here are a few of the talks I have given:

  • Judgment, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory – How we think about these “last four things” matters–for our faith and for our life.  In this talk, I begin by acknowledging the cartoonized version of heaven, hell, and judgment that most people have internalized, despite its lousy (and problematic) theology.  Then I offer imagery that opens the religious imagination to better understand Catholic teaching on eschatology.  This lecture can lead to a secondary discussion on morality or stand on its own.
  • Evangelization is Not a Scary Word – Many people are intimidated by the call to evangelization (because they think it means proselytizing).  A renewed understanding of evangelization helps us respond to this call and see how it affects the whole Church, the Body of Christ.  I explain the “new evangelization,” explore the implied “old evangelization,” and discuss the three distinct groups that the General Directory for Catechesis calls us to evangelize.  Participants will not just intellectually understand this call, but formulate a response to it.
  • Love and Relationships – This talk focuses on what love is (and is not).  Using insights from C.S. Lewis, M. Scott Peck, and Erich Fromm, I discuss what we mean when we call love a virtue, what kind of love Jesus calls us to have for one another (even our enemies), and the common mistakes we make about love when we involve romantic attraction into the mix.  From there, we explore unhealthy relationship dynamics, and what real love looks like in a healthy relationship.  With a better understanding of what love means and what love in a healthy relationship is, I then present the Church’s teaching on sexual morality in the positive, life-giving style of Theology of the Body.
  • Sabbath and the Busy Person – Either a 60-minute workshop or a 2-3 hour mini-retreat, this presentation broadens our understanding of the 3rd Commandment to Honor the Sabbath.  Sabbath isn’t just a day (to go to mass) but also a theological concept that calls us to rest, relaxation, and re-creation.  Examining our lives and our choices through the lens of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, we begin to see missed opportunities for cultivating our inner life.  Our culture values busy-ness, yet our God calls us to value rest.  Insights from Robert Wicks help participants understand the impact of their healthy and unhealthy choices.  The retreat is designed to facilitate reflection and renewed commitment in a relaxing, prayerful atmosphere.
  • The Enneagram – This personality assessment helps us understand the motivations behind our behavior.  Unlike other personality assessments which identify personal preferences, the enneagram describes the healthy, average, and unhealthy behavior that extend from one’s underlying motivation–information which leads to better understanding our tendencies towards vice and virtue.   This discussion helps in one’s own personal and spiritual growth as well as understanding friends, loved ones, and colleagues.   I have given different versions of this talk to both religious and non-religious groups:
    • The EnneagramIdentifying Different Personality Types and How to Work with Them
    • Using the Enneagram to Explore Your Personal Practice of Vice and Virtue
    • Why Do We Do What We Do: Understanding Ourselves, Our Spouses, and Each Other 
  • Service Learning in Catholic Schools – I offer a 60-90 minute presentation on developing a Service Learning Program that has a strong theological and pedagogical foundation, from the call to justice in Scripture and Tradition to a reflective dimension that connects one’s experience to faith.  In addition to the theory, this presentation will also offer suggestions for practical implementation.  I am also available for more in-depth workshops on service learning.  For more info, see my book: Living the Vision: A Pastoral Guide to Service Learning in Catholic High Schools (Lulu 2008).
  • Vatican II: Understanding the Call and Living the Vision – We know that Vatican II changed things, but why?  Offering a bit of history, a bit of theology, and a lot of understanding, this presentation also explains the call we each have in living the vision of this Council, fifty years later.

I would also be happy to tailor a speech for your group — just let me know!

I ask that you cover any travel and lodging expenses, plus a stipend.  Please contact me at julie.dienno@gmail.com with the specifics of your event.

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