Diocesan Youth Conference Speakers
In the Year of St. Joseph
Fr. Becker was ordained in 2017 for the Diocese of Charlotte, and currently serves as Pastor of St. Margaret Mary’s Parish in Swannanoa, as well as Vocations Promoter for the Diocese. He was born and raised in Charlotte, and attended Charlotte Catholic High School and UNC-Chapel Hill. Fr. Becker is speaking on “Living Out Christian Love in a World of Hate”.
Hello! My name is Justice Blankenbaker. I am a parishioner at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church and I teach 9th and 12th-grade Theology at Christ the King Catholic High School. My talk for the conferences is about St. Thomas More and how his life exemplifies the virtue of faith. I believe that faith, hope, and love are the gifts that God gives us to help us remain anchored to Him no matter what else is happening in our lives.
I was born in Mooresville, NC, but my friends like to point out that I haven't spent a lot of time there. I've been a journeyman of sorts, meeting all types of people, and learning as I go. I joined the Catholic Church in 2014.
I am Fr. Matthew Codd, pastor at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte. My video is about God's infinite love for us. Faith, hope, and love are invaluable gifts that we could never have without God's generosity; they always remind us of how much God showers His gifts upon us. My favorite saint is St. Teresa of Avila.
Mr. and Mrs. Dillard
Wilbert and Deborah Dillard will be married for 39 years May 1. They have four children, one daughter in law, a granddaughter, and a second grandchild due in June. Mr. Dillard works as a pediatric PA-C while Mrs. Dillard worked as a nurse before she retired. They are active members of Our Lady of Mercy Church where Mr. Dillard is a member of the Knights of Columbus and Mrs. Dillard volunteers with Catholic Charities of Winston Salem. Mrs. Dillard's favorite saints are Saint Anthony and Saint Christopher and Mr. Dillard's favorite saint is Saint Matthias.
Hi! My name is Bethany Fischer and I’m the youth minister at St. Leo’s in Winston Salem. I’m speaking about Mary’s Life of Hope and my favorite definition of hope is confident expectation. My other favorite things include being in my backyard, running, and Sparkling Water Club.
Diocese of Madison
Born in West Allis, Wisconsin, Bishop Hying attended St. Phillip Neri parish and entered St. Francis De Sales Seminary in 1981. After serving as a priest for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, he became an auxiliary Bishop to Archbishop Listecki. He became the Bishop of the Diocese of Gary, Indiana. Bishop Hying now serves as the Bishop of the Madison Diocese in Wisconsin.
My name is Sr. Edeva Jover, OP. I am a Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena. I am blessed to be the youth minister at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, Charlotte, since 2012. My superpower is being able to appreciate the simple things in life. My most prized possessions are my car, my house, my bank account, my phone, my shoes and bags!...oh wait those were my possessions before I joined the religious life. Now, the only thing I possess that no one can take from me is my smile.
I am a Catholic, raised in Africa, of Irish ancestry, living in America. A former pro soccer player I now coach college soccer and am a parishioner at St. Michael’s.
I will be talking this year on establishing powerful daily habits that will change your life and help make big leaps toward holiness.
Katie Dunne Knoefel
First and foremost a disciple of the living God, Katie Dunne Knoefel is also a wife and mother with a passion for loving people and journeying with them. With a youth ministry degree from Pfeiffer University and 12 years of experience in parish youth ministry and catechesis, Katie seeks to bring the joy and life of Christ to a world desperately in need of a little joy and life.
Through speaking, writing, and retreats, Katie hopes to help parishes offer vibrant ministry experiences to raise up disciples who will build up the Kingdom of God.
Now a stay-at-home mom, Katie enjoys spending her time reading, eating, laughing and loving on her kids. She lives with her husband Blake and two kids, Liam and Enda Jeanne, in Indian Trail, NC.
Fr. Joseph Matlak was born in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, in the English countryside. He graduated from Nicholas Breakspear Roman Catholic Secondary School in Saint Albans, Hertfordshire, then spent a “gap year” teaching English in Normandy, France. In 2007, he graduated from King’s College London with a Bachelor of Arts in Ancient History, then went to St. Josaphat Seminary at the Catholic University of America, Washington DC. On October 1, 2015, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Bohdan Danylo. In 2018, he completed a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) from the Catholic University of America. He is the administrator of St. Basil the Great Parish in Charlotte, and Holy Cross Mission in Columbia, South Carolina, as well as chaplain of Holy Trinity Catholic Middle School.
Growing up in Newton, North Carolina, John Putnam was raised Southern Baptist but began visiting other churches with friends in his teenage years. He was intrigued by the media coverage in 1978 when Pope Paul VI died, followed by the election of John Paul I who died 30 days later, and the ultimate election of now St. John Paul II. He wrote a letter to a local priest, who invited him to visit. They chatted, and the priest invited John to Mass. “The first time I attended Mass, it was all very new to me. But everything inside of me said, ‘this is where you’re supposed to be.’” He was 14 years old at the time. He converted at 16, which was difficult because many family members had misconceptions about Catholicism.
As a pre-med major, Fr. Putnam received a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Lenoir-Rhyne College before entering the seminary. He then earned a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology and a master’s degree in divinity from St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Charlotte in 1992. He continued his education at The Catholic University of America where he earned a licentiate in Canon Law in 1997. Seeing firsthand his passion for the priesthood, his family was very supportive of his decision to attend seminary and happily attended his ordination and first Mass.
In retrospect, Fr. Putnam feels college seminary would have been a wonderful experience. “Some of the men that I studied with in theology had gone to college seminary, and from my standpoint, they seemed much more prepared for theological studies. So, I am very excited for the young men that we have studying at St. Joseph, because obviously they are going to have a wonderful foundation to begin their theological studies.”
They are also going to have the support of their fellow seminarians here in the diocese. “When I was in seminary, there was no one in my class from the Diocese of Charlotte, so I didn’t have seminary classmates that were local, and that was hard. With these men, they are studying together, living together, learning to be patient with one another and deal with the everyday struggles of life. Once they are priests, God willing, they’ll also have these men that they can call and say, ‘I need some help,’ or ‘I need to run this by you,’ and also guys who are not afraid to call you out and say, ‘you need to rethink that.’”
Fr. Putnam has been a Catholic priest for more than 25 years. He is currently the pastor of St. Mark in Huntersville. In addition to his pastoral duties, Father Putnam serves on the Presbyteral Council, the College of Consultors, and the Diocese Vocations Board.
Fr. Benjamin Roberts is a priest of the Diocese of Charlotte and has been Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe, NC since 2012. He is a graduate of D'Youville College in Buffalo, NY, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, PA and holds a doctorate in preaching from Aquinas Institute of Theology in St, Louis, MO. Father also serves as an adjunct professor of theology for Saint Joseph's College of Maine and teaches preaching to permanent deacon candidates for the Diocese of Charlotte and other dioceses. His first book, "The Voice of the Bridegroom: Preaching as an Expression of Spousal Love," was published in February 2021.
My name is Anne Trufant. My husband and I live in Brevard, NC, and have run Camps Kahdalea and Chosatonga for the last 33 yrs. (2funcamps.com) We have 7 children, and almost 8 grandchildren! My talk is on anchoring in love and what that means. (You'll have to watch the talk to find out!) And that's just the tiniest tip of the iceberg. When I was 16, my life was radically changed in a moment when I had an encounter with Jesus. I've been asked what superpower I would want to have. I HAVE it. So do YOU! Our superpower is the Holy Spirit, and my passion is helping YOU get to know Him and to have the same experience I've had. To meet Jesus, to really get to know Him as your best friend, and to be filled with His power to set our worlds on fire. You ready? Just choose to believe! Check out Themissiononthemountain.com. There's tons on there to help fuel that fire in you! God's ready. Are you?! I'm cheering you on!