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Women inspired to be lights in the darkness

Women pannel

ROYAL PALM BEACH  |  Women from the Diocese of Palm Beach and beyond attended the 13th annual Catholic Women of Faith, Women of Action conference March 16, 2024, at Our Lady Queen of the Apostles Parish in Royal Palm Beach. 

Organized by the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, the conference was directed by Dorothy Harper, diocesan council president, who served as the emcee. The theme, “Catholic Women in Media, Lights in the Darkness,” encouraged action by women for their faith, “to shine their light in a dark world.”

The event featured media influencers, inspirational music by Deacon Andre Boucher’s band, Called, and singer/blogger Vianny Ruiz, opportunities for Eucharistic adoration and the sacrament of penance, Mass celebrated by Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito, rosary, a church and relic tour, and vendor tables. Breakfast and lunch were included, which offered a chance for fellowship.

“I would like to welcome all of you, especially those who are here for the very first time,” said Father Andy Rudnicki, pastor of Our Lady Queen of the Apostles Parish. “I just became the spiritual director for the diocese for all of you,” which drew applause.

The featured keynote speaker, Alexis Walkenstein, is an Emmy award-winning journalist, filmmaker, producer and public relations professional who is a former communications director for the Diocese of Palm Beach. Her book, titled “Fulton J. Sheen,” was published by Pauline Media. She is presently working on the cause for canonization of Venerable Fulton J. Sheen.

“If the Lord wants you somewhere, ladies, if he wants you to bring light into a room,” no matter where it is, “he will give you the access point because of the light of Christ,” Walkenstein said. “To bring the light into a dark world, you have to close yourself off from anyone else who is not in the light of Christ. When you are going to bear light unto the world, you better align with people who are aligned with Christ.”

Walkenstein interviewed the media panel members who are “lights in the darkness,” including Ruiz, Jennifer Trefelner, diocesan director of communications and development, Aleen Stanton, Florida Catholic freelance writer, TV and radio personality Carolyn Dean, Deacon Boucher, and musicians Paul Marcucci and Heather Sharp.

The first question, directed to Trefelner, asked, “We all love and honor Bishop Barbarito. I wonder if you could share something about him?”  

“I would say what you see and how you see him engaging with you and being so personal is who he really is. He is such a gift,” Trefelner said. “Honest, trustworthy, humble, generous, kind, all of those things, that’s real.”

Walkenstein asked Stanton, “Aleen, you are from New York. The Florida Catholic is your baby. Tell us, what is your inspiration?” 

“My inspiration comes from adoration,” Stanton said. “I pray to the Holy Spirit to give me an idea on what to write about and many times, lo and behold, I get an idea in my head.”

Deacon Boucher and his band were asked to tell everyone about their Called ministry. He said, “I was working as a musician forever and it seemed more appropriate to draw that into a ministry with the new evangelization.”

Sharp said that she had been praying, asking God, “What can I do with my ministry and what can I do for you? And two weeks later, Deacon approached me, and I just knew it was going to take off.”

Marcucci said, “I was a professional musician and a music teacher. Right in the middle of COVID, I committed myself strongly to make it (his faith) stronger, and shortly after that Andre called me.”

Dean, asked to talk about her media mission of bringing the Good News to the world, said, “As I was driving around town, I see a bumper sticker that says ‘Catholic Radio, 920 AM.’ So, I called and invited someone to come do a TV interview and they sent two people, and I am interviewing them. And when the interview was over, they said to me, ‘Well, how would you like to start doing Catholic radio?’ That is how I got started.”

Walkenstein, addressing Ruiz, said, “I am told here in Florida when you think of social media, you think of Vianny. How did you start your ministry?”

Ruiz said, “It just came along. Jesus, when he calls you, he can take you wherever he wants, and when you see yourself, you say, ‘What am I doing here?’ It just happens.”

Ellen Wayne, Catholic Charities CEO, announced during the day that the 2025 Catholic Charities Caritas Spiritus Sanctus Award will be given to Harper at the Caritas Dei Bishop’s Gala on Jan. 30, 2025, at The Breakers in Palm Beach. “Dorothy is a prime example of what it means to be a volunteer of service to others. Talk about a shining light,” Wayne said.

For more info about the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, visit or email

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