Category Archives: Luncheon Speaker

8/1/19 – Bryan Norton, SJ, Newly ordained Jesuit

Thursday,  August 1, 2019

From Pupil to Priest: a Wildcat’s Jesuit Journey

Born and raised in Cleveland, Fr. Bryan Y. Norton, S.J., is the youngest of three children and the proud uncle of five nieces and nephews. His family and home parish (St. Basil the Great) instilled in him a strong sense of solidarity, faith, and service. Bryan met the Society of Jesus at St. Ignatius High School, where the vibrant tradition of Jesuit education left a profound mark. Eager to pursue a liberal arts education, he studied philosophy at Williams College in Massachusetts. There, through the bonds of friendship in an active Newman Center, Bryan had a deep experience of Christ and the Church. During an influential junior-year abroad at Oxford University, he reconnected with the Jesuits and began a journey of discernment that led him to the novitiate in 2008. As a novice, he worked extensively with adolescents at Loyola High School in Detroit. After professing first vows, he spent four years of studies in Saint Louis, including a Master’s degree in Classics (Latin and Greek) at Washington University. As a Jesuit regent, Bryan taught classical languages and literature at Xavier University in Cincinnati. Since the summer of 2016, he has lived in France, studying theology at Centre Sèvres, the Jesuit faculty of Paris. During these years abroad, Bryan has collaborated closely with the Brothers of Saint John of God in their care for the sick. As a deacon, he has served regularly at St. Ignatius Church in Paris and at St. Peter’s Church in Saint Denis. This summer, after ordination, he will spend a pastoral month at his home parish in Brecksville. In the fall, Bryan will return to Paris to complete his Licentiate in Sacred Theology.

Mr. Ed Plaspohl – “Close Encounters: Children, Homeless, Labre”

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Ed Plaspohl resides in Strongsville, Ohio, with his wife Mary Ann. Together they have three children who have blessed them with six grandchildren. Ed attended Chaminade High School in Dayton, Ohio where he graduated class valedictorian, and in 1995 Ed was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame at Chaminade. After high school Ed earned a four year Athletic Scholarship to play football at the University of Dayton, and in 1978 was given the Emil Karas Award as the Most Inspirational Player on and off the football field. Ed graduated with a double major in Business Management and Secondary Education.

On April 1, 2015, Ed “graduated” from work at SAP America. During his career at SAP America he generated over 150 million dollars in software revenue and achieved 100% of his revenue target.

Ed has been civically engaged for many years as well. He served on the Board of Directors at Boys Hope Girls Hope for three years and currently works with them to drive community engagement and the recruitment of Scholars in Cleveland and Akron area. This program provides the structure, discipline and long term care of a home environment that Boys Hope Girls Hope strives for via its mission and vision. Since 2011 he has been a member of the Walsh Jesuit Ignatian Identity Committee. This committee provides oversight to the Walsh Jesuit Governing Board focusing on the areas of campus ministry, service, religious education and all issues relating to justice and Ignatian identity at Walsh Jesuit.

In 2004, Ed and his son Michael participated in the St. Benedict Joseph Labre Ministry to the Homeless at St. Ignatius High School. Ed continues to serve every Sunday with the Ignatius students and staff to share food, faith, and friendship with those who live on the streets of Cleveland. This Sunday will be the 790th straight week that St. Ignatius High School has sent multiple vans into the city of Cleveland to serve the homeless, the poor, and the marginalized. To expand this ministry and with inspiration from his daughter Megan, he helped initiate the St. Benedict Joseph Labre Ministry at Walsh Jesuit High School twelve years ago.  The students and staff at Walsh Jesuit High School will be hitting the streets of Akron for the 590th straight week next Monday.

Labre Ministry in the News

Thursday, February 1, 2018
The City Club of Cleveland
850 Euclid Ave, 2nd Floor
Registration table opens at 11:15 and program begins promptly at noon.

$25.00/per ticket
$250.00/table of 10


Sister Susan Durkin, OSU, President of the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland – “Bold Faith: Open to God’s Call”

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Sister Susan DurkinSister Susan Durkin currently serves as President of the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland who, with their 1850 arrival, were the first order of women religious in the Diocese of Cleveland. With the elected leadership team, Sister Susan oversees the 145-member congregation.

Sister Susan is a graduate of St. Joseph Academy. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and Elementary Education from Ursuline College, an M.A. in Pastoral Ministry from the College of Mount St. Joseph, Cincinnati, and a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from Case Western Reserve University.

In 1987 Sister Susan answered the call to religious life and joined the Ursuline congregation. She spent 14 years in elementary education teaching primary grades in several diocesan schools.

In 2000 Sister Susan accepted a position in Youngstown as Director of the Children and Family Program in the Youngstown Ursulines’ HIV/AIDS Ministry. For her outstanding service she was named the Youngstown Difference Makers’ Person of the Year in 2005.

In 2006 Sister Susan assumed the position of Director of Development for the Ursulines. She was elected to congregational leadership and was installed as the Ursulines’ President in June, 2012 and is currently serving her second term.

Sister Susan was also a recipient of the Irish Archives Society Walks of Life Award in 2013. She currently serves as a Trustee for Ursuline College, Beaumont School and Urban Community School. She also serves on the Board for the Sisters of Charity Health System and as a member of the Sisters of Charity Public Juridic Person Board.  Sr. Susan also serves on The Resource Center for Religious Institutes national board.

Thursday, January 4, 2018
The City Club of Cleveland
850 Euclid Ave, 2nd Floor
Registration table opens at 11:15 and program begins promptly at noon.

Registration for this event is now closed.


Most Reverend Nelson J. Perez, Bishop, Diocese of Cleveland

Nelson J. Perez was born in Miami, Florida, on June 16, 1961 to David and Emma Perez and is the brother of the late Dr. David Perez and Louis Martin Perez. He was raised in West New York, NJ. Bishop Perez earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Montclair State University in 1983. He taught at Colegio la Piedad, a Catholic elementary school in Puerto Rico, prior to entering Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, where he earned Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Theology degrees in 1988 and 1989, respectively.

Bishop Perez’s first assignment after ordination to the priesthood was as parochial vicar of Saint Ambrose Parish, Philadelphia (1989-1993). He also served as assistant director of the Office for Hispanic Catholics (1990-1993), founding director of the Catholic Institute for Evangelization (1993-2002), Pastor of Saint William Parish, Philadelphia (2002-2009), and Pastor of Saint Agnes Parish, West Chester, PA (2009-2012).

His work in education included teaching courses in psychology and religious studies at LaSalle University, Philadelphia (1994-2008). Bishop Perez also taught Developmental Psychology at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary (Fall, 2011), in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  In 1998, he was named Chaplain to His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, with the title of Monsignor. In 2009, he was named a Prelate of Honor by Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Benedict XVI appointed Reverend Monsignor Nelson J. Perez Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre in New York on June 8, 2012.  He was ordained a bishop on July 25, 2012 in Saint Agnes Cathedral, Rockville Centre, NY by Bishop William F. Murphy.

A kind, joyous, and hard-working person, Bishop Perez enriches those ministries and people entrusted to his care.   Rooted in Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel”, Bishop Perez’s pastoral vision can be summarized as: “Church on Mission: Proactive, Involved, Supportive, Fruitful, and Joyful”

Thursday, November 30, 2017 –

ONLINE Registration is closed. If you have any questions please call 216.589.9852

Thomas Gill “Urban Community School at 50 – Responding to Children in 2017 and Beyond”

The First Friday club is pleased to announce our speaker for the November 2, 2017 luncheon is Tom Gill.

Tom Gill is the President of Urban Community School in Cleveland, Ohio. Gill has served UCS since 2010, initially as the Development Director, then Chief Operating and Development Officer, and as Associate Director from 2015- July 2017. He recently guided the school’s “Better Starts Here” $20-million capital campaign and attendant construction project that led to the opening of The Thomas Jeckering Middle School in 2014, increasing the school’s capacity to serve an additional 150 children. Gill has also spearheaded key collaborations with Urban Squash Cleveland, U.S. Lacrosse, The Foundry, Facing History and Ourselves, and The Refugee Response.

Previously, Gill was a Cleveland Executive Fellow at the Cleveland Leadership Center where he went through four rotations including: Cleveland Metropolitan School District, The Cleveland Indians; Cuyahoga County Land Bank; and St. Martin de Porres High School. He also served as a Community Coordinator for the Casa de la Solidaridad at the Jesuit University of Central America in San Salvador, El Salvador from 2005-2007.

In addition to his work at the school, Gill also chaired the Board of Neighborhood Family Practice, a federally qualified health center and currently chairs the Board of Refugee Response. He also serves on the Partnerships and Services Advisory Board Committee for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

Gill grew up in Bay Village, attended St. Raphael Parish and School and graduated from Saint Ignatius High School in 2001. He earned a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and BA from Saint Louis University where he graduated Summa Cum Laude earning a triple major in Theological Studies, Spanish, and International Studies.

Gill currently resides in Ohio City with his wife Erika McLaughlin and their young son, Andrew.



Judy Ghazoul Hilow, Malachi House, Executive Director “Coming Full Circle: Finding My Way to Malachi House”

Our speaker for the First Friday Club on Thursday, October 5, 2017 is Judy Ghazoul Hilow. 

Judy has over 30 years of accounting, non-profit and fundraising experience. She began her career in accounting as an auditor with Ernst & Whinney in Cleveland and later as the Capital Campaign Supervisor for the Cleveland Sight Center raising over $5.4 Million for the renovations.

Judy has also assisted parishes within the Cleveland Catholic Diocese with fundraising and development. She is most proud of her work as a parishioner of St. Maron Church, as the Capital Campaign Chair, and as the Co-Chair, with her husband Henry, of the 52nd Annual Maronite Convention in 2015, held in Cleveland with over 2,000 guests from all over the world. Judy is well known for her work as a “Servant Leader” in the Cleveland community and abroad.

Judy has been married to her husband Henry for over 31 years and the proud mother of five children: Elizabeth, Eleanore, Fred, Henry and Catherine


Jerry Monroe, Co-Founder of AM 1260 The Rock “Where you hear Rock Solid Truth”


The speaker on Thursday, August 31, is Jerry Monroe, a local business attorney in private practice for 25 years, who is one of the founders of St. Peter The Rock Media and serves as President of the Board of Directors.  Jerry will enjoy walking us through the story of how the organization came about from nothing, where it is today, and where we are headed in the future.

How did Catholic radio make it onto the Cleveland airwaves?  What does the “new evangelization” really mean, anyway?  In a lighter vein, what does the Catholic faith have in common with McDonald’s french fries?  Find out the answers to these and other of life’s questions by visiting the First Friday Club on Thursday, August 31.

The founders don’t include a butcher, baker or candlestick maker, but they do include individuals from many walks of life whose skill sets all came together to make local Catholic radio in Cleveland a reality, including (among others) a salesmen, a marketing executive, a media personality, an entrepreneur, attorneys and, yes, even a rocket scientist.  In 2013 and ’14, they came together under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to found St. Peter The Rock Media, the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which owns and operates AM 1260 The Rock.  Your local Catholic radio station is kept on the air with the help of her very small staff and the tireless support of many dozens of generous volunteers.

The focus is not an individual but a lay movement that has attracted hundreds of local households so far, and continues with God’s help to grow little by little, one soul at a time, every day.

The movement is the new evangelization, an important part of what the Second Vatican Council calls “the universal call to holiness” (Lumen gentium, chapter 5). For lay people, it involves acquiring a prayer life and a grasp of the basics of the Catholic Faith, deciding to live them out in daily life relying on God’s help, and listening for the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Helped by the graces we receive through the Sacraments, we can then stand ready to place our talents at the service of the Church, in ways that are often as exciting as they are unexpected. Case in point: Launching a Catholic radio station with precious little experience!

The station is WCCR, for Cleveland Catholic Radio.  Listeners know it better as AM 1260 The Rock, or simply The Rock.  In May 2015, The Rock took over the iconic “WIXY Twelve Sixty” frequency that so many of us grew up with, and has never looked back.  A listener-supported, lay-run apostolate, The Rock broadcasts 365 days and nights a year from Cleveland with a signal that reaches over 2 million souls in our cars, homes and workplaces.

The “format” is talk radio, but that would be a little misleading without also mentioning just Who it is that is speaking to us there: Jesus, our God, through the teachings of the Church he founded for that purpose on the rock of the first Pope, St. Peter, just as he promised.

The mission is to re-establish all things in Christ by drawing individuals to him, one at a time, through teaching, explaining, and fostering acceptance of the Catholic faith as handed on to us from the Apostles.  And always in ways that are upbeat, stimulating, clear, and kind.  In only two years, The Rock already has a track record of awakening and informing—often for the first time in their lives—the faith of Catholic listeners, as well as drawing non-Catholics to inquire into the faith and enter the Church.

Bishop Neal J. Buckon – “Serving God and Country: The Chaplaincy of the Archdiocese for the Military Services”

First Friday Club
Thursday, August 3, 2017

Bishop Neal James Buckon, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, is the son of John and Rita Buckon. He graduated from Gesu Elementary School and Cathedral Latin High School. Bishop Buckon holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from John Carroll University in Cleveland, a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History from Cleveland State University and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy from Borromeo College of Ohio. Bishop Buckon also received a Masters of Divinity Degree and a Master of Arts Degree in Church History from Saint Mary’s Seminary in Cleveland, Ohio. Following his graduate theological studies he was ordained a priest in May 1995 for the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio and assigned to a Saint Margaret Mary Church in South Euclid, Ohio.

In May 1975 he was recognized as a Distinguished Military Graduate and appointed as a Regular Army Officer and served in both the Infantry and Transportation Branches of the United States Army. After serving on active duty for seven years, he resigned his commission, traveled the world (visiting over one hundred countries), and entered into the ministry. While in the Seminary, he served in the United States Army Reserve as a Chaplain Candidate and was subsequently accessioned into the United States Army Chaplain Corps in 1996.

His previous Infantry assignments include serving as Rifle Platoon Leader and Weapons Platoon Leader with the 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry, 1st Armor Division, Erlangen, Germany; and Battalion S4 and Company Commander with the 3rd Battalion, 19th Infantry, 24th Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Georgia. His Transportation Corps assignments include serving in Mannheim Germany as a Platoon Leader and Company Operations Officer with the 28th Transportation Battalion, and as a Platoon Leader and Transportation Officer in the Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the Allied Command Europe, Mobile Force (Land) (AMFL) (including deployments to Denmark, England, and Norway). His Chaplain assignments include serving as the 2nd Psychological Operations Group Chaplain in Cleveland, Ohio (including a deployment to Bosnia); the Division Artillery (DIVARTY) Chaplain for the 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Georgia; the Army Central Command – Saudi Arabia (ARCENT-SA) Chaplain in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; the Division Engineer (DIVENG) Chaplain for the 1st Armored Division, Giessen, Germany; the Engineer Brigade Chaplain and Senior Cath-olic Priest for Task Force Baghdad, Iraq (OIF-1); the Deputy Garrison Chaplain in Heidelberg, Germany; the Garrison Chaplain of the Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill, Oklahoma; the Chaplain for Catholic Ministry, Multi National Corps – Iraq (MNC-I); and the 18th MEDCOM Command Chaplain in Yongsan, Korea. He served his last assignment as the Eighth United States Army (EUSA) Chaplain for Current Operations and Catholic Chaplain in Yongsan, Korea. He retired from the Army on 31 December 2010.

Bishop Buckon is the Episcopal Moderator of the Military Council of Catholic Women. He is a Knight Commander of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem; and a 4th Degree Knight of Columbus. Bishop Buckon was inducted into the United States Army Reserve Officer’s Training Corps National Hall of Fame at Fort Knox, Kentucky on June 10th, 2016.

Father Bob Stec “A FULL LIFE – the Call and Promise of the Gospel”

First Friday Club   Thursday, July 6, 2017

Father Bob Stec

Born to Frank and Rita Stec, Father Bob is the third of six children. He always felt a calling to serve the Lord throughout his years at St. Charles Borromeo Grade School and Padua Franciscan High School. He graduated as ‘Mr. Padua’ in 1979 and followed his calling to Borromeo Seminary.

He graduated from St. Mary Seminary in 1988 and was assigned to St. Gabriel and later St. Richard Parish. He was appointed Vocation Director of the Diocese of Cleveland, a position he held for eleven years. During this time, The FEST, an annual Catholic Family Festival, became a reality, and is now in its l7th year.

The FEST ( began as a follow up to World Youth Day in Rome and had about 1,500 people in attendance its first year.   It has since grown into the highlight of the summer for thousands of people from across the region, attracting 39,000+ annually for a day of faith, family, fun and music – all for free!

In December 2005, Father Bob was appointed Pastor of St. Ambrose parish in Brunswick. In his first year at St. Ambrose, he began Mission Possible, a mission outreach program to the Dominican Republic ( Over 200 missionaries have since made the annual trip to Higuey, Dominican Republic to build homes, introduce others to Christ and change lives. In addition to the homes, a Church, school, medical/dental clinic, community center, baseball field and job training center have all been built under the guidance of Father Bob.

His humanitarian efforts are also very visible in the Greater Cleveland area where a west side effort – Alpha Village – was established. Residents, many of them refugee families, are helped with every day necessities and time is spent distributing winter clothing, food for the holidays and an annual spring clean up and home repair day.

In 2014, St. Ambrose was nominated as one of the ‘top 12’ Catholic Parishes in North America at creating Disciples. Under the leadership of Father Bob, St. Ambrose continues to grow in size and service to the Lord with over 5,200 families and 150+ parish ministry groups.

With heroine use touching the lives of greater Clevelanders in epidemic proportion, he felt compelled to do something.   In 2016 he brought together parish leaders of all faiths, community leaders and law enforcement. In this regard, the Greater than Heroin Campaign was launched.

With the death of Father Thomas Dunphy, the Diocese of Cleveland recently appointed Father Bob as the Administrator of Saint Martin Parish, Valley City. This is in addition to his responsibilities at Saint Ambrose. Father Bob will continue in this role until such time as a new pastor is named.

As a well -known community leader, he has been the recipient of many prestigious awards…Catholic Man of the Year; Med-Wish International Humanitarian Award; Medina County Distinguished Citizen Award and the Key to the City of Brunswick….just to name a few!

With his hectic schedule, and community efforts, he still finds time, on occasion, to enjoy ATVing, snowmobiling, rock climbing, and even a great bonfire!


“Race, Sports and the beginning of CYO with Bishop Sheil”

First Friday Club of Cleveland
Thursday, June 8, 2017

Dobie Moser is the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry and CYO for the Diocese of Cleveland. He served in a similar position for the Columbus Diocese and worked in youth and young adult ministry at St. John the Baptist in Silver Spring and at St. Cecilia in Houston.

Dobie is a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, a high school tennis coach, and is on the design and training team for the University of Notre Dame Play Like a Champion Today national coaches training program.

Dr. Moser has written sacramental, educational, athletic, and family resources and has served on the design and training team for the international Strong Catholic Families initiative. He has an undergraduate degree in education, an M. A. in Family Systems Counseling, and a Doctorate in Leadership. He has trained thousands of coaches and parents to understand sports as a path to Christian discipleship.                                                                                                                               

CYO was established to promote among youth a recreational, educational and religious program that would adequately meet the physical, mental and spiritual needs of boys and girls without regard to race, creed or color…. While instilling in their minds and hearts a true love for God and country.   CYO Charter, 1932

Picture from the cover of a book on the origins of CYO – used with permission of the author