Staff & Board - Mary's Pence


Staff & Board


Katherine came to Mary’s Pence with a background in strategic planning, project management and training/facilitation, mostly in a corporate setting. She has facilitated retreats on nonviolence, was a founding member of Conversation with Other (cross-cultural conflict facilitation), has volunteered for Nonviolent Peaceforce, and served as a core team member founding the Minnesota Peace Team which was created to provide a nonpartisan presence during the Republic National Convention. She currently serves on the board of Ignatian Volunteer Corps and Minnesota International NGO Network.

Grace Gbolo has spent years teaching English abroad and engaging within the communities. On a local level, Grace has been involved in after-school curriculum development and youth and community advocacy work. Her passions in social justice, climate justice, urban agriculture, and community-led change has brought her to Mary's Pence to continue to help spaces that lead change. In her downtime, you might find her reading a book with her dog or having a good laugh with family members or friends.

  • Gilda Larios - Mexico City, Mexico
  • ESPERA Team Lead

In the 1980s and 1990s, Gilda was very deeply involved in the refugee and migration issues caused by armed conflicts in Central America. She is a social worker and co-founded Women’s Income Generation and Empowerment, a three-time Mary’s Pence Grant recipient. Gilda served on the Mary’s Pence board and was involved in the strategic planning work that created the ESPERA program in 2008 and served as its founding staff, helping us define and grow the ESPERA program.

  • Eva Martinez - Suchitoto, El Salvador
  • ESPERA Promoter

Eva Martinez Menjivar supports ESPERA Funds in El Salvador and Honduras. She is from Suchitoto, and is a member of Concertación de Mujeres de Suchitoto, the first women’s network to participate in an ESPERA Fund. Eva was elected by the women of the Concertación to be the first coordinator of the ESPERA Fund in Suchitoto. Eva is a survivor of the armed conflict of 1980-1991 and a trained nurse.

After many years working in the corporate world, Nadine made a change and has worked in several local non-profit organizations in program, finance and management positions. She volunteers at her local parish, St. Albert the Great and is on the board of the Woman's Club of Minneapolis. She and her husband also manage the Twin Cities Board Games Meetup group which advocates for building community through playing board games.

Photo of Brenda
  • Brenda Valladares Escobar - Suchitoto, El Salvador
  • ESPERA Business Facilitator

Brenda has a Bachelor's degree in Marketing from the University of Francisco Gavidia and a Master's degree in Gender Studies from the National University of Mexico. She also completed a course in Solidarity Economics at the University of Central America. Brenda has experience developing business workshops for women, as well as identifying and tracking indicators of success. She previously worked as a business specialist with Mary's Pence ESPERA partner Red Unión de Mujeres and also developed a marketing study for the Concertación de Mujeres, another ESPERA partner organization.

Christine Lian Headshot

Christine came to Mary's Pence with a passion for women's issues and an eagerness to learn about nonprofits. She has worked in a research laboratory to promote social equity in STEM fields, as well as written for a women's center blog. She is a recent graduate from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, with a Bachelor's of Science in Biology. In her free time Christine likes listening to podcasts and spending time with her cat.

Sarah M
  • Sarah Mechtenberg - Saint Paul, Minnesota
  • Development and Communications Manager

Sarah joined Mary’s Pence after living and working in South America for 15 years. Her background has primarily focused on grantwriting and nonprofit marketing and communication for organizations dedicated to empowering the lives of marginalized populations. Sarah has also worked on program development and implementation in a variety of areas in international development, including: education, water and sanitation, public health, and volunteer management. Sarah enjoys hiking and travel and appreciates a good cup of coffee and the local library.

John Cherek joins Mary's Pence staff as part of Iganatian Volunteer Corps

Retired from a 45-year career working in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, which included time as a parish business administrator and Director of The Catholic Cemeteries, John joined Mary's Pence in December 2020 as a part-time volunteer through the Ignatian Volunteer Corps (IVC). In addition to his work with the Archdiocese, John is proud of the Ministry of Consolation program he started with his wife Linda to bring comfort to the bereaved, which they created following the sudden death of their oldest daughter in 1993. John holds degrees from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, and a master’s degree from Marquette University. He and his wife will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in 2021 with their 3 surviving children and 5 grandchildren.

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  • Carol Fendt, PhD - Chicago, Illinois
  • Chair

Carol R. Fendt, PhD, is a founding director of The PRAIRIE Group, a research group that is associated with University of Illinois at Chicago. The organization bases its work in educational research and evaluation that promotes justice, grassroots empowerment through education and social change. While much of her work is in the area of public education in Chicago, she has a deep commitment to applying principles of change through facilitating educational projects in Nigeria and Kenya which included the promotion of women in education and social leadership. Her dedication to women and education at the grassroots level is the gift she brings to Mary's Pence.

  • Amanda Steepleton - Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Associate Chair

Amanda has worked in non-profits and higher education for the past ten years. She currently works in communications and fund development at Our Saviour's Community Services, a local nonprofit that serves immigrants and refugees and folks struggling with homelessness. Amanda is especially passionate about immigration, having worked on the US-Mexico border in a hospitality house for undocumented immigrants. She holds a BA in English from the University of Minnesota and is pursuing a Masters of Organizational Leadership at St. Catherine University.

Headshot of Mariana Amescua
  • Mariana Amescua - Mexico City, Mexico
  • Treasurer

Mariana has expertise in project management, business development, evaluation, language learning and cultural norms. She manages her own consulting business in Mexico City. She also likes to start things and create things – she is a founding partner in Ediciones Urdimbre, a bookstore, and in Urdimbre Social, a nonprofit working in the area of human rights, rural finances, access to and processing of information, and environmental awareness. She has a degree in Latin American Studies from National Autonomous University of Mexico. Mariana has great compassion for the struggles of the women of Mexico and Central America. And she is adventurous – she loves riding her motorcycle around Mexico City.

Meg Olson
  • Meg Olson - Washington, D.C.
  • Secretary

Meg is the Grassroots Mobilization Manager at NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice in Washington D.C., where she helps NETWORK’s members and supporters become stronger and more effective advocates for social, economic, and racial justice. Meg has been an activist since her 20’s working on a variety of social justice issues including education policy, immigration reform, and ending mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. Before coming to NETWORK, she worked in the Advocacy Department at Catholic Charities in St. Louis where she spent time lobbying state lawmakers and directing the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Meg has a B.A. in Music and an M.A. in English.

  • Sister Barbara Battista, SP - Terre Haute, Indiana

Barbara is a physician assistant (PA-C) with an Occupational Medicine practice in Terre Haute, Indiana. Additionally she teaches an undergraduate course in Bioethics at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. Barbara has undergraduate degrees in pharmacy and medicine and a Master’s in Education. Promoting gender equity and equality across social and church systems is Barbara’s most passionate concern. She is a Sister of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana.

  • Sister Julie Fertsch, SSJ - Los Angeles, California

Julie Fertsch, SSJ, a Sister of Saint Joseph, is currently serving as the Director of the St. Joseph Worker Program in Los Angeles. She holds a master’s degree in Theology from St. Michael’s College and has experience in education, foreign mission work, counseling/social work, retreat work, and spiritual direction. Sister Julie loves working with all people—and especially young adults! She sees and believes in their great potential!

  • Laura Hoyos - San Antonio, Texas

Laura was born and raised in Colombia. As a first-generation immigrant Laura is interested in the intersectionality between immigration, gender, and education. Laura has worked for multiple non-profit organizations and enjoys participating in community service projects and volunteering opportunities in Austin, Texas. She graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Sociology from the City University of New York.

  • Mary Lim-Lampe - Oakland, California

Mary is the Executive Director of Genesis based in Oakland, California and has worked as a faith based community organizer for 14 years with the Gamaliel Network (a national organizing institute). The proud daughter of Chinese immigrants, she is committed to providing training and strategy to community leaders who are often ignored or muted by systemic oppression. Mary graduated cum laude with a B.A in Political Science from University of Missouri-Saint Louis and Juris Doctorate from Saint Louis University. She was blessed by God and the Universe to mother a 15 year old who shows her a great example of fierce courage everyday.

  • Esther Miller - Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Esther graduated with a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies at Messiah University in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania and studied at the European Center for the Study of War and Peace in Zagreb, Croatia. After graduating spent 2.5 years in El Salvador with the Brethren Volunteer Service, where she first interacted with women of Mary’s Pence. She joined the Board to be a part of this community of committed people empowering the lives of others across the Americas. She is currently working as a Memory Care Life Enrichment Coordinator in Lancaster, Pa.

  • Jadea Washington - Saint Paul, Minnesota

Jadea holds an MA in English and American Culture and Difference from the University of St. Thomas. Her studies and work with BrightSide Produce and Appetite For Change, both Minneapolis-based nonprofits, have cultivated in her a passion for social justice, particularly where race, class, place, and food access intersect. Jadea hopes to put her passion for and knowledge of radical social change into action through language. On a sunny day you can find her reading short stories by the river.

  • Mary Zerjav - Pittsburg, Pennsylvania

Mary has worked in the brokerage and banking industry for over 30 years. She currently works as a banking consultant. A Chicago native, she settled in Pittsburgh over 30 years ago with her husband and has three adult children. She is a long-time animal lover and is a long-time feminist and advocate of the advancement of women. Mary began her journey with Mary’s Pence as a volunteer to reallocate investments and redesign policies to mirror Mary’s Pence’s core values. She is delighted with the opportunity to serve on the board and affect vital community change.

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