In early July, Guest House hosted our 17th Annual Summer Leadership Conference in Troy, Michigan. Nearly 40 participants and some of our own staff benefited from exceptional presentations. Our guests left with a great deal of valuable information and an understanding of the Guest House ministry. We shared the good news that treatment works and recovery is possible. Jeff Henrich, Guest House president and CEO, and Deacon Chris Stark, Guest House outreach director, provided some history of our mission and future goals.

The theme of the conference was “Serenity: A Gift of Sobriety.” Below is a brief overview of some of the presentations offered by the exceptional speakers at this year’s conference.

Rev. Mark Stelzer, SThD, Guest House education director and College of Our Lady of Elms faculty member and chaplain, offered an alumnus reflection, confirming even if things don’t go as planned, it’s okay. Recovery is about gratitude. Clergy and religious have problems not because they are clergy and religious, but because they are human – they are not more vulnerable than others to the disease, but they are less likely to receive treatment.

Rev. Ralph O’Donnell is the executive director of the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations at the USCCB, and formerly was vice rector and dean of students at Conception Seminary College. He shared the importance of maintaining our “spiritual condition.” He emphasized that Jesus accompanies us – He attends us. Once we deepen our own self-awareness, we can draw from it.

Rev. Anthony Ciorra, IVD, vice president for Mission and Catholic Identity at Sacred Heart University and certified spiritual director, focused on the practice of gratitude and becoming active to the voice of the Holy Spirit. He stressed that Christ will shine through us, and he suggested the spirituality of the Twelve Steps is another way of seeing and another way of being.

Rev. Ken Schmidt, director of the Office of Priestly Life and Ministry in the Diocese of Kalamazoo, is also co-founder of the trauma recovery program in the Diocese of Kalamazoo and co-founder and executive director of Trauma Recovery Associates (TRA). He delivered important information regarding trauma, particularly how childhood trauma and addiction are intertwined. Critical is the idea that healing is not about retelling the past but rather learning skills for the future.

Rev. Bill Stenzel works as a resource to the Archdiocese of Chicago in efforts to assist parishes that have been negatively impacted by the active addiction of a parish leader or staff member. He stressed the importance for every minister in the Church to have an awareness of addiction in order to avoid missed opportunities in his/her ministry. He discussed co-dependency, especially among parish staffs, and the need for support in these situations.

Sister Elaine Dombi, SSJ, an internationally certified addictions counselor at Southdown, spoke about addiction, everyone’s need for mentors, the usefulness of the Twelve Steps (especially the first three) in any challenging circumstance and moving from ordinary awareness to spiritual awareness to a “groundedness” in God. Transformation is possible through the Twelve Steps.

The next Guest House Leadership Conference is scheduled for January 13-15, 2020, at the DiamondHead Beach Resort and Spa in Fort Myers Beach, Florida. We look forward to your interest.

For more information regarding the Guest House Leadership Conference or other educational presentations/opportunities, please contact Colleen Richards at 248-393-8994 or Visit for event information.

Written by Guest House Staff Writer