Thursday, September 13, 2012

Support a Catholic Speaker! Jennifer Fulwiler

It's still September, and that's "Support a Catholic Speaker Month." Among the top Catholic Speakers highlighted by the nomination process is my favorite Catholic mommy blogger, Jennifer Fulwiler (of Conversion Diary). Jen was also one of the keynote speakers at the Catholic New Media Conference I attended in August--and that gave me the opportunity to sit with her for a good twenty minutes with a recording app and a list of questions.

In between sessions at the CNNC, Jen and I chatted while Joe was on an
unsuccessful mission with the three oldest Fulwilers to find a foodstore
somewhere in the vicinity of the Arlington Convention Center.
Jennifer is a Texan, born and bred. Raised in a nonbelieving home, she was Secular Humanism's poster child--throughout her early adulthood. But little by little, the secular "givens" (atheism and pro-choice sympathies, even vegetarianism) gave way to an openness first to unborn life, then to Christianity and then, most improbably, to Catholicism.

Now a homeschooling mom of five, Jen has a unique take on Catholic spirituality that she shares through her blog, on TV and radio, and at the occasional podium (for those groups blessed enough to secure her as a speaker--which is why she was at the CNMC).

While Jennifer is a capable and articulate Catholic speaker, she is first and foremost a writer, something that is apparent to anyone who has ever had the pleasure of encountering her blog, "Conversion Diary" (which, in terms of Google subscribers, is one of the top Catholic blogs out there). Because of her droll sense of humor and her incredible talent as a writer, I tend to think of Jen as the (I'm dating myself here) Erma Bombeck of Gen X. Here's a sample on one of her classic themes.

From childhood (and long before she became a believer), Jennifer recognized that she had a charism for writing; that this was not only a life-giving talent for her own enjoyment, but a way she could give something meaningful to others. When the Internet offered every earnest writer a potential readership, Jennifer was already there, starting her first website in 2001. As she noted, "It's more fun to write when you have readers!" And those readers led to invitations for speaking engagements.

Public speaking is also a joy for Fulwiler, but with five young children, Jen gets more opportunities than she can accept. Given their primary vocation as parents, the Fulwilers decided to limit out-of-state speaking engagements to no more than one per quarter. Jen tries to give priority to those venues where she and her unique message can make a real difference; where her message and experience match the focus of the gathering. She wants people to walk out of the room saying, "I'm more inspired for having heard this talk." She recently declined a very attractive invitation that would have involved travel to a country she dreams of visiting because, in prayer, she realized that she didn't have any fresh insights to offer on the organization's theme. Strangely, Fulwiler also has to stipulate that all travel and lodging expenses be covered. (Catholic groups don't always think of worldly things like that, though young parents juggling mortgage payments certainly do.)

Jen describes her husband Joe (a convert as well) as "a faithful Catholic, very strong in his faith...who knows what it is to detach; to be tempted by glamour and say 'but that' s not where the Lord wants me'." Every invitation issued to Jen gets brought to Joe so they can talk about it and pray about it as a couple. Joe has a charism of discernment that he brings to the conversation. One commitment that Jen thought she would be able to make--her calendar was wide open, the topic was right up her alley, the expenses would all be taken care of--was declined when Joe found he could not be at peace with it. It just didn't feel "right." When that date rolled around, one of the children was seriously ill. Jen had to be there, and through God's providence, her husband Joe, like his calm and discerning patron saint, was the one who recognized that.

You're more likely to hear Jen through electronic media than at a conference outside of the State of Texas, but Jennifer Fulwiler is worth paying attention to as a Catholic speaker. And that is reason enough for her to have a permanent place on my special prayer list.

God bless you, Jennifer (and Joe! And the kids! And Yaya!)

1 comment:

Christine Falk Dalessio said...

always great to know our Catholic sisters are out there bringing Christ to the world :) It's great to read the blogs too, whether Jennifer's or yours :)