Organization Leadership

Our Team

The In Word and Witness staff is located throughout the United States with our headquarters being in Washington, DC.

Our team embraces the core value of stewardship by utilizing modern technologies and innovative methods to collaborate, plan, and serve our membership community. 


Executive Director

Margaret has served the In Word and Witness community as Executive Director since 2015 and has over 20 years in professional church ministry. She lives in MD with her two children, two cats, two frogs, and one guinea pig. Margaret is passionate about accompanying the People of God in faith, leadership governance, and the potential of technology to expand the sharing of the Gospel. Maximizer. Individualization. Arranger. Connectedness. Self-Assurance.

Radleigh Smith

Director of Mission Integration

Victoria has served the In Word and Witness community since May of 2019 and has more than 15 years experience in professional church ministry. She lives in Burbank, CA with her husband, Andrew. Victoria believes in the importance of formation, accompaniment, and mentorship. She is energized by guiding organizations in actualizing their mission, vision, and values. Achiever. Woo. Communication. Individualization. Learner.


Virtual Administrator

Libby has served In Word and Witness since late 2018 and the Church for over 13 years. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and two young boys. Libby is enthusiastic about bringing people closer to Christ and his Church through effective administration and organization. Belief. Connectedness. Relator. Individualization. Responsibility.

Board of Directors

The In Word and Witness Board of Directors is a governing board that assures the enhancement of core values through comprehensive long-term visioning. Nominations for positions to the Board of Directors is provided through the larger membership community to uplift diversity and assure comprehensive charisms through the extensive reach of our broader community. Focused on a synodal approach of listening and planning for the future, the Board of Directors prioritizes the impact our organization makes for the Church-at-large and the comprehensive mission to transform the world by reflecting Christ.

Denise Utter


Denise Utter has worked in education or professional ministry for over 30 years in local, diocesan, and national environments. She spends much of her time encouraging, empowering, and equipping ministry leaders to reimagine innovative faith formation, but her passion in recent years has been focused on the exploration of “calling” spirituality, through a project (Creating Cultures of Calling) with Vibrant Faith, an ecumenical nonprofit faith-based organization. Denise has been married to her husband Rob for over 30 years, and they have three adult children.

Jackie Hopper

Vice Chair

Jackie Hopper serves as the Vice Chair of the Board of Directors and is currently employed by the Diocese of Boise. She has worked in a professional ministry setting for the past 40 years, serving at the local, diocesan, regional, and national levels. Her passion in ministry is to serve as a mentor and companion to others so as to build up the body of Christ. In her spare time she loves camping, hiking, spending time with her husband, Rob, her children, dogs, cat, and yes, even the camp cats!

John Gaffney


John Gaffney is the Treasurer of the Board of the Directors and works for the Diocese of Des Moines as the Director of Evangelization & Catechesis. He has been in ministry for 23 years working in parishes, Catholic schools, and the diocese. He has been the department director since 2010. A hallmark of John’s leadership style is always striving to see what he and his ministry outreach can do more effectively for those he serves. He always ends any work he had done with the question, “What can I do to be a better resource for you and your ministry?” John is married to his wife Jane. They have three daughters, four grandchildren, and a five-month-old Labrador named Pepper.

Sara Carey


Sara Carey serves as the Secretary of the Board of Directors and is a Parish Catechetical Leader in rural Tennessee. She has served in ministry for over 20 years, coordinating children’s and adult faith formation, RCIA, sacramental preperation for all ages, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, safe environment training, and liturgy.

María Covarrubias

At-Large Board Member

María G. Covarrubias is the director of the Ministry of Educational Services Department in the Diocese of San Bernardino, California.  She has over twenty years of experience in Catechetical Ministry. She is the author of the Diocesan Marriage Initiative in her diocese. She is a speaker at the local, regional and national level on catechesis, catechist formation, leadership and family life.  She holds a Masters of Arts in Religious Studies from Mount St Mary’s University.

Lori Dahlhoff

At-Large Board Member

Lori Dalhoff, EdD is an At-Large member of the Board of Directors and serves as the Director of Lifelong Faith Formation for the Office of Lifelong Formation in the Diocese of Portland, Maine. She is in her 28th year of full-time ministry, having served at the parish, diocesan, and national levels. The charisms of listening, accompaniment, prayer, and scholarship have shaped her vocation as a married person and as a catechist. She finds enjoyment in music, photography, cooking, and the natural world.

Marilyn Santos

USCCB Liaison

Marilyn serves as the Associate Director of the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis. Prior to joining the USCCB, Marilyn served the Church in various leadership positions at the National Office of the Pontifical Mission Societies, the U.S. Archdiocese of Atlanta, Diocese of Brooklyn, and the Diocese of Metuchen in the areas of evangelization, catechesis, cultural diversity, youth and young adult ministries. She served as the President of La RED – the National Catholic Network de Pastoral Juvenil and with VIDES-Salesian Sisters Missionary in Ecuador.


These bylaws, approved by the membership community, govern the work of our organization and give us the framework to vision for the future.

See the Full Bylaws
What is the purpose of the organization?

The purposes of In Word and Witness are to promote the ministries of evangelization and catechesis within the Church’s teaching mission; to assess the landscape of these fields of ministry through synodal processes; and to enhance the ministerial effectiveness of its members in their service to the Catholic Church through the interchange of ideas and mutual support.

Membership is inclusive of supporters to the organization’s mission and core values.
Members are granted opportunities to provide nominations for leadership and to participate in the Organization’s Synod, as a means of contributing to the shared mission of the community. Members at the appropriate tier of membership, determined by the Board of the Directors, shall be entitled to one vote on each matter voted on by the members.

Through Networks, Federations, and a Synod. Networks are constituency-based groups whose participants share a common role or interest within the evangelization and catechesis community. Networks provide mutual support, sharing, learning, and common effort within the Organization. Federate groups are focus-specific groups of the Organization’s members, national in scope, existing to enhance and strengthen the Organization’s mission. The Synod process provides the Organization with a means of strategic listening, consultation, analysis, discernment, and advisement.

In addition to various responsibilities identified in the bylaws, the Board of Directors:

  • Serves as trustees of the Organization and constitutes its chief governing body;
  • Sets and monitors the mission and strategic direction of the Organization;
  • Approves the annual budget and secures the financial well-being of the Organization;
  • Articulates and approves all official public position statements on behalf of the Organization;
  • Assesses board effectiveness and adjusts at-large board member roles to achieve mission;
  • Develops, approves, and applys all organization policies; and employs and evaluates the Executive Director.

There shall be an Annual Meeting to conduct Organization business, held at such a place and time as determined by the Board of Directors. At any meeting directed to the voting members, a simple majority of the members registered and present for the meeting shall constitute a quorum. The Board of Directors shall approve beforehand all proposals to be offered to the voting members and to determine the procedures and acceptable forms of balloting for such purposes. A simple majority of the voting members shall constitute a valid vote and, except for the election of board members and amendment of bylaws, shall govern.