Courageous Conversations Speaker Information

Thank you so much for offering your gifts and wisdom to the Awake community!

About Courageous Conversations

  • Courageous Conversations is a program of Awake Milwaukee, a grassroots Catholic nonprofit organization with a mission to awaken our community to the full reality of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and work for transformation and healing in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and beyond.
  • Courageous Conversations is our ongoing speaker and discussion series, created to build community, deepen understanding, encourage conversation, and inspire action in response to the complex issue of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
  • These events are hosted on Zoom five times a year. Past topics have included Trauma and Resilience in the Body of Christ, Why the Church Needs Survivors’ Stories, and The Role of Racism in the Abuse Crisis. A complete list of past topics and speakers, along with event recordings, is available here.
  • Each Courageous Conversation has two parts. We are inviting you to speak at Part 1, which consists of a moderated conversation with our speaker(s) and time for audience questions. Part 2 occurs one week later, when we use Zoom breakout rooms for small group discussion of the ideas presented in Part 1. Speakers are welcome, but not required, to attend Part 2.
  • Part 1 of this event will be recorded and posted on Awake’s YouTube channel. These event recordings often reach hundreds of additional viewers. A summary of the conversation will also be posted on the Awake blog the week after the event.
  • While Awake is a grassroots organization with a limited budget, we are able to offer you a small stipend for your time. We will ask for the address to send you this stipend after the event.


  • In the weeks before the event, our Courageous Conversations team will connect with you and any other panelists to discuss the flow of the evening and the specific topics we hope to cover.
  • After this conversation, we will send you an outline of the event with further details about what to expect, a short bio for your approval, and the Zoom participation link.
  • We will ask for a photo of you to use in promoting the event to our community; we encourage you to share the announcement of this event within your own networks as well!

Conversation Format

  • Courageous Conversations take place on Thursday evenings from 7:00pm to 8:30pm Central Time. Please plan to log on to Zoom (with both audio and video) at 6:45pm. Our Courageous Conversations team will join you to run through any final details and test your sound before we begin admitting participants at 6:55pm.
  • The event will begin with a welcome by someone from the Awake community before we introduce our speakers and move into a conversation moderated by a member of the Awake team.
  • After the moderated conversation has concluded, you will have an opportunity to address a few audience questions. These questions will be submitted to a Courageous Conversations team member and vetted for relevance before they are posed by the moderator.
  • Once our time for audience questions has concluded, a team member will offer some closing remarks. We will then return to you and ask for a simple action step you would suggest to our attendees. (Past action steps have ranged from “Ask your pastor to include a petition for survivors in the Prayer of the Faithful” to “Read this article to be more informed about the impacts of trauma.”)

YOur Audience

  • You will be speaking to a diverse audience of participants who care about addressing the issue of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. That group will include survivors and their loved ones, concerned Catholics, clergy, lay ministers, and victim assistance coordinators, advocates and academics, liberals and conservatives. We strive to make all feel welcome in the Awake community.
  • We usually have between 50 and 100 live attendees, with many others signing up to receive the event recording via email. Most participants are located in the United States; a few come from Canada and other countries.
  • Many audience members regularly participate in virtual Awake events and are well-informed about these issues, while others are just beginning to grapple with this topic.
  • The majority of participants are practicing Catholics, but there are also participants who are no longer religious; we ask our speakers to be sensitive to the fact that many audience members have experienced religious trauma of some kind. Because many audience members have been abused by clergy, seeing clerical garb on screen can be a source of distress. Priests who have spoken at past Courageous Conversation have chosen to appear without Roman collars.
  • Awake strives to use language that makes all victim-survivors feel welcome and supported. To include those who have experienced abuse by lay leaders or by religious brothers or sisters, we chose the phrase “sexual abuse in the Catholic Church” or “sexual abuse by Catholic leaders,” rather than “clergy sexual abuse.” Many survivors in our community experienced abuse during their adult years, so we are careful not to limit the conversation to “childhood sexual abuse.”

If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to Erin O’Donnell, who leads our Courageous Conversations team, at Thank you again for being part of this event!