Our Story

Once upon a time …


The idea of a Catholic Bible Study for Santa Barbara was conceived in 1978 by a group of lay persons and supported by some religious and clergy. At the time the only resource for Catholics who wanted to study the Bible was a Protestant Bible Study. Actually Word and Life was the only formal adult education program for Catholics in Santa Barbara at that time.


For 21 years Word and Life served the Santa Barbara parishes offering a daytime Bible Study and, for many years, a nighttime study as well. Originally known as Word and Life Catholic Bible Study, our name was changed several years later to Word and Life Bible Study so that, in a spirit of inclusivity (catholicity), we might encourage persons of other faith traditions to join us.


After diligently studying and reflecting on the Scriptures and the first 2000 years of the tradition, Word and Life is now exploring what some of our most gifted thinkers and futurists think the future may hold for believers and non-believers alike. In about the year 2000, a slight name change reflected this new direction. We became Word and Life Study Fellowship. More recently still we decided that the simple phrase Word and Life best describes who we are.


In each new age, from the time of the early church, questions have arisen that have called for new understandings of Jesus. Every age has sought to answer the question, "Who Do You Say That I Am?" and has had to grapple with a variety of answers testing long-held doctrines, dogmas, and assumptions.


Word and Life has studied themes such as the understanding of Jesus' humanity and divinity over the centuries; the way in which evolution and science has informed our understanding of creation, incarnation and redemption; the way psychology and literature inform our understanding of Jesus and our faith. Word and Life also undertook a painful study of the sexual abuse crisis in the Church and its root causes. The role of women and the feminine in the world and in the Church has frequently attracted our attention.


We have grown as a community at Word and Life, learning to accept our own diversity and make room for differences of opinion, to critically reflect on our faith and take adult responsibility for it, to be collaborative in decision making, to be accountable for the many and diverse needs of the "world" community, and to be an outreach to spiritual seekers of all persuasions.


Our mission statement acknowledges that we are a "sacred dwelling place for all those who hunger and thirst for the experience of a personal God, active and present in the ordinariness of everyday life." While the Roman Catholic tradition is our starting point, we "welcome and value the understanding of God experienced in other traditions." It is in this true, small-c "catholic" sense that the community seeks a deeper understanding of creation and our place in it as beloved children of a loving God.


Organizational Notes


Our typical meetings consist of a speaker's presentation, fellowship and dialogue. The usual sequence of events on Thursday mornings is:


10:00 a.m. Call to order, brief silence, introduction of speaker
10:15 a.m. Presentation or reflections by speaker
11:00 a.m. Refreshments and fellowship
11:15 a.m. Interactive dialogue with speaker
12:00 noon dismissal


Word and Life is proud of its extensive and varied list of qualified speakers, including religious, clergy, scientists, psychologists, and visionary lay men and women. Our speakers past and present have included (in alphabetical order):

  • Mary Sue Anderson (Word & Life member, meditation teacher)
  • Dennis Apel (Catholic Worker House, Guadalupe)
  • David Barnhouse, MD (retired physician and Episcopal priest)
  • Mary Becker ("Just Faith" coordinator, peace activist)
  • Fr. William Bennett, OHC (Mt. Calvary Community)
  • Christine Boesch, MDR (Master of Dispute Resolution)
  • Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault, Ph.D.(wisdom teacher, retreat leader)
  • Fr. Gregg Boyle (Homeboy Industries, Los Angeles)
  • Rev. Lynn Bruer (Grace Lutheran Church)
  • Beatrice Bruteau (pre-recorded, with speakerphone questions; deceased)
  • Harriet Burke (Word & Life member, wisdom teacher)
  • Robert Carman, Ed.D. (Emeritus, SBCC, deceased)
  • Fr. Jim Clarke (St. Johns Seminary)
  • Katherine Collis (spiritual director)
  • Jim Conlon, Ph. D. (Sophia Institute of Oakland)
  • Rev. Dudley Conneely (St. Anthony Community)
  • Rev. Clement Connolly (Pastor, Holy Family Parish, S. Pasadena)
  • Rev. Cyprian Consiglio (monk, spiritual leader, author, musician)
  • Timothy Conway, Ph.D. (author, teacher of east-west spirituality)
  • Rev. Susan Copeland (United Church of Christ)
  • Fr. Virgil Cordano, OFM (Franciscan Community, Mission Santa Barbara, deceased)
  • Fr. Bruce Correiro (Pastor, St. Raphael's Church)
  • Fr. Michael Crosby, OFM, Cap. (author, speaker, retreat leader)
  • Rt. Rev. Thomas Curry (Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of Los Angeles)
  • Fr. Ludo DeClippel (Holy Cross Church, our host for many years)
  • Bob Doering (Word & Life coordinator)
  • Rev. Michael Dowd (evolutionary theologian)
  • Prof. Enda Duffy, English Dept., UCSB (expert on Celtic mythology)
  • Anne Dunn, IHM (the Archdiocesan Regional Consultant in Adult Education)
  • Rev. Suzanne Dunn (Pastor, Catholic Church of the Beatitudes)
  • Jim Finley, Ph.D., (former Trappist monk, retreat leader)
  • Michael Fish, OSB (Camaldolese monk)
  • Rev. Franklin Fong, OFM (Franciscan priest and scientist)
  • Rev. Keith Forster (St. Anthony Community)
  • Matthew Fox (futurist, author, and scholar)
  • Fr. Jim Galvin (St. Mary's Seminary, deceased)
  • Fr. Bill Garcia (church historian, ethicist, pastor)
  • Dawn George (marriage & family therapist)
  • Kathryn Grant (Enneagram workshop and retreat leader)
  • Prof. David Griffin (Process theologian, author)
  • Anne Goodrich Heck, M.A.(homilist, Catholic Church of the Beatitudes)
  • Thomas F. Heck, Ph.D. (musicologist, Web designer) 
  • Bro. Jude Hill (Episcopalian Franciscan friar, Jungian analyst)
  • Anne Hillman (retreat leader, author)
  • Rev. Anne Howard (Trinity Episcopal Church)
  • Barbara Marx Hubbard (futurist, Foundation for Conscious Evolutiont)
  • Rev. John Hydar (St. Anthony Community)
  • Steve Jacobsen (Hospice of Santa Barbara)
  • Rev. Ann Jaqua (Trinity Episcopal Church)
  • Rev. Steve Kelly, SJ (peace activist and leader)
  • Perie Longo (marriage & family therapist, poet)
  • Alice MacDonald, M.A.(past leader of Word & Life)
  • Dr. Jeanne Martin (mythologist, harpist)
  • Patricia McClure (spiritual director, All Saints-by-the-Sea)
  • Sr. Catherine McGrath (Notre Dame School)
  • Fr. Ken McGuire (St. Mark's University Parish)
  • Mary Mohs with Ron Valle (authors, Opening to Dying and Grieving)
  • Fr. Kenan Osborne, OFM (Franciscan Community, Mission Santa Barbara)
  • Fr. Jim McOwen (St. Mary's Seminary, deceased)
  • Ched Meyers (Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries)
  • Clare Montana, Ph.D. (Word & Life member)
  • Michael Morwood (author, Tomorrow's Catholic)
  • John Philip Newell (author, retreat leader)
  • Imam Yama Niazi (Islamic Society of SB)
  • Diarmuid O'Murchu, MSC (author, futurologist)
  • Fr. Roy Persich (St. Mary's Seminary)
  • Melinda Pitarre, RN, MTP (member, Word & Life)
  • Anita Pivato, RN (member, Word & Life)
  • Betsy Reifsnider (with Catholic Charities of Stockton, CA)
  • David Richo, Ph.D. (author, psychologist, retreat leader)
  • Dennis Rivers (author & editor)
  • Msgr. John Rhode (San Roque Parish, deceased)
  • Christiane Richards (member, Word & Life)
  • Prof. Wade Clark Roof (Religious Studies Dept., UCSB)
  • Mary Rosenfeld, RN (spiritual director)
  • Elisabet Sahtouris, Ph.D.(evolutionary biologist, futurist)
  • Robert Sardello (spiritual psychologist)
  • Fr. Joe Scott (St. Mark's University Parish)
  • Rev. Gwynne Schultz (First Congregational Church)
  • Rev. Martha Siegel (Trinity Episcopal Church community)
  • Jeffrey S. Siker, Ph.D.(Chair, Dept. of Theological Studies, Loyola Marymount University)
  • Fr. Alberic Smith, OFM (Franciscan Community, Mission Santa Barbara)
  • Rev. Paul Smith (author of Integral Christianity)
  • Daniel Smith-Christopher, Ph.D. (Professor, Loyola Marymount University)
  • Fr. Jack Stoeger (St. John's Seminary)
  • Rabbi Suzy Stone (Congregation B'nai B'rith)
  • Kathleen Strittmatter (Institute for Adult Spirituality)
  • Ernie Tamminga (spiritual director with Stillpoint)
  • Ann Taves, Ph.D. (Professor of Catholic Studies, UCSB)
  • Juliet Spohn Twomey, IHM (La Casa de Maria staff)
  • Ron Valle with Mary Mohs (authors, Opening to Dying and Grieving)
  • Pravrajika Vrajaprana (Vedanta nun)
  • Garry Van Wyk (member, Word & Life)
  • Fr. Mort Ward (Trinity Episcopal Church)
  • Radhule Weininger (Clinical pschologist)
  • Sam Young (retreat leader, contemplative prayer)

Special guest speakers over the last several decades have been Fr. Gregg Boyle (Homeboy Industries), Michael Morwood (Tomorrow's Catholic), Fr. Michael Crosby (Rethinking Celibacy; Reclaiming the Church), Fr. Cletus Wessels (Jesus in the New Universe Story), Paul Lakeland, Ph.D. (The Liberation of the Laity), Eugene Kennedy, Ph.D. (The Unhealed Wound: The Church and Human Sexuality), and Michael Dowd (EarthSpirit).


Word and Life has had many hundreds of participants over its decades-long history. Even now, with the many other wonderful adult education programs in parishes, we still register 90 or more for every study. We began our inter-parish ministry at Our Lady of Sorrows, Dolores Center. When the hall underwent remodeling we moved to San Roque Parish Hall, and when that hall underwent remodeling we moved to Holy Cross Parish Hall, where Fr. Ludo De Clippel welcomed us for many years. Our current venue (2012- ) at First Presbyterian Church witnesses both to our ecumenical spirit and to our need to accommodate a growing attendance.


Previous Topics Studied


1978-79 Gospel of Matthew
1979-80 Gospel of John
1980-81 Gospel of Luke
1981-82 Acts of the Apostles
1982-83 Romans, and I and II Corinthinas
1983-84 Hebrews, and Revelation
1984-85 Matthew (Little Rock Scripture Study Series = LRSS)
1985-86 Genesis and Exodus (LRSS)
1986-87 Gospel of Mark, Samuel I and II (LRSS)
1987-88 Isaiah and Jeremiah (LRSS)
1988-89 Gospel of John
1989-90 Gospel of Luke (LRSS)
1990-91 Acts of the Apostles (LRSS)
1991-92 Galatians and Romans (LRSS)
1992-93 Genesis (LRSS)
1993-94 Exodus (LRSS)
1994-95 Gospel of Matthew (LRSS)
1995-96 Gospel of John (LRSS)
1996-97 Psalms (LRSS)
1997-98 Isaiah (LRSS)
1998-99 Overview of the Bible (Scriptures from Scratch), and Women in the Bible (Women in the New Testament, by Irene Nowell, OSB, Liturgical Press, 1997)
1999-2000 The Apocalypse and the Third Millennium, by George T. Montague, SM (Servant Publications, 1998), and
Consider Jesus, by Elizabeth Johnson (Crossroad, 1991)
2000-2001 God of Evolution, by Fr. Denis Edwards (Paulist Press, 1999), and
The Good News According to Luke, by Richard Rohr, OFM (Crossroad, 1997)
2001-2002 Tomorrow's Catholic, by Michael Morwood (Twenty-third Publications, 1997), and
And Now I See: A Theology of Transformation, by Fr. Robert Barron (Crossroad, 1998)
2002-2003 The Unhealed Wound: The Church and Human Sexuality, by Eugene Kennedy (St. Martin's Press, 2001), and
Heart of Flesh: A Feminist Spirituality for Women and Men, by Joan Chittister (Erdmans Publishing, 1998)
2003-2004 Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, by Marcus Borg (Harper, 1994), and
Jesus in the New Universe Story, by Fr. Cletus Wessels (Orbis, 2003)
2004-2005 Homosexuality in the Church: Both Sides of the Debate, edited by Jeffrey Siker, Professor of Theological Studies, Loyola Marymount University, and
Jesus and the Nonviolent Revolution, edited by André Trocmé and Charles Moore (Orbis, 2004)
2005-2006 A Biblical Spirituality of Exile: "Theirs" and "Ours", a series of lectures based on relevant Biblical passages, by Daniel Smith-Christopher, Ph.D., Professor of Theological Studies and Director of Peace Studies at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles
Spirituality of the Beatitudes: Matthew's Vision for the Church in an Unjust World, by Michael Crosby, OFM, Cap. (Orbis, 2005)
2006-2007 Religion in Exile: A Spiritual Homecoming , by Diarmuid O'Murchu (New York: Crossroad, 2000). The author, a priest and social psychologist living in London, lectures internationally.
Radical Optimism: Practical Spirituality in an Uncertain World, by Beatrice Bruteau (Sentient Publications, 2002)
2007-2008 Imaging Life After Death: A Love That Moves the Sun and Stars, by Kathleen Fischer (New York: Paulist Press, 2004)
Jesus Today: A Spirituality of Radical Freedom, by Albert Nolan (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2006)
2008-2009 The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith, by Marcus J. Borg (HarperCollins, 2003))
The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus's Final Days in Jerusalem, by Marcus J. Borg & John Dominic Crossan (HarperOne, 2007)
2009-2010 "The Emerging Church," viewing and discussion of selected video clips by leading authorities such as Richard Rohr, Ken Wilber, Thomas Keating, and others
Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, by Richard Rohr (Saint Anthony Messenger Press, 2008)
2010-2011 A People's History of Christianity…, Diana Butler Bass's "modest but powerful insight" into the often untold chapters of Church history.
The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (Crossroads, 2009), by Richard Rohr
2011-2012 Celtic Spirituality, using as our basic text J. Philip Newell's Christ of the Celts: 'The Healing of Creation'
Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass, 2011), by Richard Rohr
2012-2013 Integral Christianity: The Spirit's Call to Evolve, by Paul R. Smith, based on models proposed by Ken Wilber
A New Harmony: The Spirit, the Earth, and the Human Soul (Jossey-Bass, 2011), by John Philip Newell
2013-2014 Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, by Karen Armstrong (2010), and Field of Compassion: How the New Cosmology Is Transforming Spiritual Life by Judy Cannato (2011)
2014-2015 The Book of Forgiving, by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu (2014), and It's Really All About God: How Islam, Atheism, and Judaism Made Me a Better Christian, by Samir Selmanovic (2009)



Summer Studies



  • The Holy Longing, Ronald Rolheiser (Doubleday, 1999)
  • Catholic Means Universal, David Richo, Ph.D. (Crossroad, 2000)
  • Mary Within, David Richo, Ph.D. (Crossroad, 2001)
  • In the Stillness You Will Know, Barbara Fiand (Crossroad, 2002)
  • Introduction to the Enneagram with Kathryn Grant
  • A reading and discussion of Elaine Pagels' Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas (Vintage paperback)
  • “Do This in Memory of Me.” Eucharistic Spirituality in a Time of Crisis, with David Richo, Ph.D.
  • "A Spirituality of Heart," with David Richo, Ph.D.
  • "The Holy Spirit: The Mysterious Closeness of God," with David Richo, Ph.D.
  • The "Sermon on the Mount," with David Richo, Ph.D.
  • The "Cosmic Christ," with David Richo, Ph.D.
  • How to Be an Adult in Faith and Spirituality, with David Richo, Ph.D.
  • The Power of Coincidence: How Life Shows Us What We Need To Know. Five May Mornings With David Richo, Ph.D.

Sponsored and Co-sponsored Events

September 19, 2002 — "Faith Between the Times" an Evening with Michael Morwood.

February 19, 2003 — "Why Women's Wisdom is Destined to Transform Our World.Soon!!" An Evening with Michael Dowd.

March 27, 2003 — "Spirituality Within Reach," a three-part Lenten series with David Richo, Ph.D.

September 25, 2003 — "A Kairos Moment for the Catholic Church," an evening with Fr. Michael Crosby, OFM, Cap

April 22 – May 6, 2004 — "How to be an Adult.in the Church," a three-part series with David Richo, Ph.D.

April 26, 2004 — "Being Adults in the Church: A Lay Spirituality of Accountability," an evening with Paul Lakeland, Ph.D.

April 7-21, 2005 — "The Human Face of Jesus and the Church," a three-part series with David Richo, Ph.D.

May 4-18, 2006 — "A Spirituality of Heart," a three-part series with David Richo, Ph.D.

May 10-24, 2007 — "Do This in Memory of Me: Eucharistic Spirituality in a Time of Crisis," a three-part series with David Richo, Ph.D.

May 1-15, 2008 — "The Holy Spirit: The Mysterious Closeness of God," a three-part series with David Richo, Ph.D.

June 17, 2008 — "Catholicism at the Crossroads: The Shape of the Church and Its Future Prospects," and "Being Catholic, Being American: The Church and U.S. Culture," a day with Paul Lakeland, Ph.D., co-sponsored by VOTF Santa Barbara.




The following persons have been Coordinators of Word and Life since its inception in 1978:

Gini Cashman, Founder, 1978

Louise Rapp, 1978-1991

Renee Malloy, 1994-1998

Dorothy Fitch, 1994-1998

Clare Montana, Ph.D., 1998

Alice MacDonald, M.A., 1986-1994, and 1998 – 2008

The present Steering Committee (2008 – ), chaired by Bob Doering, continues to manage the programs and book the speakers invited to speak at Word & Life sessions.


Alice MacDonald – Word and Life's
Coordinator, 1982-2008



Alice MacDonald served as a coordinator of the Word and Life community between 1986 and 1994. She then took several years off to pursue a graduate degree in Theology from Loyola Marymount University, which she received in 1998. Her most recent term as Coordinator started in 1998 and ended in 2008. "I have come full circle in this ministry," she declared in the Spring of 2007. With gratitude for her recent decade of good and faithful service, the Advisory Team used the 2007-08 year to discern the type of leadership that the community might welcome starting in the summer of 2008.

Alice was a founding member of Santa Barbara's popular and well-attended Institute for Adult Spirituality, which held two series a year at the Franciscan Renewal Center of Mission Santa Barbara until it was disbanded in 2006.

Alice and her husband Bill have been married for over forty years and have three adult children. They have been members of St. Raphael's Parish for most of that time; Alice has served St. Raphael's Parish as a teacher in the Religious Education Program and as a lector and Eucharistic Minister.