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Introducing the Fellows of the Word on Fire Institute

September 26, 2018


The purpose of the Word on Fire Institute is to form evangelical leaders in the New Evangelization who will be able to effectively proclaim Christ in the culture. What does it take for a Christian to be an effective evangelizer in today’s cultural milieu? In the past, Bishop Barron has outlined what he considers to be the seven qualities of the New Evangelist.

The New Evangelist, he says, must: 

  1. Be in love with Jesus Christ. 
  2. Be filled with ardor.
  3. Know the story of Israel.
  4. Know the culture.
  5. Love the Great Tradition.
  6. Have a missionary heart.
  7. Know and love the new media.

But surely one’s development of all seven of these traits requires some sort of training or formation. And that’s where the Word on Fire Institute comes in.

The Fellowship of the Institute

An indispensable feature of the Word on Fire Institute is its fellows. What’s a fellow? For a more formal definition, let’s turn to the Oxford English Dictionary: “A fellow is a member of a group (or fellowship) that work together in pursuing mutual knowledge or practice.” This might immediately make you think about perhaps the most famous fellowship ever portrayed in literature: “The Fellowship of the Ring” in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

In the first book of the revered trilogy, a diverse group made up of men, hobbits, elves, dwarves, and a wizard meet together at the Council of Elrond. By the end of the council a “fellowship” is formed—that is to say, a group of diverse individuals who together commit themselves towards a common goal. They share a common what (to cast the ring into the Cracks of Doom) and why (to cause Sauron’s fall).

In much the same way, the Word on Fire Institute has sought out experts in a diverse range of subjects to form a fellowship, a group of experts—whether in theology, philosophy, literature, the arts, apologetics, or culture—who are committed (in a broad sense) to the task of proclaiming Christ to the culture from within and (more specifically) forming you who are on the front lines of society to be more holy, intelligent, and persuasive as you proceed in your evangelical way of life. As the Institute continues to grow, we will be adding even more Fellows to bring you the best formation available.


Today, we would like to introduce you to a few of our Word on Fire Institute Fellows, experts who are committed to making you a better disciple of Christ in an age of indifference, distraction, and skepticism. In the months to come, you can receive instruction through short online courses and other means from these fellows and others. We invite you to visit to learn more and to join the waiting list!


Bishop Robert Barron

Bishop Robert Barron is the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is also the host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, award-winning documentary about the Catholic Faith, which aired on PBS.

Bishop Barron is a #1 Amazon bestselling author and has published numerous books, essays, and articles on theology and the spiritual life. He is a religion correspondent for NBC and has also appeared on FOX News, CNN, and EWTN.

Bishop Barron’s website,, reaches millions of people each year, and he is one of the world’s most followed Catholics on social media. His regular YouTube videos have been viewed over 25 million times and he has over 1.5 million followers on Facebook.

Leah Libresco

Leah Libresco has worked as a statistics professor, a data journalist, and a Bayesian probability instructor. She grew up as an atheist and converted to Catholicism while studying at Yale.

Through various relationships and reading the likes of Lewis and Chesterton, Leah began to learn more and more about the Catholic faith and was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012. Her conversion unfolded through her popular blog, Unequally Yoked, and was also covered by various media outlets including CNN, NBC News, and TheBlaze.

Leah is the author of two books, Arriving at Amen (Ave Maria Press, 2015) and Building the Benedict Option (Ignatius Press, 2018). She continues to write about faith, philosophy, math, and musical theatre on her blog, and her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, First Things, The Weekly Standard, The American Interest, The American Conservative, America, Fare Forward, and many other outlets.

Leah and her husband, Alexi, live in New York City.

Jared Zimmerer, M.A. 

Jared Zimmerer is the Director of the Word on Fire Institute. He holds a Master’s Degree in Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary where he wrote his thesis entitled “Thomas Merton’s Perspective of Asceticism as an Evangelical Strategy.” He and his wife Jessica live in North Texas with their six children. He is an author, speaker, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, with a passion for the sports and fitness culture. 

He spent four years as the Director of Adult Catechesis and Family Life at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Parish in Grapevine, Texas before joining the team at Word on Fire. He has written two books, The Ten Commandments of Lifting Weights and Man Up! Becoming the New Catholic Renaissance Man. Jared has appeared on EWTN and has been interviewed on numerous radio shows and podcasts.

Dr. Matt Nelson

Dr. Matt Nelson is the Assistant Director of the Word on Fire Institute. He holds a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in Toronto, and a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Regina. He is currently pursuing a M.A. in philosophy from Holy Apostles College and Seminary.

Matt is also the author of Just Whatever: How to Help the Spiritually Indifferent Find Beliefs That Really Matter (Catholic Answers Press, 2018). He has been a regular contributor to the Catholic Answers Online Magazine, Strange Notions, and the Word on Fire Blog. He has appeared on Salt and Light Television, and has been interviewed on Catholic Answers Live, EWTN radio, Relevant Radio, Redeemer Radio, Ave Maria Radio, and Breadbox Media, and a number of podcasts.

Matt currently resides in Saskatchewan, Canada with his wife, Amanda, and their three children.

Dr. Holly Ordway

Dr. Holly Ordway is Professor of English and faculty in the M.A. in Apologetics at Houston Baptist University; she holds a PhD in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the author of Apologetics and the Christian Imagination: An Integrated Approach to Defending the Faith (Emmaus Road, 2017) and Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms (Ignatius, 2014).

Dr. Ordway is also a published poet, and a Subject Editor for the Journal of Inklings Studies. Her academic work focuses on the writings of the Inklings, especially C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Her current book project is Tolkien’s Modern Sources: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages (forthcoming from Kent State University Press, 2019).

Fr. Damian Ference

Fr. Damian Ference is a priest of the Diocese of Cleveland.

Father Ference graduated from Borromeo Seminary/John Carroll University in 1998, and after earning his M.A. and M.Div. from Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology he was ordained for the diocese of Cleveland in 2003. He served as parochial vicar at St. Mary Parish in Hudson, Ohio from 2003-2007. In 2009 he earned his licentiate in philosophy from The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Ference has been part of the formation faculty at Borromeo Seminary since 2009.

He has served at Borromeo Seminary in Wickliffe, Ohio as Director of Human Formation and Assistant Professor of Philosophy, and is currently a doctoral student in philosophy at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas in Rome, Italy.

Father Ference has published articles in a wide variety of periodicals and regularly preaches retreats and parish missions. He is the founder and director of {TOLLE LEGE} Summer Institute and is a lifetime member of the Flannery O’Connor Society.

Dr. Christopher Kaczor

Dr. Christopher Kaczor is Professor of Philosophy at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He holds a Ph.D. (1996) from the University of Notre Dame and did post-doctoral work in Germany at the Universität zu Köln. He has authored several books, the latest of which are The Seven Big Myths about the Catholic Church (Ignatius, 2012) and Life Issues, Medical Choices (co-authored with Dr. Janet Smith, Servant, 2016).

Dr. Kaczor’s research on issues of ethics, philosophy, and religion has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, National Review, NPR, BBC, EWTN, ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, MSNBC, and The Today Show. 

Dr. Stacy Trasancos

Dr. Stacy A. Trasancos earned a PhD in Chemistry from Penn State University and a MA in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. Before becoming Catholic, she worked as a chemist for DuPont before leaving to raise children. Now she teaches chemistry and physics for Kolbe Academy and theology and science courses for Holy Apostles and Seton Hall University.

She has been interviewed on Catholic radio, including SiriusXM The Catholic Channel, Relevant Radio, Redeemer Radio, Ave Maria Radio, Radio Maria, EWTN Global Catholic Network, Catholic Answers Live, and Breadbox Media, and was featured on Subject Matters on Salt & Light TV.

She has written numerous articles for Catholic publications, such as U.S. Catholic, St. Austin’s Review, The Integrated Catholic Life, National Catholic Register, Catholic Answers Magazine, and Catholic World Report. She is the author of Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki and Particles of Faith: A Catholic Guide to Navigating Science (Ave Maria Press).

Dr. Anthony Pagliarini

Dr. Anthony Pagliarini grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania (Wilkes-Barre). After earning his BA in theology and philosophy at Notre Dame, he taught high school in a Catholic mission parish in Belize. He then moved to Rome to study theology at the Angelicum and work as a guide in the Vatican Necropolis (the “Scavi”). He spent the following three years in Austria completing masters work at the International Theological Institute. He then returned to Rome for further study at Pontifical Biblical Institute.

Dr. Pagliarini married his wife Katie in 2010 and returned to Notre Dame to begin doctoral work in Old Testament. In 2015, after successfully completing 27th grade and writing a very long paper, they let him graduate.

Anthony and Katie live in South Bend with their four children. They teach in the Department of Theology at Notre Dame, where Anthony is also the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies.