Our Board

Shem Center For Interfaith Spirituality

Shem Center for Interfaith Spirituality
Joseph Kilikevice, Founding Director
Steven G. Miller, Assistant Director

Board of Directors SHEM Center for Interfaith Spirituality

John Brown
John BrownJohn is an EMS and Emergency Medicine Physician in San Francisco and enjoys working with medical providers in austere conditions, whether they be in underserved communities in an urban or rural setting or in global health and disaster relief missions. Brought up in the Roman Catholic tradition, he is currently a member of the LGBTQ+ community of faith known as Dignity San Francisco.

He has been affiliated with the Shem Center since his first Male Spirit retreat in 2000. And credits Joe and the other men there with helping him through personal and professional struggles and joys over the years. John appreciates the sharing community he has found with the Center.

He has served as retreat bookstore coordinator, administered a Shem retreat in Danville, CA, and joined the Shem Center Board in 2022. A Navy veteran, he has helped the University of California, San Francisco, recruit and support veterans and has brought the Circle of Respect to medical trainees he has helped teach there since the 2010s. His hope for the Board in the next few years is to widen the impact of the Center’s mission of radical inclusivity, cultivate diversity in the Board and Center programs, and provide a space for learning and sharing of multiple expressions of faith and compassion in the caregiver community.

San Francisco, California.

Brother Joseph Kilikevice, OP
Founding Director
joseph_kilikevice_opBrother Joe is a member of the international Order of Preachers, religious women and men commonly known as Dominicans. He has traveled widely in his ministry of interfaith spirituality, responding to mandates of the Second Vatican Council as well as General Chapters of his religious order to do so. After some years of experience, he founded The Shem Center for Interfaith Spirituality while attending the Parliament of the World’s Religions, assembled in Chicago in 1993.

He brings a simple message, that of seeking understanding, mutual respect, appreciation, and friendship among the followers of the world’s religions and spiritual paths. A simple assertion underlies his message:  One does not give up anything of one’s own tradition when one is informed and enriched by the beliefs and spiritual practices of others. He has traveled widely throughout the US and internationally, offering retreats to groups who invite him to bring an interfaith message, making ample use of his experiential method of presentation. Preparation for this work includes not only advanced academic degrees in theology, spirituality, and the arts, but also teaching experience for adults and, for a time, children with behavioral issues that require attention.

He resides in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago where The Shem Center office is located and where small groups occasionally meet. His cat, Louie provides a peaceful presence to him and a welcoming curiosity to Shem Center guests. Louie’s contentment is a constant reminder that there is more to life than hard work.

Shem Center’s vision, purpose, and leadership responsibilities are shared by Assistant Director Steve Miller (a Pastor in the United Church of Christ) and the Shem Center Board of Directors.

Oak Park, Illinois.

Terry Kinsey

Terry KinseyTerry has been facilitating the Buddhist meditation/wisdom teaching components of many of Joseph’s retreats for more than a decade. Terry’s congregational affiliation is with Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Oak Park, Illinois and he’s a privileged, cis-gender, white, gay, male, with a husband, a former wife, three children and four grandchildren. Terry is a retired pediatric physical therapist and health care administrator. In retirement he is enjoying exploring Buddhism through a Unitarian Universalist lens; LGBTQ+ faith-in-action work; managing and attending Buddhist silent retreats, particularly at the Rocky Mountain EcoDharma Retreat Center in Wade, Colorado; and playing pickleball. He values Joseph’s and the Shem Center’s dedication and commitment to the Circle of Respect as foundational in all that flows through their offerings.

Terry is honored to be on the Shem Center’s Board of Directors and is committed to its mission.

Forest Park, Illinois.

Steve Miller
Assistant Director

Steve MillerAfter 30 years of attending interfaith retreats and gatherings with Br. Joe, Steve Miller joined the staff of Shem Center as its first assistant director in January 2022. Steve has been an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ for more than 35 years and is presently serving a part-time ministry at the First Church in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. Steve Miller brings a wealth of experience as a storyteller, a musician, a teacher, a poet, and a leader of the Dances of Universal Peace. Steve is known for his curiosity, his wisdom, and his desire to learn with others.

Steve has shared his life and ministry with his partner Jill Tyler and children Leah, Samuel, Caleb, Seth, and Joseph, welcoming son-in-law Luke, daughter-in-law Kim, and grandchildren Reece, Ember, and Elijah Sol. As their children have grown, Steve and Jill have sought new vistas, new paths, and new relationships in which to further their work for justice, love, peace, hope, and joy.

First Church, Jaffrey Center, New Hampshire.

Peter Toomey
Peter ToomeyA cradle Catholic, educated by Jesuits (St. Ignatius HS, Cleveland) and Holy Cross (Notre Dame U), I did all the right “stuff”. Cantor and Lector on weekends. Sing in the funeral choir. Edit the parish newsletter. Sit on the Parish Pastoral Council.

Then some buddies sucked me into a retreat. That changed everything.

Having always been open to others’ ways of thinking, was swept up when Bro. Joe invited us to new dimensions of exploring Belief. Which investigation enriched my Catholicism and has held me in a biweekly Male Spirit Men’s Circle since 2006. And counting.

Proud father to two amazing women, both teaching in their respective school systems!  And raising five solid, real grandkids – who give me validation when they call me “Fun Grampa”.

I worked my entire career in Advertising, running my own business the last two dozen years.  And hope that my promotions and business sense will support Shem Center’s Mission and spread its reach. I also serve Clague Playhouse (Westlake, Ohio) as President of the Board of Directors and Huff-N-Puffers Senior Softball as Umpire-In-Chief. As a bicycle tourist, I just might knock on your door some day?

Proud to have been nominated in 2022 to the Center’s Board by the strong men in the growing Male Spirit community in Cleveland, Ohio to both represent them and contribute to the crucial work that Brother Joe has so well begun.  “All shall be well.  All manner of things shall be well.”

Rocky River, Ohio.

Wayne Vanek

Wayne VanekI was ordained a Roman Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and served in three parishes for seven years until I resigned from the active ministry.

In 1970s I was reading the Way of the Pilgrim and learning about the Eastern Orthodox Church, which has a dominant role for the Holy Spirit. So when in the 1980s I heard about a day of reflection about the Aramaic Our Father, I was interested. That’s when I met Brother Joseph Kilikevice and Neil Douglas-Klotz. I continued reading and attended workshops with Matthew Fox (who is a good friend of Brother Joe), Sr. Marian MacGilles, and Thomas Berry about the evolution of the universe as the First Revelation. The Jesus journey was much longer and wider than I ever imagined!

I was the director of adult and adolescent outpatient addiction programs for Hull House Association for 29 years. After a traumatic incident, I was hurting and I went to a Male Spirit Retreat in Plano with Brother Joe and the men. It was a great help. Over the years I have attended Shem workshops. After retirement as director I continue a private practice. I had been trained in the psychotherapeutic approach called Internal Family Systems. It holds that we all have parts and an inner place of compassion. That active center and what Christians call Spirit seem so similar to me. So when Brother Joe asked me to become a Board Member of the Shem Center, I was very open to the invitation.

I have especially enjoyed two projects. Within Abraham’s Tent: a Muslim, Jewish, and Christian Trilogue held at the American Islamic College in Chicago. And the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council opened by Pope John XXIII held at St. Giles Parish, Oak Park.

Oak Park, Illinois.

The Supporters

Louie, Shem Center's Resident Feline

LouieA welcoming presence for anyone who comes to Shem Center, Louie takes his place as a sage who brings peace to Board meetings and other gatherings. Needing a home to welcome and care for him after my brother John died, I stepped up to the task only to find that it is Louie who cares for me. Besides joining me as a faithful meditation companion, he keeps watch out of windows in silent curiosity. His habits of self care are impressive. His grey and white coat show a desire to always look his best. His sleek and flexible body moves with a silent elegance from one comfortable spot to another.

With an occasional meow when wanting attention or snoring gently in his sleep, Louie brings a silent curiosity to life. Named after Louie Aparicio, the famous White Sox shortstop, Louie’s fame comes from his skill in acceptance and hospitality for all visitors. He is one of the Creator’s gifts to enjoy as a companion on the way for all who meet him. Like most animals who befriend us, he knows and understands more than one may at first believe.

— Joe, his grateful caretaker

Stephen Starr, Stephen B. Starr Design, Inc.

Stephen StarrStephen Starr is the designer and developer of the current Shem Center website, which went live in 2020. Stephen started Stephen B. Starr Design, Inc. in January 1991 after thirteen years of employment with design groups in Chicago. He developed print and digital communication clients in the areas of healthcare, professional associations, banking, closely held businesses and nonprofit organizations. He founded the Chicago Web Professionals in 2006 and served as President of the Chicago Creative Coalition in 2014-2016. His work has been recognized annually with awards from Graphic Design USA American Digital and Print Design Awards.

Stephen attended his first Male Spirit retreat in the early 90s and found the Dances of Universal Peace and Brother Joe's commitment to Interfaith Spirituality transformative. The spirit of that work lives on in his leadership of the Chicago Weekly Sitting Meditation Group, a secular meditation community with ties to Buddhist Vipassana and Thich Nhat Hahn's mindfulness practices. During the pandemic of 2020, Stephen joined a cadre of meditation facilitators who continue to lead daily Zoom meditation sessions for the "GBTQ Men of Planet Earth," an international meditation community for GBTQ men.

Evanston, Illinois.

John White
Accounting Services

Emory Mead
Graphic Design Services

Shem Center for Interfaith Spirituality
708 North Harvey Avenue
Oak Park, IL 60302

(708) 848-1095

Photo Credits: Emory Mead, Stephen B. Starr, Joseph Kilikevice

The Shem Center for Interfaith Spirituality website is awarded a 2022 American Digital Design Award for excellence in design and user experience.

2022 American Digital Design Awards