Leadership Team

Advisory Team

 The Pillars of Steel Leadership Advisory Team members come from all walks of life and various spiritual and faith traditions.  The Team is guided by the Pillars of Steel definition of masculine spirituality:

The ongoing endeavor to develop and deepen our relationship with God together as men in the company of others.

With a contemplative spirit, the Team strives to:

  •  Listen
  • Discern, and
  • Collaborate with other individuals, groups, and organizations to develop and sustain on-going opportunities for men to enrich our wisdom and understanding about life.

 Team Members:

 Ralph Annunziata

Ralph Annunziata (“Nunzi”) is an accomplished artist and photographer whose work reflects his transformative spirit and unique ability to capture light, shadows, and contrasts in colorful nuances.

Nunzi received his bachelor of fine arts degree from Columbus College of Art & Design, Franklin University of Columbus Ohio in 1974. He is currently an adjunct professor at Kendall College of Art and Design and has held numerous high level positions in the design and marketing industry.

A native of Erie, Pennsylvania, Nunzi’s work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art , Los Angeles (MOCA), and the Gallery of Fine Arts in Columbus, Ohio.  His local exhibits include PaLatte, the Lorraine Professional Building, Dominican Center at Marywood Art Gallery & One Trick Pony Grill and Tap Room.

Greg Hunt

 Greg Hunt is a retired teacher and counselor in the public education system.  He taught students with various disabilities for over 20 years and was a middle school counselor for 10 years.  During his career, he was involved in numerous organizations including Special Olympics, The Child Abuse Council, and Hospice.

Greg grew up in Indiana and received his Bachelors Degree in Education from Indiana University.  He also earned a Masters Degree in Special Education from Michigan State University as well as  Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology from Western Michigan University.

Greg has a genuine interest in men’s spirituality and men’s issues in general.  To enhance his own spiritual journey he has become an avid reader of books on these topics.  He also frequently attends workshops, retreats and men’s inner compass groups focusing on the male spiritual journey and our relationship with our Creator.  He currently enjoys helping at God’s Kitchen and Mustard Seed Ministries as well as being an active member of his parish.

William “Bill” Lawrence

 Bill is a lawyer, businessman and active community leader and volunteer. He participates in spirituality programs at Dominican Center, the Catholic Information Center and St. Robert of Newminster Church as he continues his journey through the second half of life.

Brian Plachta

Brian J. Plachta is an author, counselor and spiritual mentor. He holds a Masters in Pastoral Counseling degree and is a certified Spiritual Director/Mentor.  Brian is a frequent speaker on men’s spirituality topics for churches, spiritual life centers and men’s conferences throughout the United States. He serves as an adjunct faculty member at the Dominican Center at Marywood, an ecumenical spiritual life center in West Michigan.

His book Pillars of Steel—How Real Men Draw Strength from Each Other was published in May 2012. Pillars of Steel provides a definition of the current crisis in masculinity, a history of the men’s movement, and a practical solution for men to achieve wholeness and balance in their lives. His second book, Life Toolbox—Blueprints Included and its companion facilitator’s guide was published in June 2014. Both books are available through the Pillars of Steel Website.

Brian is also an attorney with the law firm of Plachta, Murphy & Associates, P.C. in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

 Larry Slager

Following completion of the Grand Rapids Dominican Center’s certificate program in spiritual direction, Larry has more than fifteen years experience as spiritual director/mentor. His particular interest is in the intersection of mental and emotional health, addictions, and spirituality. Following completion of study at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in the spring of 2010, Larry was awarded a second certificate in Adult Spiritual Formation from that institution.

Before his retirement Larry served for nearly thirty years as clinical social worker and marriage and family therapist at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health services. With a master’s degree in the field of social work, he was appointed as director or social work services and program manager for Pine Rest’s Adult Service Program. Other professional experience includes leadership in the areas of child welfare services, medical social work, and rehabilitation. His career included a two-year stint in the Kingdom of Jordan where he led a twelve-person team of Palestinian and Jordanian professionals in developing and enhancing that country’s rehabilitation services.

In addition to providing spiritual direction for individuals, Larry has led a variety of groups focused on exploring issues of meaning and spirituality. He also volunteers as spiritual companion for the Dominican Center’s home health service clientele.

 Gerald L. Toshalisis a spiritual director, pastoral counselor, professor and consultant. Ordained in the United Methodist Church, his education includes a Master’s Degree in Religion and Personality, a Doctorate in P astoral Counseling, a nd post-graduate training in Ges talt Therapy and Spiritual Direction. With emphasis upon the spiritual, psychological and relational formation of individuals, couples, families and institutions, Jerry provides spiritual direction for individuals, consultation for congregations in transition and is an Adjunct Professor in Pastoral Care & Counseling at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois.

Mary Vaccaro

Mary serves as a Spiritual Care Coordinator for Gentiva Hospice, an adjunct professor of Theology and Women’s Studies at Aquinas College and an occasional columnist for Faith Magazine Grand Rapids.  In September 2013, she founded A Good Word Said Well, through which she does public speaking, writing and leads life celebrations.  Mary holds a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from Aquinas College, a Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry from Boston College and a certificate in Spiritual Direction from Dominican Center in Grand Rapids.  She enjoys offering courses on spirituality, scripture, biographical presentations on saints and other inspiring/holy people, ecumenical/interfaith studies and social justice issues.  When not involved with all of the above, she enjoys, cooking, entertaining, reading, practicing yoga and spending time with her family, especially her nieces and nephews.

Michael Wood

 is an ordained Deacon in the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids. He serves St. Mary Magdalen Parish and the Grand Rapids Diocese through various outreach ministries including the faith-based Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce Institute for the Healing of Racism. He integrates his contemplative, servant leader model as a businessman, husband, father and spiritual director.

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