Our Community

The Christine Center: Our 40 Year History

On October 11, 2020, the Christine Center celebrated its 40th Anniversary.

The Christine Center began humbly as a vision of Sr. Virginia Barta, OSF. As a vowed religious, Sr. Virginia was committed to living a socio-hermetical life. She valued the transformative qualities of nature, silence, and the practice of meditation. After practicing years of contemplative meditation, she wanted to create a welcoming place of retreat and renewal for all seekers, a synthesis of Western and Eastern spiritualities, which would embrace all persons, nationalities, cultures, and creeds. As the sign above the Center’s entrance proclaims, “We are One.”

Leadership Team

Valerie Haberman

Valerie Haberman

Acting Director & Communications Manager

View Valerie's Bio

Valerie is a dedicated leader from Northern Minnesota who feels most at home among the trees and forests of the Midwest. She finds her solace in the tranquility of nature alongside her beloved companion, Charlotte. Her deep commitment to the Christine Center began in 2014 when she first encountered this spiritual sanctuary on a personal retreat. Her journey of involvement began immediately as a volunteer and, as her dedication to our community grew, flourished into a full-time leadership role in 2019.

Valerie’s academic journey includes a B.S. in Psychology from St. Mary’s University and an M.A. in Servant Leadership from Viterbo University, emphasizing her commitment to personal and communal growth.

Grounded in her passion for inner exploration and self-realization, Valerie embraces the transformative teachings of the Diamond Approach. She finds inspiration in literature, writing, and the soothing embrace of nature. Valerie is dedicated to collaboratively nurturing and safeguarding the Christine Center’s role as a spiritual sanctuary for personal growth, introspection, and meaningful connections. Her leadership style combines professional acumen with a warm, empathetic spirit, and she is committed to cultivating a haven for ALL who seek inner transformation and genuine connections.

Melissa Thielman

Melissa Thielman

Volunteer Coord. / Bookkeeper

View Melissa's Bio

Melissa Thielman grew up among the 10,000 lakes of Minnesota and now can glimpse a view of the Mississippi river from her living room in Trempealeau, WI.  She was introduced to the Christine Center and the Diamond Approach in 2012 and fell in love with both – spiritual home and spiritual path.  Her working life has been as a medical Social Worker, involved in various direct service and leadership positions. In Madison, WI, she helped develop and implement an innovative health care program designed to promote independence for persons with physical disabilities and chronic illness. She later became a social worker and then grief counselor in hospice care, and most recently worked in a dialysis setting.  Prior to joining the Diamond Approach, she had a long interest in yoga, qigong, and Buddhist teachings, and participated in retreats by Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn.  She also practiced Nonviolent Communication, where she met her partner, Wade.   Melissa is currently Volunteer Coordinator and Bookkeeper for the Christine Center

Wade Britzius

Wade Britzius

Program Manager

View Wade's Bio

Since 1971 Wade has called the beautiful Driftless region adjacent to the Mississippi River his home. He was the founder and for 28 years director, of Trempealeau County Community Television studio, working with a wide variety of people and institutions. He has done several major photo documentary projects and has served on several non-profit Boards and as a County Government Supervisor. Wade has practiced Vipassana meditation since 1988, and has been a student of the Diamond Approach since 1996. He has made an extensive study of Nonviolent, or Compassionate Communication since 2003, and currently works part time mediating custody and placement of children for the local Family Court. He leads workshops related to Nonviolent Communication, and loves to ride his bike over the hills, and canoe the riverways of his local region.

Resident Partners in Mission

Our dear Sisters’ live on campus in the Christine Center Community and are among many Sisters’ who have supported the mission fo the Center over the years (see more history above). As partners in mission, Sisters Johanna, Henrita, and Gabriele provide, via a collaborative working relationship, donated services such as: facilitating workshops and retreats; offering spiritual guidance, presence, and hospitality; leading daily prayer and meditation opportunities; fostering and tending to the Charter for Compassion membership; and shepherding the bookstore and art studio.

Johanna Seubert, FSPA

Johanna Seubert, FSPA

Prayer, presence, and programs, including spiritual guidance sessions

View Sr. Johanna's Bio

Sister Johanna Seubert, FSPA is a spiritual director and retreat facilitator at the Christine Center. She is experienced in guiding and accompanying others in their spiritual unfoldment, and assists them in clarifying their own spiritual process. She welcomes people as they are and helps them take the next step to their unique spiritual development. As a Diamond Approach teacher Johanna has additional training and experience in guiding individual students to discover the innate beauty and depth of their true nature.

Henrita Frost, SSND

Henrita Frost, SSND

Prayer, presence, and programs, including spiritual guidance sessions

View Sr. Henrita's Bio

Sister Henrita is a spiritual director who participated in a program in spiritual direction at the Center for Spirituality and Justice in New York. Henrita’s desire at that time was to offer spiritual direction to people who were homeless and did not have the basic necessities for a comfortable life. That desire was short-lived because her congregation asked her to go to Rome. Since she has been at the Christine Center, she welcomes the opportunity to offer spiritual guidance to others with a particular emphasis on compassion and loving kindness.

Gabriele Uhlein, OSF, PhD

Gabriele Uhlein, OSF, PhD

Prayer, presence, and programs, including spiritual guidance sessions

View Sr. Gabriele's Bio

Sister Gabriele Uhlein is a skilled facilitator and retreat guide dedicated to the recovery of the Christian mystical tradition and the honoring of intuition and creativity in spiritual deepening.

She is known for her Franciscan approach to contemplative ecological consciousness and her workshops are grounded in the wisdom of the Christian mystics as well as contemporary spiritual thought both East and West

Her mandala making and intuitive painting sessions are creative personal growth opportunities and she also offers individual intuition training and creativity coaching sessions.

In 1983 Gabriele authored a small book: Meditations with Hildegard of Bingen. She has been sharing her love of Hildegard ever since. Every September she hosts a Hildegard Fest at the Christine Center.

Board of Directors

The Christine Center Board of Directors is a working board of dedicated members of diverse experiences, expertise, and spiritual paths – all committed to supporting our mission. With their generous hearts, they support the amazing Christine Center staff, stepping in where needed as all move our dream forward. 

Rosalie Hooper Thomas

Rosalie Hooper Thomas

Board Chair

Sparta, WI

View Rosalie's Bio

In 2014, Rosalie retired from the Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse, WI. She served for 13 years as the liaison to business, facilitator, coordinator of the Servant Leadership program, program coordinator, retreat director and spiritual mentor. Prior to her time with FSC, Rosalie had her own practice as an organizational development consultant. Since 2012, Rosalie has been an FSPA Affiliate and in that role was co-chair of the FSPA 2018 Assembly Planning Committee. In addition, Rosalie participated in the FPSA/Affiliate Homelessness Initiative Committee, which was instrumental in establishing the Franciscan Hospitality House & supporting the Coulee Collaborative to End Homelessness. Rosalie lives with her husband Stan in the country and travels when she can to visit four beautiful granddaughters.

Linda Cates

Linda Cates

First Vice Chair

Wausau, Wisconsin

View Linda's Bio

Linda Cates is a leader in organizational development with an extensive background and experience in business management, public relations, fundraising, strategic planning and marketing. She has a long history of donor development and fundraising with many not-for-profit organizations, including the UW-Sheboygan Foundation, VibeTech, Inc, and Lake County Academy in partnership with her husband Randy Apel. Linda had served on the Christine Center Board of Directors for six years in the past and served on the Capital Campaign team for the Chapel wing addition of the Center. She served as the Co-Chair of the Donor Development Committee while she was on the Board. Linda had an influential part in the forming of the Center’s current Mission, Vision and Values of the Center.

Vicki Whitledge

Vicki Whitledge

Second Vice Chair

Eau Claire, Wisconsin

View Vicki's Bio

Vicki Whitledge is a Professor at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the mathematics department. She has a PhD in Applied Mathematics. Her main mathematical interest is in using mathematics to answer people’s questions to help with decision making in the real world. Topics of applications she has worked on have varied widely from biology and environmental questions to funding scholarships to business applications. In her teaching, her goal is to assist people who are afraid of math or who do not think they are “good” at it to succeed where they did not think they could. She participated in the Christine Center’s three-year Spiritual Deepening for Global Transformation program and believes that the Christine Center is a jewel to be treasured and nurtured. She plays crystal singing bowls and she designed and installed a mown triple-spiral labyrinth on her property.

Sabine Hartmann

Sabine Hartmann

Director

Loyal, Wisconsin

View Sabine's Bio

I am originally from the state of Maryland and moved to Wisconsin after I graduated from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary  Medicine, Blacksburg, Virginia in 1989.

After working in a number of veterinary clinics over the years, I finally opened my own practice on my farm in Loyal, WI in 2007. I provide care for horses, dogs, and cats.

In my spare time, I enjoy taking care of my farm and riding horses. I have developed a keen interest in reined cowhorse and show during the summer. I recently built a heated, indoor riding arena and enjoy sharing this with the public for riding, offering clinics, and event rental.

Other interests include swimming, gardening, and snorkeling.

Kristine Kiefer Hipp

Kristine Kiefer Hipp

Director

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

View Kris's Bio

Kris received a BSE and MSE in Special Education from UW-Whitewater and spent 22 years in the School District of Janesville teaching and leading District Special Education and Staff Development efforts, and teaching classes at UW-Whitewater. She received a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from UW-Madison, taught Educational Leadership at Ball State University and retired as a Professor Emerita from Cardinal Stritch University in Doctoral Leadership Studies in 2013. In 2003 Kris participated in the Franciscan Pilgrimage Program to Assisi and Rome, which led to establishing a partnership with Pieve International School in Umbria coordinating Leadership, Learning and Service retreats and Italian Cultural Immersion tours. For the past 35 years, she has served as a consultant/facilitator for Organizational Change and collaborated, presented and published nationally and internationally with colleagues related to building and sustaining Professional Learning Communities, building Leadership Capacity, and studying effective Leadership in High Needs Schools. Kris is active in the Mindfulness Community of Milwaukee and Christine Center retreats and programs.

Sara Neall

Sara Neall

Director

Wauwatosa, Wisconsin

View Sara's Bio

Sara Neall is a retired elementary school teacher with extensive experience in curriculum development. In 2011 she moved from Canada to the US and began to study yoga and Buddhist meditation. For 8 years she taught gentle and restorative yoga classes across the city of Milwaukee. She is a student of early Buddhist text and insight meditation. She has been coming to The Christine Center regularly since 2017. Currently she works with Sister Henrita writing about compassion on The Circle of Compassion blog they share. She loves walking, reading and traveling.

Paul Norton

Paul Norton

Director

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

View Paul's Bio

Dr. Paul Norton teaches mindfulness in a variety of settings, including schools, prisons, and for various groups at Milwaukee Mindfulness Center. He is certified to teach Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction, as well as various other modes of meditation and awareness practice. He is the guiding instructor and one of the founding members of the Mindfulness Community of Milwaukee. The Community was founded as a nonprofit in 1998. He is a core member of the Order of Interbeing, an organization founded by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk, that is devoted to supporting mindfulness practice.
He was a pediatrician who has worked extensively with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin since beginning his residency in 1978, up to his retirement from clinical practice in 2016. Most of his work was in general pediatrics, but the last 10 years was devoted exclusively to developmental behavioral pediatrics. He has lived in Wisconsin since 1974 and has two adult children. He is presently learning Spanish and improving guitar skills. He is available to counsel on matters relating to mindfulness at paul.norton@milwaukeemindfulness.com

Gabriele Uhlein

Gabriele Uhlein

Director

Willard, Wisconsin

View Gabriele's Bio

Sister Gabriele Uhlein, OSF, PhD is a skilled facilitator and retreat guide dedicated to the recovery of the Christian mystical tradition and the honoring of intuition and creativity in spiritual deepening.
She is known for her Franciscan approach to contemplative ecological consciousness and her workshops are grounded in the wisdom of the Christian mystics as well as contemporary spiritual thought both East and West. Her mandala making and intuitive painting sessions are creative personal growth opportunities and she also offers individual intuition training and creativity coaching sessions.
In 1983 Gabriele authored a small book: Meditations with Hildegard of Bingen. She has been sharing her love of Hildegard ever since. Every September she hosts a Hildegard Fest at the Christine Center.

Henry Eisenhauer

Henry Eisenhauer

Emeritus

West Bend, Wisconsin

View Henry's Bio

Henry, a native of Germany, came to the United States in 1959 and eventually began his own Tool and Die business in West Bend, WI. He is married to Paula Eisenhower and they have four adult sons and six grandchildren and one great grandchild. As a member of the Board, he brings with him a background in business and in various religious traditions, including Christianity, Masonry and Science of Mind. He is also a devotee of Mother Meera who resides in Germany. In 1998 he became a member of Metta Trust, a community of privately owned lands and dwellings adjacent to the Christine Center. He has built dome home on his land so he is here often. He has served on the board for many years and was given the title of Board Member Emeritus.