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FSC’s virtual conference celebrates women, resiliency and faith

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Sarah Johnson.JPG

YMCA mental health director Sarah Johnson

Hmong-American writer Kao Kalia Yang will be the keynote speaker at the Franciscan Spirituality Center’s second annual women’s conference celebrating resiliency and faith.

Overcoming Challenges With Grit and Grace will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16, via Zoom videoconferencing. Cost is $50. Register at or 608-791-5295.

Yang was born in the refugee camps of Thailand to a family that escaped the genocide of the Secret War in Laos and came to America at the age of 6. She now resides in Minnesota.

She has earned degrees from Carleton College and Columbia University, and is the award-winning author of “The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir” and “The Song Poet,” which has been adapted into an opera by the Minnesota Opera, as well as several children’s books, a recently published collective memoir about refugee lives called “Somewhere in the Unknown World” and a co-edited collection “What God Is Honored Here?: Writings on Miscarriage and Infant Loss by and for Native Women and Women of Color.”

She will reflect on her spiritual journey into writing and what it means to reclaim something that is no more, in an entirely new language, in a new land. Her talk will address how her own journey has helped situate herself in the pains and sorrows of others, and how that speaks to fears and faith.

The virtual retreat day also will include presentations by Lisa McCormick of Tomah, Wis; Carolyn Bostrack of La Crosse, and Sarah Johnson of Winona, Minn.

As the parent of a sex trafficking victim, McCormick has made it her life’s purpose to share her family’s story so others understand the dangers of trafficking and how easily vulnerable children can get caught up in it.

Her son, Jeffrey, was recruited into a sex trafficking ring out of Madison and exploited until his death, at age 17, in September 2016. McCormick is a member of the Wisconsin Anti-Human Trafficking Advisory Council and is featured in the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families documentary film about youth sex trafficking in Wisconsin.

Bostrack describes herself as a “fierce” mother of three, corporate leader, author, motivational speaker and life and business strategist. Her story is one of personal and professional transformation. From standing in a food line at the Salvation Army to earning her doctorate, her life’s purpose is to provide hope and inspire people to move from fear into focus.

Johnson is a licensed professional counselor and has more than 25 years of experience working in the prevention, youth development and counseling fields. She is the mental health director at the La Crosse Area Family YMCA and will incorporate some mindfulness practices into her talk. She’ll focus on what led her to integrate mindfulness into her professional and personal life and the profound impact it has had on her quality of life.

Gundersen Health System and Rotary Works Foundation are co-sponsors of this event with the Franciscan Spirituality Center.


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