Our Staff and Board

Staff

Darcy O’Hara A native Philadelphian, Darcy is thrilled to be in the position of Director at the Center. Though Darcy’s undergrad is in Business and Finance, she has years of experience leading and facilitating service trips as well as designing social justice educational programming. She recognizes the role patient and compassionate people have played in her personal journey in becoming more socially aware, and she is glad to be that person in the lives of some of the young adults who come through the center. Her personal Heroes include Dorothy Day, for obvious reasons, and Amy Poehler for her ability to be successful in something she is passionate about without taking herself too seriously. Some of her hobbies include exploring new places with old friends and recycling the same five jokes over and over.

Margarita Hernandez Margarita is originally from Northern Virginia, but she fell in love with the Center and Philly on a service trip in 2017. After coming through the center as a student three times, she is overjoyed to join the team as Assistant Director. Margarita is passionate about homeless outreach and strongly believes in the importance of intentionally encountering the person in front of her. She is grateful for the opportunity to walk with the students that come through the center and loves hearing about their personal experiences. A few of her favorite hobbies are drinking an abundance of coffee, hiking, reading, and laughing at Darcy’s same five jokes over and over.

Teena Weisler-Vega Teena brings to the Center her own history of service, faith and community, rooted here in Philadelphia and internationally. Teena works as the Director of Ministry and Service at Mercy Career & Technical High School during the day, and she will be lending her time and talents to the Center on evenings and weekends. Teena has a passion for working with young people and facilitating conversations around justice issues that affect her community of Germantown. In her free time, Teena loves finding new coffee places, exploring the city, connecting with nature, and hanging with “The Bosses” (Darcy and Margarita)!

Board

Michelle Abbruzzese Michelle earned a Master’s degree in Social Work in 2009 from Bryn Mawr’s Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research. She is the Associate Director of Depaul House, a transitional housing program for men experiencing homelessness. Depaul House is the first USA project of Depaul International. Depaul International is a group of charities working to support homeless and marginalized people around the world. In her free time Michelle volunteers at Graterford Prison, and enjoys reading and spending time with friends and family.

George Brenton Originally born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and the current Campus Coordinator and Director of Campus Facilities for the Daughter of Charities, George is happy to be on board to advise staff on matters regarding the upkeep of the SVDP Center Facilities. He is taken with the dedication of the staff and the mission to expose youth to the needs and challenges of marginalized people. He is inspired by being with people who take pride in what they do – both at work and at play – as well as his father, who taught him lessons right up to the day he passed away in 1998. In his spare time he enjoys spending time with his wife of 33 years, going to the beach and ball games as well as spending time with their dogs, Chewie and Leia.

Vijay DaCosta Vijay is a religious studies teacher at School of the Holy Child in Rye, New York. Originally from the Bronx, he has worked with youth as a campus minister, teacher, and volunteer in various places. Having chaperoned groups to St. Vincent de Paul over the years for two different schools, Vijay holds the Center and Philadelphia near and dear to his heart. He has seen how his students’ lives have been touched and transformed from their experiences in Germantown. In turn, Vijay hopes that he can always help the Center form young men and women into servant leaders, no matter what their vocational calling may be. He enjoys a good book, traveling to new places, watching hockey games, creating unique pasta dishes in the Center’s kitchen, and spending time with loved ones. Vijay lives in Connecticut with his wife and daughter.

Dr. Robert A. Emberger Bob was born and raised in Philadelphia. He is a graduate of Cairn University (B.S.), Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and holds a doctorate in pastoral counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary. Bob has been the Executive Director of the Whosoever Gospel Mission since 1989. The Mission provides Christ-centered rehabilitation and job readiness services for homeless men. Bob has also served as a senior pastor, a professional counselor, an adjunct professor of urban missions, an associate pastor, and more recently as the interim pastor of a church. He has been married for 38 years to Marcia who is a registered nurse. Bob and Marcia have four adult children and four granddaughters. He enjoys camping, reading, stamp collecting, gardening, traveling and pizza. Bob loves the work of the DePaul Center because it provides hands-on opportunities for young people to impact others with the love and kindness of Jesus.

Sr. Nora Gatto, D.C. Sister Nora has served in many roles, mostly in Education and Spiritual Formation, since becoming a Daughter of Charity in 1976She served on the Provincial Council from 2008-2017, both in the former Northeast Province and in the newly formed Province of St. Louise.  She was born in Jackson Heights, Queens, raised in Elmont, NY, and graduated from St. John’s University (BA in Theology) and Fairfield University (MA in Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Direction).  She serves as a Pastoral Associate at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish in Bayside, NY, where she is also the Sister Servant of the local community of Daughters of Charity

Sister Denise LaRock, D.C. Sister Denise has been a daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul since 1992. She is originally from Maryland and is currently serving on the Provincial Council of the Province of St. Louise while on mission in St. Louis. She earned her degree in Elementary Education and a Masters in Education for At-Risk Students. Sister Denise taught for many years mostly on the primary school level. Sister Denise taught middle school at a school in Baltimore for at-risk students and also at a school in FLorida for the children of migrant farmworkers. Before her move to St. Louis, Sister Denise served families seeking asylum in Texas with the Interfaith Welcome Coalition caring for emergency needs of the families arriving and advocating for immigrants and their rights. Sister Denise is passionate about the dignity and respect of ALL persons in keeping with a “Consistent Ethic of Life” as found in the many writings of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin and seeking ways to promote this “seamless garment.” 

Fr. Tom McKenna, C.M. is a Vincentian priest currently working with his congregation’s seminarians in Philadelphia. He recently celebrated his 50th anniversary of ordination and has been on our board for the past four years. Over that half century he has taught theology in the Vincentian major seminary as well as in two of their universities, St.John’s in New York City and Niagara in Niagara Falls, New York. He spent some years in St. Louis as spiritual director to his sister community, the Daughters of Charity, and also has been involved in administrative roles in his own congregation. A native of Brooklyn, he goes back to visit his relatives in that vicinity and also sits on the St. John’s board. He has written a book on St. Vincent de Paul along with a number of articles on that Saint’s spirituality. He has had a life-long interest in bringing St. Vincent’s vision to today’s Church.

Patrick Flaherty Patrick is the current Director of Service and Justice at McQuaid Jesuit school in Rochester, NY. Patrick coordinates service immersion experiences (some to the Center) and works with students to expand their conceptions of equity and justice. He is particularly invested in supporting the voices of students on issues of justice and inclusion through working with the Mosaic Club, Black Student Union, and the Climate Club. Patrick is a Maryland native with strong ties to the MD-DC area. In his free time he enjoys traveling and hiking through the outdoors.

Gayle Smith is a teacher at Loyola Blakefield, a Jesuit high school in Towson, Maryland.  For almost 20 years now she has journeyed with her students in becoming more active in advocating for social justice.  Gayle has spent several weeks at the center with groups of Loyola students and loves to watch the change in the boys through the week as they learn to appreciate and understand the neighborhood of Germantown while acknowledging the role that discrimination has played in forming that neighborhood. Gayle enjoys running, cooking, and reading.  She has been married to Jamie for over 30 years and has three adult children who never stop challenging her to get out there and make a difference.