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Posted July 24, 2007

Excellent Preaching

A project to promote preaching excellence in the Diocese of Rapid City, S.D., gets under way this fall. Parishioners and priests will participate in meetings to discuss what good preaching requires. During a clergy convocation, priests will make suggestions to Bishop Blase Cupich of Rapid City on how the preaching project might be tailored to meet their needs.

Bishop Cupich commented, “Good preaching begins with a sound knowledge of Scripture and includes reflection on the church’s tradition down through the centuries to the present time.” The bishop is convinced that “excellence in preaching enlivens parish communities.”

Jesuit Father George Winzenburg, who oversees the diocese’s ministry formation program, will serve as the preaching project’s director. He said: “It is hoped that the project will lead those who preach and those who hear homilies … to realize that they must assist one another if the word of God is to be preached and heard effectively.” In this project, “preachers and parishioners will increase their knowledge of Scripture and theology and, in the process, reflect on how they want to live out their baptismal call,” said Father Winzenburg.

The preaching project is funded by a $100,000 grant from a donor who asked to remain anonymous.

Can a priest’s homily preparation be aided by others? Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston talked about this in 2004 (Origins, CNS Documentary Service, Vol. 33, No. 45). “Sometimes we should talk to our parish councils about our preaching. Ask our people what points need to be stressed and what issues raised. What areas of people’s lives need to be illumined by the Word of God? In the past I have often discussed my pastoral letters with my diocesan pastoral council, and I found it so helpful, so illuminating,” said the cardinal. He continued, “Preparing our homilies with other priests and deacons can also enrich the content of our reflection and allows the opportunity to witness our faith to each other and strengthen our own proclamation of the good news.”

Cardinal O’Malley took note of a survey in the U.S. that highlighted the importance of preaching. In this survey of “30-year-olds returning to the church, the two most important factors were a personal relationship with the priest and the quality of preaching,” the Boston church leader said.