New Program at Saint Mary's to Enhance Women's Role in the Catholic Church

Lilly Endowment funds new program with Center for the Study of Spirituality as institutional partner

A new program dedicated to supporting preaching by women in the Catholic Church is receiving a $1.25 million grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc., through their Compelling Preaching Initiative. A collaboration between Discerning Deacons and Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, the program will allow students to earn a Certificate in Catholic Preaching and Ministry of the Word. 

“Now more than ever, communities across the country are ready to receive Catholic women’s gifts for preaching as a way to bring a fresh voice that shares Good News,” said Casey Stanton, co-director of Discerning Deacons. “With support from Lilly Endowment, Discerning Deacons can expand our formation work, and provide unprecedented access to resources and support systems for lay leaders to develop their vocational call to preach. We have heard time and time again in our work that people are looking for diverse, relatable, and inclusive Church leadership, and this grant will help us achieve just that.”

The Center for the Study of Spirituality at Saint Mary's College, under the leadership of Daniel Horan, OFM, will be the primary institutional partner in this venture, Stanton said. “Fr. Horan and his team have offered their enthusiasm, resources, and organizational capacity in the hopes that this certificate program will take root within the Center and continue to grow alongside their own existing commitments to diverse course offerings and spiritually robust programming.”

“We know that women’s voices in the Catholic church are vital,” said Katie Conboy, Saint Mary’s College president. “The partnership between Discerning Deacons and our Center for the Study of Spirituality will contribute to the ongoing, global Catholic discernment surrounding the call of women to play a stronger role in the church.”

Lilly Endowment’s Compelling Preaching Initiative seeks to foster and support preaching that inspires, encourages and guides people to come to know and love God and to live out their Christian faith more fully.

Discerning Deacons, through its fiscal sponsor St. Thomas More Catholic Community, is one of 81 organizations receiving grants through this competitive round of the Compelling Preaching Initiative. Reflecting the diversity of Christianity in the United States, the organizations are affiliated with mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, Anabaptist and Pentecostal faith communities. Many of the organizations are rooted in the Black Church and in Hispanic and Asian American Christian traditions.

“Throughout history, preachers often have needed to adapt their preaching practices to engage new generations of hearers more effectively,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “We are pleased that the organizations receiving grants in this initiative will help pastors and others in ministry engage in the kinds of preaching needed today to ensure that the gospel message is heard and accessible for all audiences.”

Lilly Endowment launched the Compelling Preaching Initiative in 2022 because of its interest in supporting projects that help to nurture the religious lives of individuals and families and foster the growth and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States.  

October 12, 2023

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