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Catholic priests pushed to become better preachers


(Washington Post) As Drew Burkemper got up to preach, the weight of his task was evident. His classmate at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, Adam Maus, had just pretty much killed it.

Like Burkemper, Maus and other Catholic seminarians were told to prepare and deliver to his class a homily for an imaginary event.

Maus’ scenario had been a wedding between a 42-year-old bride with four children and her groom, who had recently returned to the Catholic Church. The nine other seminarians in the room loved his approach, showering him in glowing feedback.

Burkemper was up next, faced with a preaching scenario that would challenge any 23-year-old priest-to-be. His homily was for a marriage between a Catholic man and a Jewish woman.

As he began, he worked hard on his delivery, as his professor had taught him. “Father Wester is big on delivering the homily,” Burkemper said later. “Not just reading it.”

The Rev. Don Wester, pastor of All Saints Catholic Church in St. Peters, Mo., is Kenrick’s lecturer of homiletics — the art of preaching.

He believes homilies should be practical and direct — that they should draw a connection between the everyday struggles of parishioners and biblical truths.

And it’s exactly the kind of preaching that U.S. Catholic bishops are hoping for as part of a new national effort to foster better Catholic homilies.

At their annual fall meeting this month, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted overwhelmingly to accept the new preaching document, their first since 1982. [more]


Washington Post



  1. Deacon Bernie says:

    Interesting that the bishops are calling for priests to preach better. How often have you been “touched” by a bishop’s homily? Over the years, I kept a file of stories from which I could crib stories. Some worked and some didn’t. Hitting a home run was even rarer than one at the ball park. It is clear if one sets out with a “ho-hum” approach, very little good will happen. If the congregation senses a preacher is having a hard time, they will pay closer attention and listen more carefully.


    Our Priest as St Basil’s Salvatorian Center is the best. Rather than preach he shares with us the Good News in a way that is inspirational and loving.


    I believe that our Priest at my Cursillo Monday night Liturgy is the best. He always leaves us with thoughts for the week, inspires us, gives us backgrounds and histories of readings and Gospels and is all in all a fabulous and inspirational preacher. He actually does not preach as much as share with us the Good News in a loving way. God Bless Him.

  4. Peggy says:

    An obvious solution, which has been tried successfully, is to let parishioners take part in shaping the homily. If the lectors would meet with the priests the week before, share a good commentary on the readings, and discuss the relevance to their lives, both the lectors and the homilist would be enriched and the congregation would benefit from an approach which meets their real spiritual need. Would take some time but the result would be worth the effort.

    • Tony says:

      Peggy, thank you for that great suggestion, we used to do that during Lent, in what was an attempt to form small Christians, it worked well then and should still be a means of enrichment for Ll involved.

      • Tony says:

        Small Christian Communities

      • Angelo says:

        Tony, Your talking liturgical abuse, are’nt you. Older priests were trained in how to give homilies. Parishioners helping to shape the homily? We would have the priest at the Ambo babbling a whole bunch of nothing. Leave the reform of homilies to the Holy Father, Cardinals, Bishops and faithfull priests. We are interferring too much of what is not our responsibility. Such an Idea of the laity helping to shape the homily comes under the heresy of, “The people are the Church”. If people help shape the homily, then I’ll just give myself my own homily, I am part of the people too!

        • Tony says:

          There is no liturgical abuse sharing scripture and reflections in a prayer group.

          • Angelo says:

            Tony, “Sharing scripture and reflections in a prayer group” Nothing wrong with that if done faithfuly to the teachings of the Church. And I stress FAITHFULY TO THE TEACHINGS OF THE CHURCH! But the Laity helping shape the homily? Thats not acceptable.

            • Tony says:

              What about a deacons wife writing the homily for him? Or the priests sister writing his? Don’t be so nuts those thing shape,

            • Andrew says:

              I couldn’t agree more Angelo. If you Google “Catholic liturgical abuse” you can see some absolute horrors showing what happens when a renegade laity has control over the priest. One of the most sickening videos I saw was some allegedly Catholic Church in Canada where people came dancing down the aisle wearing big tribal masks and singing horrid modernist music. The priest in this video didn’t even give the homily, he turned it over to some feminist and most offensive of all, he gave the final blessing in the name of the redeemer, sanctifer and something else. I guess his congregation told him it was “sexist” to say Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Hopefully the diocesan bishop saw that video and took action.

  5. Eileen Kovatch says:

    There are homilists and then there are others. We all have gifts and talents and priests are no different. Some that don’t have the gift of writing and/or speaking do us all a favor by memorizing,or yes, reading a downloaded homily. o if the cumputerized versions can make them more relevant to the assembly, we will certainly benefit from them. Hope they don’t forget the historical context before bringing it into the 21st century.

  6. m.l. Larson says:

    The last time I was in a Catholic church was when the pastor preached that “God doesn’t love us when we sin.” That was a few years ago. The bishops have more of a responsibility in this area then a “document” every 35 years. It’s an embarrassment.

  7. Charlie B. says:

    There are two big reasons for bad preaching in Catholic Churches. The first is that many priests received little if any preaching education. Even today, some seminaries have no full-time preaching professor. The second reason is time. If you compare the “pastor to congregant ratio” between Catholic and protestant parishes, you’ll see the problem. Protestant parishes have many times more clergy than we do…they allow for time to prepare for preaching. Our guys have daily mass, funerals, weddings, and sometimes 3 or 4 masses n a weekend. When does he find time to make preaching a priority?

    Another factor is that Catholics expect so little. I think there are many Catholics out there who have never heard truly good preaching. They don’t even know what is possible.

    So in addition to preparation and time, we also need better prepared hearers of the Word.

    • Recovering Catholic says:

      In my opinion, the reason the preaching is so bad and such a turn-off in the Catholic Church is that most Catholic priests have no “gift” for public speaking. Their homilies are dull and boring, and they tend to “preach down” to the lowest level of intelligence.

      The way to solve this lack of preaching “gift” is to install large movie screens such as the Seventh Day Adventists do and present “recorded” homilies and talks from those few priests who DO actually have the “gift” of preaching.

      Do you think someone with a preaching gift like a Bishop Sheen or a Billy Graham would bore anyone?

      • Recovering Catholic says:

        P.S. Yes, some may say that Catholics want to be “entertained” at mass. Well, maybe that isn’t such a bad idea if this approach would draw in more Catholics and make them remember what was discussed!

        • Recovering Catholic says:

          P.P.S. How about showing recordings of some of those “gifted” speakers that we hear on the Catholic radio station, “Relevant Radio?” E.g., Spiritual Directors and Retreat Masters, Father Albert Hess and Sister Bridgette Hess; Matthew Kelley; and yes, rerun all of those old Bishop Sheen programs.

  8. Tony says:

    I was shocked one weekend after hearing a homily at a 4 pm Saturday mass and then attending another mass Sunday 70 miles away and hearing the exact same homily word for word by a totally different priest.
    They used a “canned” homily or one they down loaded on their computer. I am told by some priest friends that this is quite common, it shows the laziness of some preachers and lack of care of the people to whom they minister to provide a t
    Relevant message of Christian living.

    • Angelo says:

      Tony, It is not laziness on the part of some priests. Some priests do not have the gift to give homlies that change peoples lives, so they borrow prepared homilies. There are old books that have been reprinted of the homilies given by Saints. Perhaps some priests could use these. Those homilies changed lives then, they could change lives now.


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