What if Catholic women came together (via Zoom) to live into our identities as preachers and cultivate our preaching lives, offering accompaniment and support and constructive feedback on one another’s preaching? What if a Catholic Women’s Preaching Circle is the next step in taking the Catholic Women Preach initiative to the next level? What if this creates a “bench” of Catholic women preachers prepared and empowered and equipped to respond confidently to invitations to preach at liturgies, retreats, reflection days, etc?
What this would look like: a cohort of eight women (who self-identify as preachers and have ministerial experience and training) who commit to a weekly one-hour Zoom gathering for eight weeks. Each woman takes a turn preparing a preaching for that Sunday’s readings, and identifies the context/congregation she is crafting the preaching for. The weekly gathering consists of opening prayer/check in, the preacher proclaiming Scripture and offering preaching, and the rest of the members offering feedback (in keeping with the model I learned from preaching class I took at Aquinas Institute), and a check-out/closing prayer.
The roots of this goal:
– Having served on the advisory board of Catholic Women Preach since we began several years ago, and having heard several of our preachers say they enjoy the opportunity to preach, but are disappointed it is a “one and done.” And also the reality that the preachings we put out are uneven – some stronger than others, and the desire to have really high-quality preaching (in terms of both content and delivery) out on CWP (and through other venues!) by Catholic women. We all need a space to make beginners’ mistakes that all preachers make – it’s best to make them in a safe, supportive environment and learn from them, instead of making them on camera or in front of a sanctuary with 500 congregants!
– Hearing some of the members of this cohort speak and write powerfully about their experiences preaching, their desire to preach, the limited opportunities to practice that skill, and the internal blocks of our conscious and unconscious internalized oppression as Catholic women with a vocation to preaching. (In Glennon Doyle’s language, we seek to become “untamed.”)
– Experiencing preached Sunday evening vespers in the canonical novitiate community in St Louis where each of the four of us in local community (and sometimes guests who were visiting) would take turns preaching and offering one another feedback. Reflecting on what Sarah has shared about offering the lay women the opportunities that Sisters have, I envision these gatherings as extending more broadly the beneficial experience I had a novice.
My questions for you (reply in the comments, or email me (email@example.com) if you have more energy around this goal and want to engage):
– What about the above dream “lands” for you? Where do you feel drawn to say, “yes, and…” or “but have you thought about…” in response?
– Would a Catholic women’s preaching circle as outlined above be useful/supportive/exciting for you? Why or why not? (and it’s okay if the answer is no – my feelings won’t be hurt!)
– If you would be interested in participating in a circle, what would make the space the most helpful and life-giving for you in deepening your preaching life?