Catholic Women’s Preaching Circle – my BHAG (big hairy audacious goal)

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 (rhondacville@gmail.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?

4 thoughts on “Catholic Women’s Preaching Circle – my BHAG (big hairy audacious goal)

  1. Rhonda, what a beautiful dream and goal you have here! I highly support you in your efforts and say, Go for it! I personally do not feel called to this ministry (nor being a deacon or priest), but I highly support all those who do feel called. I would even love to be part of the training for such endeavors, but I know that presently there aren’t positions that really pay what I need in order to support my family.

    However, I think this is a great way to move forward and to provide women preachers the practice and supportive safe community to practice your skills. I will pray that you all can move forward and keep listening to the Spirit’s call and direction. I think it’s time and it’s important to keep moving where the Spirit is calling, and not wait for the magisterium to begin. The changes will come from below, grassroots, and will then trickle up. Sophia will not be stopped! Keep going, my sister!! Blessings to you.

  2. Rhonda,
    I appreciate sharing this space with you. I love your idea of a Preaching Circle. I want it to exist, though I don’t think this is where I am supposed to concentrate my energy right now. I’m thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to preach more at our motherhouse since covid is preventing our chaplains from coming to the motherhouse. Could your Preaching Circle be offered through a retreat center or another group/organization? How will you reach the people who would most resonate with your idea?

  3. Rhonda,

    I will be in touch via email. I love this idea. I wonder how you, yourself see you using your gifts to support or collaborate with the women in the cohort and lead this endeavor? What are YOU seeking in this particular dream of yours?

    One thing I liked about my limited preaching experience was the process, and the way it sharpened my own convictions and spirituality. I wonder if it would make sense to you to create a space to discuss this in the virtual series. A chance for the preacher to debrief their process a bit? This could be good for those of us who are discerning this as a vocational call.

    All the best on this exciting idea!

  4. I just wanted to say that I lol’ed at BHAG!

    But also this idea is fantastic and thrilling. I don’t consider myself much of a preacher, but I think that a big part of the reason that I never tried to develop my preaching skills was knowing that it would always be a “one-off” thing. This idea could help more women in seminary see preaching as a viable option.

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