Program Supporting Women’s Preaching in the Catholic Church Receives $1.25 Million Grant

ST. PAUL– 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 the 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.

“Lilly Endowment’s support enables us at St. Thomas More Catholic Community to empower women through Discerning Deacons,” said Father R.J. Fichtinger, S.J., pastor of St. Thomas More Catholic Community. “This investment helps us nurture women’s gifts for spreading the Gospel in innovative ways, reaching new hearts and minds. We’re thankful to Lilly Endowment for affirming our mission to support women leaders in the Church and expand our circles of others sharing in the Good News.”

 

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.  

 

 

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About Discerning Deacons
Discerning Deacons is a project grounded in the practices of relationship building, synodal listening and communal discernment. Its mission is to engage Catholics in the active discernment of our church around the question of women and the diaconate. It does this by working with church institutions (parishes, schools, universities, religious orders, alumni networks, and parachurch organizations) and growing the space for Spirit-filled and Spirit-led conversations. 

About Saint Mary’s College
Saint Mary’s College, located in Notre Dame, IN, is recognized as both a visionary forerunner and an enduring innovator in the education of women. As a private college, Saint Mary’s is committed to the social and economic empowerment of all women, a culture of human dignity and solidarity, and a focus on problem solving and research. With more than 60 undergraduate academic programs, as well as accelerated advanced degrees options, we offer a strong liberal arts foundation in an atmosphere that encourages open discussion and close collaboration with professors and classmates. Founded in 1844, Saint Mary’s provides a powerful advantage and is committed to advancing women at all stages of life. For more information, visit SaintMarys.edu.

About Lilly Endowment Inc.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. A principal aim of the Endowment’s religion grantmaking is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen the pastoral and lay leadership of Christian communities. The Endowment also seeks to improve public understanding of diverse religious traditions by supporting fair and accurate portrayals of the role religion plays in the United States and across the globe.

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Witness
“[I hope the Church ordains women to the diaconate] to bring a wider witness and expression of God’s life, love, and presence to the people of God. Women’s voices and leadership will heal, encourage and empower the lives of men, women, and children. It will call forth a new understanding of church vocation and enrich Catholic family life.”
Deedee Van Dyke
Catholic Chaplain, Joliet, IL
Witness
“The first Apostle was a woman, Mary Magdalena. She continues to remain a tower of strength for women in ministry today. If more women were ordained to the diaconate in the Roman Catholic Church, I believe we would have more meaningful and spiritually enriching homilies, and our liturgies would embrace and welcome all to the Eucharistic table.”
Sonja Grace
Witness
“If I was ordained as a deacon, it would not be a means to an end, but rather it would be a continual invitation to a deeper and broader journey with Christ. Deacons are asked to become outwardly more visible as hands in service to the Church. To respond to such a vocation would be a treasure, a deepening of my inner faith life enriched by the outward experiences of ministry and service. Both the inner and outer journey become a longing to seek and know the Christ we are called to serve.”   
Nina Laubach
Student, MDiv program at Princeton Theological Seminary

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