National program offers preaching skills for all baptised
An innovative scheme to teach lay people how to better convey the Gospel in everyday life has gained national notice.
The Xavier School of Preaching model, which is backed by Australian Catholic University, has garnered significant interest from Catholic dioceses around Australia.
Last weekend, the inaugural School of Preaching was held in the Archdiocese.
The program offers practical face-to-face and online training for ministers, priests and lay people to better support their ministry in parishes, communities and schools.
Planning is under way for the Archdiocese of Brisbane to host the next Xavier School of Preaching in 2023.
Vicar General Fr Tony Percy said lay people should be active in spreading the word. “Right through the 20th century, popes have insisted that the laity take up their baptismal responsibility to spread the faith everywhere in every dimension of life.”
“There is often a reluctance to assert that lay people should be preachers because of a common view that preaching is best left to priests,” Fr Percy said.
“However, there are many avenues of preaching the Gospel in parish life, such as sacramental preparation, men’s and women’s ministry and youth ministry,” he said. “Opportunities are prevalent in many secular arenas, too.”
Director of the Xavier Centre for Theological Formation at ACU Maeve Heaney said she was delighted to collaborate with the Xavier School of Preaching. She called preaching “a lifelong passion”.
“Many dioceses have seen the need for support in their education and theology around the area of preaching,” she said.
The Xavier School of Preaching, which will be housed in the ACU’s Xavier Centre for Theological Formation, will provide valuable accreditation to participants.
“Quality preaching is slow-cooked, and although it’s good to have these weekends, there is a need to build slowly,” she said. “I am pleased to be a part of an ongoing partnership with the Xavier School of Preaching team.”
Physiotherapist Claire Smart, 24, a participant in the recent two-day course, said she was attracted by the unique opportunity to upskill in the area of preaching.
“The opportunity to encounter Jesus and hear such quality input has been outstanding,” she said. “The school has provided useful techniques and a renewed sensitivity towards the people I believe I’m called to minister to.”
Marist Brother Michael Callinan, who attended the conference with colleagues from ACU’s Campus Ministry, said it had broadened his focus beyond his formal work.
“Part of the richness of being a participant for me has been encountering various people who want to announce who Jesus is,” he said. “We all have to make sure we take up that baptismal call. Even if I’m just buying a sandwich from the corner store, there is the possibility of speaking directly into people’s lives.”
Participants came from various backgrounds, including education, health, church ministry and parish life. They were taken through a course devised by, among others, Men Alive’s Robert Falzon, ACU’s Br David Hall and Maeve Heaney, Fr Tony Percy, Tim Kirk and Huw Warmenhoven.
What a great idea.
How can others be part of this program?
It seems to me that this opportunity for the laity to learn how to spread the Good News (the Gospel) of Jesus Christ better is in line with what the first Pope, Simom Peter, wrote in his first Letter (1:9) to early baptised refugees scattered in foreign lands. “You are the chosen race, the King’s (Jesus’) priests, the holy nation, God’s own people to proclaim the wonderful acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his own marvellous light.”
Of course this was before the Church organized itself into an administrative structure similar to that of Imperial Rome, which led to a division in the Church between those in Orders (priests, bishope and Pope) and those not in Orders. Maybe we are getting back to basic Christianity,
It’s good to see this initiative in our Archdiocese, and I’m sure the participants got much out of it. But I do wonder why only 1 of the 6 key speakers was a woman? This fact just hit me immediately as I read the ‘blurb’; as I’m sure it does many other women, and I ask myself – were more asked and unable or unwilling to be part of it? And if unwilling, why was that? Does it say something about the initiative? Was only one woman asked? Do some men just not notice this? Maybe some people do not find this relevant, but for me as a middle aged woman who has been active in the Church for over 50 years it is incredibly important that women are represented equally and are visible in all aspects of church.
Thanks for your comment, Beth.
Just to clarify – one of the female team members was unable to present at the weekend, although she was involved in creating the content. Due to this being the inaugural event, it made sense that all co-creators, who have extensive experience and expertise in preaching, delivered a talk – which included five men (not six). Those that attended the weekend acknowledged the significant input provided by several young women through music ministry and personal sharing. Focusing just on quotas and ‘the optics’ of an event can sometimes lessen the quality of presentations. The good news to take away is that those who attended – both men and women -are now skilled and more confident to preach the Good News of Christ.