Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Preaching Institute

While visiting the St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry site I happened across the following (my emphasis).

The Preaching Institute was formed to meet the ongoing needs of the authorized preachers, both lay and ordained, within the Diocese of Rochester. Providing focused opportunities for personal enrichment, theological education, and liturgical engagement, the Preaching Institute sponsors workshops at St. Bernard’s throughout the year designed to help lay and ordained ministers of the Gospel enhance their preaching skills. Grant support from the Sisters of St. Joseph allowed the Institute to develop an ongoing assessment tool utilized by preachers for on-site feedback from specific homilies. Working with the Director of the Assessment Project preachers have one-on-one opportunities for personal growth and enrichment.

The Preaching Institute, spearheaded by an advisory committee, works in collaboration with the Diocese as well as St. Bernard’s Office of Continuing Education. Members on the Advisory Board represent a cross section of the Roman Catholic community, including pastors, educators and pastoral administrators. As a resource for the local Church, the Preaching Institute is an integral component of St. Bernard’s focus on the continuing formation for those in ministry in today’s Church.

The SBSTM Preaching Institute seems to have been founded about 2 years ago (see here).


Nerina said...

And, yet, another reason I don't fund the CMA.

Anonymous said...

Nerina (and Mike),

You should be aware that there are many St. Bernards students who are conservative Catholics, who have discerned a calling from the Lord to serve His Church and His people. I think it is short-sighted to withhold funding of the CMA because of philosophical differences with the Bishop or with St. Bernards. Yes, the St. Bernards folks are ideologically on the left side of the Church, very much so. But please remember that we are all baptized members of CHRIST's Church. Those who are called to serve Christ as ordained deacons, for example, have no alternative except St. Bernards if they wish to pursue their calling in the Rochester diocese. It is only damaging the future of our local Church to withhold funding. I just think that's a bad way to protest, and doesn't really help things. As an alternative, maybe you should hold your breath until Bishop Clark retires and a new Bishop is named! Just kidding.

With respect to "lay preaching" I really don't see it any more. Is it still occurring in our diocese?

Anonymous said...

I know quite a few Deacons that came out of St. Bernard's who are quite conservative.

Nerina said...


I am very glad to hear that there are faithful, orthodox Catholics (I try to avoid using "conservative" v. "liberal" labels) at St. Bernard's. My experience has been strictly with very progressive students.

As for lay preaching, yes, it still is happening. You can come to my church every second Sunday for a dose of it.

The funding of St. Bernard's is only one of my many objections to the CMA. You are right, of course, that we have a duty to support the Church and my husband and I do so to the tune of 10% of our gross income. It is quite a sacrifice as we are raising 5 children on one income.

So I appreciate the position that some people find themselves in, but I can't, in good conscience, support the CMA. Instead we choose to support agencies that are feeding the poor, providing basic necessities like education and health care, and proclaiming the Gospel of Life.

Mike said...

Anon. 4:11,

My differences with SBSTM and many of its staff are much more theological than philosophical (see here), although I do also take issue with the agenda underlying at least some of their courses (see here).

Yes, I realize that SBSTM is the only option for those in DOR called to the deaconate - and their wives. And, yes, there are orthodox Catholics attending the school. I actually know two such couples who managed to make it through the husbands' ordinations without being infected by some of the "novel" theology they were taught or the "nuanced" dissent on the part of some staff members. My experience, though, is that these folks are in the minority.

BTW, no Catholic is obligated to support anything he or she, in good conscience, believes to be sinful. In fact, it would actually be a sin to do so.

("Good conscience" here means "well formed", as described in CCC 1783-1785, especially the
"and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church" clause of 1785.)

But I'm not worrying about SBSTM going out of existence for lack of funding. What DOR calls CMA "goals" are actually assessments (or taxes). If all the CMA donations from my fellow parishioners do not equal our parish "goal" then we will have to make up the difference out of our regular collections.

That is why, starting last year, I make an extra annual donation to my parish and ignore all the CMA mailings.

As to non-ordained homilists, there seem to be at least 5 (see here and, a bit further down, here).

Anonymous said...

Hold on, Anon 4:11/7:10 - Say we don't support the ultra liberal St. Bernard. Then our candidates for the deaconate will go elsewhere. One less heterodox theology school is better for the world.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:37 -

Just where would our Diocese's candidates for the diaconate go? These are not men in priestly formation who can easily up and move to a different diocese and a different seminary! These are men who have deep roots in their local parishes who have discerned that God is calling them to ordained service, and there is simply no other option for these men!

Sincerely, Anon 4:11

Anonymous said...

"These are men who have deep roots in their local parishes who have discerned that God is calling them to ordained service, and there is simply no other option for these men!"

I know of men ordained to the deaconate in other rites, and they had their education elsewhere. It can be done.

An even better solution is to shut down the lay theology school and transform St. Bernard into a pre-seminary and deaconate formation institution.

Mike said...

Anon. 6:43,

"I know of men ordained to the deaconate in other rites, and they had their education elsewhere. It can be done."

Both seminarians and candidates for the deaconate get their formation where their bishop assigns them. So, yes, it can be done, but only if that's what the bishop involved chooses to do.

As a practical matter, what do you think would be the result if a bishop told a guy who has a career, a wife and kids still to send through college that, if he really wants to be a deacon, he has to give up his job so that he can go away to school for at least two years?

I don't think you'd see very many deacons.

Persis said...

I will be the first to agree that SBSTM leans way to the left. As a student there, in the beginning, I was happy about that. Now, I am not so sure. There have been many things that I have experienced there I believed were not "official teachings" of the church and have questioned them and have also started to do more reading and research on my own. What I have found though, is it is very difficult to get through all of the rhetoric, from both sides. This is one of the reasons I started "blogging" to get views from the "other side". That doesn't always work either, because just being attached to the school, for some, puts me into the catagory of "heretic". It is a "no-win" situation, especially for women in the DOR.
I also have met many "conservative" students there, mostly in the diaconate program, and while I really hate the labels (conservative, liberal, orthadox, progressive) I don't know of any other way to describe some of the things that I see there. Most (not all) of the women who are students are pretty radical in their feminism, and it can be very difficult for those of us who, after living that life for a long time, have begun to see that in many cases it is not compatable with living the "authentic Catholic life", but where am I to go?
I believe that God is calling me to do more for His people, and I am discerning what exactly that is, and it is because of SBSTM that I have the opportunity to do so.

Anonymous said...

#6 Sr. Diane Dennie

St. Michael, Lyons

Mike said...


Thank you for being so open about your own journey and your experiences at SBSTM.

My personal experience with the school involves just two of the 5 hour mini-courses, along with Prem's OT course. The mini-courses were almost all attended by pastoral leader wannabes, almost all of whom were female and far more progressive in their theology than I. Prem's course, OTOH, was made up mostly of deaconal candidates and their wives and, from what I could discern, many were fairly orthodox. So even with my limited experience my observations seem to be in line with yours.

I sympathize with your being automatically labeled "liberal" or "progressive" or "radical" simply because of what school you attend. That's stereotyping, pure and simple, and no Christian should engage in it. Yet, SBSTM being what it is and people being people (i.e., fallen), I suppose it's just going to happen.

Your situation reminds me of a story told by Anglican Bishop Tom Wright about another Anglican bishop/theologian who said, in effect, that unless one affirms everything one believes in at the beginning of any particular talk, someone is bound to come up afterward and say, "Oh, you didn't mention thus and so, so I expect you don't believe in it."

Some days it's just hard to win.

gretchen said...


Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio has distance learning courses. It is a very orthodox university. I'm praying for discernment myself about working towards a Master's degree there. (Gotta figure out that old time/money thing!)