Photo: Preacher Coordinator, Elizabeth Anne Donnelly and Website Coordinator, Russ Petrus met in person for the first time in October 2019.
The revolutionary and silence-shattering initiative, Catholic Women Preach, marked its third anniversary on November 1, 2019 – All Saints Day. Originally envisioned as a three-year project, the hope was to complete one full liturgical cycle (Years A, B, and C) of women preaching on the scriptures of each Sunday and some feast days. But the project’s reception and reach has exceeded even the wildest dreams of the steering committee, which began meeting over four years ago, leading them to one easy conclusion: we must keep pushing ahead and lifting up the voices of women in our Church.
The need for a platform like Catholic Women Preach was only sharpened this past September, when a major and popular Catholic news outlet published an article listing reasons why Catholic women should not preach. And the importance of the project for women was on full display in October when, at the Women of the Church Conference, Catholic Women Preach was lifted up as a model by not one, but all three keynote presenters to extended rounds of applause. Keynote presenters were Joan Rosenhauer, Executive Director of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA; Cecilia González-Andrieu, Associate Professor of Theology at Loyola Marymount; and Kerry Alys Robinson, Founding Executive Director and Global Ambassador of Leadership Roundtable.
Catholic Women Preach has enjoyed much success over the last three years: 175 remarkable women contributing 178 inspiring reflections; a loyal community of more than 8,600 email subscribers, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and YouTube subscribers; and nearly 250,000 views accounting for more than 1.1 million minutes of watch time.
The podcast version – launched in 2018 – continues to expand its audience with nearly 20,000 plays to date. Audio-only podcasts are released on the Friday before that particular Sunday,
There were also collaborations with Ignatian Solidary Network’s Education for Justice and Catholic Mobilizing Network as well as the Boston College School of Theology online continuing education program and America Magazine.
But beyond the numbers are the very real lived experiences of Catholics – women and men – who have come to count on Catholic Women Preach and whose faith lives have benefitted because of it. Viewers write in or post on social media nearly every week about their experience of Catholic Women Preach. Here are two comments from younger Catholics:
“I have spent the past few years (re)learning about my Catholic faith and what it means to be Catholic in our current moment. Right now, I have more questions than answers… What has been a shining light for me during this time is Catholic Women Preach …”
- Kaitlin, a young adult, sharing a Catholic Women Preach reflection with her Facebook friends.
“Catholic Women Preach is the best! I parish hop like many young Catholics, so the homilies are not always the best, but CWP has curated really stellar reflections.”
- Angelo, a graduate student talking about Catholic Women Preach on another Facebook page
Indeed, Catholic Women Preach both reveals and helps to satisfy the deep need for the voices and insights of women in our Church. Moreover, by bearing witness to the contributions and giftedness of Catholic women, Catholic Women Preach is advancing the conversation with and about women at every level of the Church. In some ways it comes as no surprise that those who would silence women are taking note.
But Catholic women will not be silent – not when they have incredible wisdom, insight, and experience to offer to the People of God. Catholic Women Preach begins its next liturgical cycle on the First Sunday of Advent – December 1, 2019 – with preaching from Sr. Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry.