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Preachers should attempt to be poets, artists, mystics

By RENEE WEBB, Globe senior reporter
(Email Renee)

Those who dare to preach must attempt to be poets, artists and mystics, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta told the National Association of Diaconate Directors.

The archbishop was the keynote speaker for the organization’s national convention held April 23-25 in Atlanta.
Catholics, he noted in a Catholic News Service story, are increasingly “demanding better homilies.”

Archbishop Gregory tied his message into the theme of the convention, “Preaching the Word of God.”

Homilies, he stressed, should not simply be information but can be clever and at times may make listeners uncomfortable. He said a homily should never bore the listeners.

Among attendees of the convention was Deacon David Lopez, diocesan director of deacon formation. He said the archbishop’s keynote was excellent. 

“The main point I took from it was about the spiritual nature of the homily,” the deacon said. “He told us as preachers, ‘Every good homily always begins on your knees.’ He contrasted the content of the homily, rooted in the Gospels and in the truth and wisdom of our Savior, with mere information about Christ or spiritual things.”

Deacon Lopez said the archbishop also focused on some misconceptions about preaching in multi-cultural contexts. 

“He stressed that the preacher has to work hard to understand more deeply the differences of culture, experience and history among different groups, but also preach with an eye on the unity of the church,” the deacon said. “We may come from different places, but we’re all striving together only to one goal.  That unity is greater than all our differences.” 

Archbishop Gregory had stressed how preachers can look to St. Paul as a model of both of these dynamics.

The keynote speaker had reflected upon St. Paul’s struggles in preaching the word of God in faraway places and to diverse groups.

In addition to the keynote, the convention included business meetings, Mass and various breakout sessions/workshops.

Deacon Lopez, who said the entire convention was very good, particularly appreciated sessions by Jeff Cavins and the one by Deacon Joe Michalak. Cavins presented a general session talk titled, “Fans or Followers: How

Your Preaching Can Make a Difference.” Deacon Michalak conducted a workshop titled, “Preaching the Mystery of Faith and Its Importance on Diaconal Preaching.”

He said they learned about several new resources which should prove very helpful. 

“Some new connections between difference parts of my personal ministry and a deacon and my formation of future deacons became apparent in the talks and in other conversations during the convention,” Deacon Lopez said.

He cited two main reasons as to why conventions of this nature are important.

“First, as formators, we need to share what works and what doesn’t, and widen our individual experience with the fruit of others,” Deacon Lopez said. “The best way to do that is to get together and talk about it.  The keynotes and breakouts address specific areas of interest or attention, and the time together gives us a chance to focus on the big picture, or often on specific details, about what we’re doing in forming future deacons.”

Second, he noted, it gives deacon directors a chance to network, to know who their peers are in this ministry, and to know the needs and successes of other dioceses. They also meet annually within their region. The Diocese of Sioux City belongs to Region IX that is made up of dioceses in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.

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