There’s a whole lot of preaching going on…and now we know what people think about it.

In February 2024, the Catholic Preaching Institute at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary opened separate surveys within the archdiocese asking priests and parishioners to share their thoughts and feelings about the homiletic experience at their home parishes. The results were recently published on the new Catholic Preaching Institute’s website.

The Catholic Preaching Institute (CPI) opened its doors in January 2024 with the mission of creating programs to help priests and deacons – our “Sunday preachers” – deliver homilies that resonate with the faithful. Father Thomas Dailey, O.S.F.S., John Cardinal Foley Chair of Homiletics and Social Communications at the Seminary and Project Director of CPI, explains how, prior to development of any such programs, CPI created the surveys as logical starting points to this undertaking.

“First and foremost, we needed to know where people are right now in terms of their homiletic experiences on Sundays … both preacher and listener. It’s important to remember that there is a person at both ends of a homily – the one speaking and the one listening,” says Father Dailey.

The brief pastor survey opened first. It solicited pastors and parochial administrators for their recommendations on how to improve preaching.

“We wanted to know what they find most helpful in composing a homily, and what kind of future support would be most beneficial,” explained  Father Dailey. “The results reflect the real human side of a homilist…a man seeking to connect his flock with the Word every week. That’s easier said than done as demographics and needs continue to change.”

On the heels of the pastor survey, the parishioner survey sought to understand how those in the pew received homilies.

“We asked about a variety of features associated with compelling preaching.  Do homilies teach about God’s Word?  Do they inspire the hearts of believers? Do they move listeners to greater discipleship?  Do people remember what we say?,” Father Daily explained. “We needed to know ‘where we are’ to pinpoint a starting point, and now we have that.”

Currently, there are 214 parishes in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  Counting pastors and parochial vicars as well as resident and visiting priests, and deacons faithful in our local Church hear from approximately 1,000 different preachers! As Father Dailey sees it, “That’s a lot of speaking and listening going on every Sunday, not to mention daily Mass and Holy Days. It’s a treasured opportunity to bring people to Jesus that we should build upon.”

With the survey responses collected and collated, CPI has analyzed some telling results, mostly positive but always open to improvement. To that end, CPI has shifted its focus to the development of programs to help clergy through mentoring, collaboration, and aids such as a weekly Scripture commentary.

“The weekly commentaries are where both preachers and listeners will actively partake in this ‘homiletic revival’”, says Father Dailey. “Yes, we’ll provide scholarly perspectives, certainly. But just as importantly, we’ll have people in the pews offer their thoughts, impressions, and application of Scripture’s meanings to daily life.”

As the survey results show, both clergy and laity seek that connection of Scripture to “everyday life, ”the SEPTA commute, waiting out soccer practice, serving jury duty. To that, Father Dailey extends an open invitation to everyone in the Church of Philadelphia.

“If you have an interest in sharing these connective experiences – your personal insights and encounters with the Sunday readings – with our priests and deacons, we’d love to hear from you. And so would our preachers, who have asked for your feedback.”

The Catholic Preaching Institute is located at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. Visit CPI’s website for more information, including the survey reports, resources, and programs.