Courage to Preach

New School of Theology and Ministry program will help ministers draw on Scripture and Catholic Social Teachings to speak to contemporary social justice issues

The School of Theology and Ministry has launched a new program designed to equip lay and ordained ministers who work with young adults with the tools to connect their work with the contemporary issues of paramount concern to young people.

Courage to Preach is a six-credit post-master's certificate program that will provide training to help students read and interpret Scripture and use it as a foundation to preach on issues such as racial, economic, and environmental justice. The program will teach methods for preaching to and teaching diverse audiences and is especially attuned to the various opportunities, contexts, and media that can be most effective for reaching young adults.

Portrait of Jaime Waters, Assoc. Prof. Ecclesiastical Faculty (STM)

STM Associate Professor Jaime Waters directs the Courage to Preach program. (Lee Pellegrini)

“The STM is invested in helping to reach people in creative and innovative ways,” said Associate Professor Jaime Waters, program director for Courage to Preach. “This program offers ministers practical and thoughtful information, showing them how they might draw on the tradition to speak to contemporary issues, especially social justice concerns. Scripture and Catholic Social Teachings are great resources that can inspire people to be engaged in the world, and to be thoughtful about how they live.

“The program also presents an opportunity to explore how some concerns of today are not brand new, but are issues that people have been reflecting on and wrestling with in different ways and in different contexts,” she continued.

The certificate program is intended for those who already hold a master's degree in theology, education, or another relevant field, and is designed to provide students with critical and creative engagement with Scripture to enhance their preaching and public speaking skills.

Waters points out that for this program the definition of preaching and preachers is not limited to an ordained man delivering a homily from a pulpit.

“We want our students to see themselves as preachers—people who can read and think critically and proclaim a message that speaks to and inspires people,” said Waters. Many ministers are comfortable doing reflections or counseling, but preaching can be daunting, she said. For some, preaching can seem especially authoritative, exclusive, and requiring skills that not everyone feels like they possess.

“We hope this new program helps participants to have the courage to preach and integrate preaching into their ministry,” she said.

The Courage to Preach program is designed for a small cohort of students to complete in a hybrid format over the course of 12 months. Participants will come to campus for two summer sessions of coursework and complete a project and online module during the academic year. The STM will welcome the first Courage to Preach students this July.

“We want our students to see themselves as preachers—people who can read and think critically and proclaim a message that speaks to and inspires people."
JAIME WATERS, director of Courage to Preach

One of the summer courses, Scripture, Preaching, and Public Speaking, will focus on studying, analyzing, and preaching Scripture in ways that address issues of justice. Special attention will be given to prophetic literature, psalms, and gospels. This course will help participants hone practical and innovative skills, such as public speaking and the use of music and art to enhance preaching.

The other summer course, Preaching to Diverse Communities, will look at engaging diverse young adult communities in meaningful ways, such as through prayer and reflection.

During the academic year, the students will design a project or an activity, informed by and relevant to what they have learned over the summer, to be implemented at their home institution. Students also will take Preaching in Action, an online course that will explore effective preaching and communication in digital spaces.

“For this kind of program, it would be a huge miss if we didn't talk about digital spaces,” said Waters. “We're interested in reaching young adults, so you have to go where they are: online.”

The program will review ways that different organizations have embraced online, digital context as a way to convey messages to a wider audience. “We hope to build up students’ toolkit and digital competencies, so they can customize their messaging for their particular audience,” added Waters.

The STM Admissions Office will hold an online information session on Courage to Preach on February 14, from noon to 1 p.m. Waters will be available at the session to answer questions about the program.

The deadline for applications for Courage to Preach is April 15. For more information on the program, or to apply, visit the program's website.