“During Sunday homilies I read the bulletin.”
I have heard that remark so often that I spend a lot of time preparing for Sunday Masses. Of course, I also have learned that when someone says “Great homily, Father,” it’s best not to ask “What did you like about it?” Many people are stumped by the question. Maybe they are just trying to be polite and did not actually find much inspiration in the homily.
Last year, Deacon David Shea, from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, completed a small booklet, entitled Unfulfilled in Their Hearing: Critical Issues in the Sunday Homily. The booklet presents the results of Shea’s research on how people in the pew feel about their experience with preachers in this archdiocese. Shea’s research was funded by a grant and utilized a local company in implementing the research and analyzing the results. Deacon Shea teaches homiletics at Cincinnati’s major seminary.
What I found most encouraging in Shea’s study is that the parishioners who took part in the survey listen quite critically and intently to what the preacher has to say.
In fact, 49% would be willing to help improve preaching by donating their time and talent in a variety of projects–from improving the church’s sound system to taking part in homily planning and feedback groups. The critical issues Shea identifies are the things that people think most important that are not delivered in the homilies.
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