Aquinas Institute of Theology

FAITH AND FACEBOOK: EVANGELIZING A RURAL PARISH COMMUNITY IN SOUTHEAST MISSOURI

Author
DOMINIC OKON IBOK D.Min.
Abstract
In Southeast Missouri, where Catholics are a minority, the challenge of diminishing participation and reduced membership requires an intentional engagement of the inactive members and the unaffiliated within the community. Unfortunately, many members of the laity do not have the awareness or skills to evangelize. In a rural community, the challenges seem more significant due to limited personnel and resources. This thesis project aims to equip the laity with the skills and tools to evangelize inactive Catholics and the unaffiliated. It will involve growing in prayer, study, generosity, evangelization, and the discernment of their charisms. With the benefit of social media engagement like Facebook live stream, an opportunity to engage and evangelize is available for our rural parish community. The resources from experienced lay evangelists in evangelization and social media engagement will provide a template that can enhance the development of a program on evangelization for my rural parish community. To test the effectiveness of these resources, seventeen participants engaged in a nine-week program to learn how prayer, study, generosity, evangelization, the discernment of their charisms, and teamwork can prepare them for evangelization. This thesis engaged the inactive Catholics and the unaffiliated in rural Southeast Missouri by using Facebook live stream as an evangelization tool. The focus of this project is thus reminding active Catholics of their responsibility to evangelize and how utilizing a familiar social media portal like Facebook can enhance the process even in a rural community.

FORMING NIGERIAN VINCENTIAN PRIESTS TO PREACH IN MULTICULTURAL SETTINGS

Author
Linus Aniekan Umoren C.M. D.Min.
Abstract
Before the Second Vatican Council, it was commonplace to think that the new churches in Africa, Asia, and Latin America were pastoral communities. However, following the missiological breakthrough of the Second Vatican Council, the Church of Christ, which is by nature missionary, is fully present in all legitimate local assemblies united with their pastors. Today, Africa, Asia, and Latin America have the largest Christian communities and produce an increasing number of missionaries. Nevertheless, the contemporary global migration and the resulting multicultural societies challenge the priestly formation of these new missionaries.
To confront this contemporary challenge, the Congregation of the mission (The Vincentians), Province of Nigeria realizes the need to develop a formation curriculum that emphasizes the overall human development of the candidates for the priesthood and ensuring that preaching and mission in multicultural settings is a priority.
Therefore, this study undertakes an examination of the current formation curriculum concerning how it promotes the self-awareness of the missionaries and their ability to understand cultural differences. It examines postcolonial theories regarding the self-awareness of priests. Furthermore, it studies narrative preaching to the extent that it benefits multicultural preaching.
Moreover, the research establishes that adequate preparation for multicultural preaching needs a reframing of the Vincentian formation. This process will ultimately link the human formation of the priests to the missiological purpose of preaching in multicultural settings.
Consequently, this study recommends rethinking the formation program and the formation faculty. It provides a framework and practical suggestions for an extended and improved curriculum in forming the Nigerian Vincentian priests.

THEOLOGICAL REFLECTION: A PREACHING PREPARATION TOOL FOR DEACON FORMATION IN THE ARCHDIOCESE OF SEATTLE

Author
William W. Eckert D.Min.
Abstract
THEOLOGICAL REFLECTION:
A PREACHING PREPARATION TOOL FOR DEACON FORMATION
IN THE ARCHDIOCESE OF SEATTLE

Eckert, William W., MAPS, DMin, Aquinas Institute of Theology, Saint Louis, Missouri, 2021.
Chapter One begins to address an issue with preaching that does not fully integrate the experiences of the community with the Word of God. The chapter covers a brief overview of liturgical preaching, the problem with creating grounded preaching, and the unique qualities of deacons as liturgical preachers in addressing this problem with the guidance of theological reflection.

Chapter Two introduces theological reflection as practical theology and a preaching preparation tool that encourages a dialogue between human experience and Church Traditions (Sacred Scripture, liturgy, beliefs, and teachings).

Chapter Three offers adult education and curriculum development to teach theological reflection as an effective tool of preaching preparation.

Chapter Four explores the current state of preaching within the Archdiocese of Seattle. It includes a summary of conversations with the homiletics and theological reflection instructors in the current deacon formation program. Then, the chapter presents the heart of the project: creating a new unit for the homiletics curriculum in the deacon formation program in collaboration with a small cohort of diocesan deacons.

Chapter Five presents the final version of the new unit for the homiletics program, which was presented to the Archdiocese of Seattle (the Vicar of Clergy, the Director of the Deacon Formation Program, and the homiletics instructor).

SACRAMENTAL IMAGINATION: A LUTHERAN APPROACH TO THE ANALOGICAL/DIALECTICAL DIVIDE IN PREACHING

Author
Todd Arthur Peperkorn D.Min.
Abstract
This thesis answers the question of whether there can be a Lutheran sacramental imagination for preaching. It begins with an overview of the history of preaching in The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS), especially since the move into English in the 1920s. This history traces how the LCMS has largely adopted the New Homiletic, but has not reflected critically on how its own theological hermeneutic integrates with the New Homiletic, and what relationship this may have to sacramental preaching.

Beginning with definitions of a dialectic imagination and a sacramental/ analogical imagination from David Tracy and Mary Catherine Hilkert, it examines the roots of the sacramental imagination in the works of Edward Schillebeeckx, particularly his early book, Christ the Sacrament of the Encounter with God. It then compares this with the writings of Richard Eslinger, Hans Boersma, and Graham Hughes.

Next the thesis attempts to reconcile a sacramental imagination with a Lutheran hermeneutic. The most successful attempt for this has been in the writing and work of Lutheran Gordon Lathrop. While there are some concerns regarding a dialectic counterbalance, a Lutheran sacramental imagination that takes both the distinction of Law and Gospel and the place of grace begins to emerge.

The ministerial intervention was a seminar for a group of pastors from the LCMS. It involved questionnaires, sermons, and interviews both before and after the seminar. The seminar included modeling sacramental preaching and taught the practice of “Preaching Partners” as a way of connecting the preacher to the the congregation.

It concludes by determining that more work needs to be done on defining a Lutheran sacramental imagination, that Preaching Partners is an excellent method for building both pastoral relationships and in creating a collaborative spirit in preaching, and that Lutherans will benefit from more interaction with non-Lutheran preaching and scholarship.

THE ROLE OF PREACHING
IN THE CATECHESIS OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD:
AN INVESTIGATION INTO USING BEST PRACTICES OF PREACHING
FOR THE FORMATION OF ADULTS
IN THE CATECHESIS OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD CONTEXT

Author
Deborah Ruth Zeni MD D.Min.
Abstract
This thesis research work on best practices of preaching arose out of the researcher’s passion for providing catechists with the means of nurturing a ‘falling-in-love’ with God experience for young children through proclaiming gospel as encounter.
Based on evidence that catechists lack formation in best practices of preaching, the researcher designed and implemented an educational initiative in a multi-site, multi-participant intensive formation program. The researcher used a homiletic grounded in the Paschal Mystery, which located God’s gratuitous and gracious actions on humanity’s behalf as the focus of preaching—giving gospel-power—to any form of preaching carried out during the study.
Within a unique form of pastoral ministry called the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS), employing a qualitative methodology, a constructivist epistemology, and a field-based action research design, the researcher effectively utilized various educational approaches to develop and assess participant competence in preaching using a comprehensive assessment program, and iteratively improving their learning and teaching preaching praxis using program evaluation tools.
The research shows that the curriculum successfully demonstrated that the comprehensive preaching model, which integrated five best practices of preaching for proclaiming the Word with children into the study’s conceptual framework, worked to develop the competence of catechists as preachers of the Good News. Additionally, the research showed that the intervention enabled and empowered the participants to find their preaching voice to speak of God acting mercifully, giving everything, loving unconditionally in the here and now as they experienced God doing in the scriptures.
As such, five best practices of preaching can be used as an effective framework for formation of catechists and educators for teaching preaching as encounter with children and sharing in a happening of grace through the proclamation of the Word.

Preaching the Gospel with their Lives: A Call and Responsibility of Catholic Married Couples

Author
Karen Eileen Seaborn D.Min.
Abstract
Vatican Council II expands the theology of marriage beyond that of procreation and education of children to include bearing witness to Christ in the world. In professing and living their marriage vows, Christian married couples proclaim Christ’s love in word and action—for each other and the church and the world. This study provides the theological foundation for marriage as one of the seven ritualized sacraments in the Catholic Church. It draws on the Christ/church/sacrament model espoused by Vatican II theologians showing Christian husbands and wives to be the efficacious word of God spoken to each other and the church and world. It explores the church's evolving theology of marriage by surveying civil and liturgical rites of marriage from the church’s beginning to present time.
This thesis connects the married couple’s call to bear witness with the church’s preaching mission by attending to Scripture, church teaching, and preachers to show that husbands and wives who faithfully live their marriage vows through the entirety of their lives together, preach the kingdom of God in word and action from the pulpit of their everyday lives. It gathers wisdom from the discipline of marriage and family counseling, attends to practices that assist married couples to be more efficacious preachers of Christ’s love and notes destructive communication patterns that cause them to be countersign of Christ’s love. A description of the ministerial intervention is provided: a day of reflection, formation, and conversation for newly married couples based on the Rite of Marriage. It includes a compilation and analysis of data from three participant questionnaires: pre-workshop, end-of-workshop-day, and thirty days later. The thesis concludes by establishing why this study matters to the church and offers possible next steps for the future of this study.

UNBOUND ON THE SABBATH: PREACHING ABOUT SEXUAL ABUSE FOR ENLIGHTENMENT OF CONGREGATIONS AND HOPE FOR THE INJURED

Abstract
ABSTRACT

UNBOUND ON THE SABBATH:
PREACHING ABOUT SEXUAL ABUSE FOR ENLIGHTENMENT OF CONGREGATIONS AND HOPE FOR THE INJURED

Gilson, Christine M., M.S., M.Div., D.Min. Aquinas Institute of Theology, Saint Louis, Missouri, 2021.

Sexual Abuse is neither new nor limited to the current century. Interest in the efficacy of preaching about sexual abuse to enlighten congregational listeners and to convey the healing message of the Gospel has evolved alongside church educational programs designed to prevent sexual abuse in churches.

This thesis project helped a small group of preachers learn to preach about sexual abuse to their own congregations. It asks what the effects on listeners are when they hear such sermons and on preachers when they preach them.

Chapter One provides background for preaching about sexual abuse, describes the reasons for the project, and discusses published resources that advocate for such preaching. The chapter concludes that such preaching is appropriate.

Chapter Two integrates the scriptural, theological, and homiletical foundations of preaching. Both the healing texts of the Gospels, and some of the dark texts of sexual abuse and sexual violence are considered.

Chapter Three considers sexual abuse in its the social and cultural environment. It helps preachers understand what is going on in the world outside the church so they can bridge from there to the world of the Gospel. It also describes ways in which churches and clergy have used scripture to harm victims of sexual abuse.

Chapter Four describes the ministerial intervention by four preachers. It describes how the preachers were selected, how surveys for the preachers and their listeners were constructed and used, and the formation of congregation focus groups. Brief demographic data of the congregations involved and of the cities in which they were located was provided.

Chapter Five describes the findings from the surveys, workshops, and focus groups, and interprets them in the context of the thesis project. It contains the author’s conclusions, observations of shortcomings in the research, and looks ahead to other possible research.

CONNOISSEURSHIP: USING ADULT LEARNING TO ENGAGE PREACHING IN DEACON FORMATION

Abstract
This thesis project offers a reflective practice-based learning tool to engage preaching experience—from the hearing side of the event—early in diaconal formation to build connoisseurship of effective preaching as the logical prerequisite to engaging the event as preacher.

Chapter One proposes connoisseurship as a fruitful metaphor for building an appreciation for what makes for effective and transformative preaching with its slow, steady, and ongoing practice of tasting and reflecting.

Chapter Two invites adult learning theory—and the burgeoning field of transformative learning theory born of it—into the conversation to inform both the structure and content of the reflective practice pages that are the building blocks of the thesis project intervention. In conversation with the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States, the chapter offers a preliminary list of key principles salient to the pedagogical design of the project intervention.

Chapter Three brings in the lens of practical theology with its consistent starting point in everyday lived practice and experience to sharpen the focus toward the deep faith context of this thesis project. The faith practices of preaching within the context of Eucharist and teaching preaching within the context of a deacon formation program suggest additional site-specific pedagogical concerns. The elements of a site-specific instructional design are now in place.

Chapter Four details the thesis project learning intervention. The chapter outlines the purpose and process of the preparatory research that resulted in the project catalogue of characteristics and quotations, and it provides a thick description of diaconal formation in the Diocese of Evansville, with special attention to the role of Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, Evansville’s partner in diaconal formation. An annotated example of a weekly reflective practice page and an analysis of its components relative to the site-specific pedagogical principles proposed in Chapter Three completes the chapter.

Chapter Five presents and analyzes the qualitative data collected over the twenty-three weeks of the project with respect to both aggregate and individual participant trajectories toward connoisseurship of effective preaching. The chapter observes and interprets four consistent themes, notes limitations, offers recommendations for further research, and imagines next steps.

Can You Hear Me Now?: Preaching for Adolescents

Abstract
Adolescents are the vigor of the Church today and the hope of the Church tomorrow. Young people in the world and in the Church are full of potential, and it is incumbent upon preachers to harness that potential through their preaching. Unfortunately, many adolescents find contemporary sermons laborious and irrelevant. Young people are in a constant state of flux due to the physiological, neurological, psychological, and spiritual changes taking place in adolescence. Those in the thick of this period of tumultuous development desire, and deserve, to be heard by their parents, their teachers, and especially their priests or ministers—and to receive engaging, pertinent homilies.

This thesis aims to equip preachers with five principles of preaching for adolescents: Authenticity, Directness, Engagement, Relevance, and Relationality. These principles are based on the current scientific research of adolescent brain development, psychosocial theories, and spiritual development as well as the responses of actual adolescents who participated in eight Adolescent Focus Group Interviews concerning their real-life experiences of preaching.

To test the effectiveness of these five principles of preaching, four priests engaged in a process of self-reflection and homily evaluation. They responded to a self-inventory on their understanding of preaching for adolescents, and they also preached homilies which were evaluated by adolescents. In addition to the self-inventories and homily evaluations, the priests attended three workshops on those five principles of preaching for adolescents. The results of the priests’ self-inventories and the adolescent homily evaluations demonstrated that the adolescent evaluators responded positively to the priests’ implementation of Authenticity, Directness, Engagement, Relevance, and Relationality. These results suggest that the five principles of preaching for adolescents are effective means of improving preaching for young people in the Church today by addressing their developmental needs.

Preaching the Gospel Anew: Forming Redemptorist Students for the Ministry of Prophetic Preaching

Author
Peter Davidson Hill D.Min.
Abstract
Prophetic preaching is essential to the life of the Church and in the life of the Redemptorists, who are called to preach the Good News to the abandoned, especially the poor. It is established that prophetic preaching is challenging and many preachers are hesitant to preach a prophetic message. This thesis examines the history of prophetic preaching, with particular attention to the Old Testament prophets and the work of Frank Thomas. In conversations with Redemptorist preachers and leaders, this thesis proposes effective ways through which Redemptorist students can be formed for the mission as prophetic preachers of the Good News to the abandoned, especially the poor. Through questionnaires and sample homilies by twelve Redemptorists, I have concluded that Redemptorists do preach prophetically and that the practice of training men to preach prophetically must be part of the formal training. To this end, a course in prophetic preaching is to be developed for the training of Redemptorist seminarians for the ministry of prophetic preaching.
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