Lilly Endowment grants millions to Catholic organizations to strengthen preaching

2 mins read

(OSV News) — St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has received the largest single programming grant from a charitable foundation in its more than 190-year history as Lilly Endowment awarded $1.2 million to establish programs to improve preaching by clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The Indianapolis-based foundation announced the award Sept. 27 in the second year of its Compelling Preaching Initiative. It made 81 grants ranging from $250,000 to $1.25 million to churches, universities and organizations representing a broad base of Christian faith traditions around the United States. The total amount of these grants was more than $95 million.

St. Charles was the only Catholic seminary in the country to receive a grant from the foundation this year.

The other Catholic recipients and the grant amounts they received are: Archdiocese of Los Angeles, $1.25 million; Catholic Extension, Chicago, $750,000; Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, just under $1.25 million; The Catholic University of America, Washington, just under $1.13 million; Corazón Puro, formed under the guidance of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, Bronx, New York, $1.25 million; Marian University, Indianapolis, just under $1.17 million; St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota, $1.25 million; Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey, $1.25 million; and St. Thomas More Catholic Community, St. Paul, Minnesota, $1.25 million.

Plans for grant at seminary

Lilly Endowment’s initiative intends to help Christian pastors — including Catholic priests and deacons — to proclaim the Gospel “in more engaging and effective ways” and “support preaching that inspires, encourages and guides people to come to know and love God and to live out their Christian faith more fully,” according to information from the foundation.

“Throughout history, preachers often have needed to adapt their preaching practices to engage new generations of hearers more effectively,” Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion, said in a statement. “We are pleased that the organizations receiving grants in this initiative will help pastors and others in ministry engage in the kinds of preaching needed today to ensure that the Gospel message is heard and accessible for all audiences.”

Thanks to the five-year grant, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary will establish a Catholic Preaching Institute to develop programs that, according to seminary officials, will help parishioners better appreciate the Word of God and enable clergy to prepare and deliver “more impactful” homilies.

Among its planned activities, the institute will conduct yearlong mentoring programs in which teams of “master preachers” and lay evaluators work directly with priests and deacons to help them improve their craft, according to the seminary.

As St. Charles Borromeo Seminary prepares to relocate from its Wynnewood campus to Upper Gwynedd in 2024, the new institute will represent “an exciting new venture in the continuing formation of seminarians and ordained clergy,” said Father Keith Chylinski, the seminary’s rector, in a statement. “Through its innovative work, we hope to spark a homiletic revival that benefits the spiritual life of all the faithful whom we serve.”

Strong preaching

Catholic parishioners consistently indicate in surveys that the most important elements to attract people to the celebration of Mass are liturgical music, a welcoming community and strong preaching.

Daniel Cellucci, CEO of the Catholic Leadership Institute, said research by his organization with numerous dioceses and parishes in the U.S. “shows that preaching that connects Scripture to everyday life is a critical driver in a parish’s spiritual health.”

“We also know that people in the pews want more, they need more, and they deserve more. This innovative institute will better prepare priests to meet those needs,” he told, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The work of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary’s Catholic Preaching Institute will begin next year and will be directed by the seminary’s Cardinal Foley Chair of Homiletics and Social Communications, currently held by Father Thomas Dailey, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales.

Initially the institute will collect information through surveys of archdiocesan parishioners about elements of compelling preaching, and clergy who are preaching well.

Following this research period, six activities of the institute, as described in the grant application, will be offered, including a weekly commentary series on the Sunday Scripture readings; a 12-part video series on elements of compelling preaching, designed for clergy serving in parish ministry; and a yearlong mentoring program for those priests and deacons who wish to become better preachers.

Matthew Gambino writes for, the online news outlet of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

OSV News

OSV News is a national and international wire service reporting on Catholic issues and issues that affect Catholics.