Notre Dame Preaching Academy

"The homily can actually be an intense and happy experience of the Spirit, a consoling encounter with God’s word, a constant source of renewal and growth.” —Pope FrancisEvangelii Gaudium, #135.


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About the Preaching Academy Process

A One-Year Program: The University of Notre Dame, through the John S. Marten Program in Homiletics and Liturgics offers a one-year program for renewing Catholic preachers. With support from the Lilly Endowment of Indianapolis and the Marten family, the goal of "The Rev. William A. Toohey, C.S.C. Notre Dame Preaching Academy" is to help preachers to learn to bring their people into an encounter with the living God.

Pastoral Focus: Our focus is pastoral: we consistently ask, how can our preaching inspire our folks toward a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ? How can we help them to see the Holy Spirit moving in their lives? How can we guide our them toward discipleship and mission in everyday life?

Peer Learning Groups: At the core of this one-year program are peer learning groups. Priests or deacons come together monthly in an atmosphere of mutual support. They receive and give constructive feedback on their peer's homilies. The preachers study and discuss practical ways to grow in their preaching. The Preaching Academy provides curriculum resources, workshops, and three personal coaching opportunities.

Three Retreats: The program begins and ends on the Notre Dame campus in the summer, either at the biennial preaching conference or at the two-day summer retreat. In the middle of the one year program, there is a four-day winter preaching intensive in a warm and sunny place. (This has been consistently held at the Franciscan Retreat House in Tampa, Florida for the last three years.) 

Funding: To date, conference and retreat expenses are fully funded. Participants are expected to attend peer-learning group meetings, read the curriculum material, support and encourage their fellow priests, try some congregational assessment, and come to preaching conferences and retreats. We are grateful to the Lilly Endowment of Indianapolis and the Marten family for their support of this project.


Who is currently involved in this project?

The 2019 cohort which began in June of 2019 includes:

  • Archdiocese of Chicago, IL
  • Archdiocese of Newark, NJ
  • Archdiocese of New York City, NY
  • Diocese of Dallas, TX (piloting the program with a group of deacons for the first time)

The 2018 cohort who finished in June, 2019 included: 

  • Diocese of Dallas, TX
  • Diocese of Kalamazoo, MI
  • Diocese of Victoria, TX

See a list of past participants here.



Rev. Michael E. Connors, C.S.C., Director
Dr. Karla J. Bellinger, Associate Director 
The John S. Marten Program in Homiletics and Liturgics
Department of Theology, 234 Malloy Hall
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Indiana  46556-4619
Telephone: 574-631-3006 (Fr. Mike) or 574-631-2653 (Karla) 

Fr. William Toohey, C.S.C., was the first homiletics instructor at the University of Notre Dame. A renowned preacher and social activist, Father Toohey was the Director of Campus Ministry at Notre Dame from 1970 until his untimely death in 1980. The Preaching Academy is dedicated to his memory.