The McGrath Institute for Church Life Receives $1 Million Grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc. to Establish Compelling Preaching Program

Author: Margaret Scroope

Compelling Preaching Program Established

Notre Dame, IN – The McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame has received a $1 million implementation grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish a three-year program titled Savoring the Mystery: Catholic Preaching in an Age of Disaffiliation. This initiative, based out of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy at the McGrath Institute, proposes a renewal of Roman Catholic preaching.

Through a team-based cohort approach, 10 diverse cohorts of 20 Catholic leaders from across the United States will take part in a two-year formation process. These groupings will consist of one clergy member and one lay staff member and will focus on mediating an encounter with Jesus Christ through Scripture and preaching. In the third year of the program, McGrath staff will work with a select group of these participants to create digital courses and other resources to expand the impact of the formation process to the wider U.S. Church. 

“This program perfectly aligns with our mission to connect the intellectual resources of the University of Notre Dame to the daily pastoral challenges facing today’s Catholics leaders. It is clear, based on all sociological studies, that poverty in Catholic preaching is a major obstacle to the flourishing of Church life in our day,” says Timothy O’Malley, Ph.D., Associate Professor of the Practice, and Academic Director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy at the McGrath Institute for Church Life. “This generous grant will allow us to foster compelling preaching that resonates with U.S. Catholics experiencing the effects of disaffiliation. We hope to create a preaching culture of affiliation.” 

The effort is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Compelling Preaching Initiative. The McGrath Institute is one of 32 organizations receiving funding in an invitational round of grants for the initiative, which is designed to help Christian pastors strengthen their abilities to proclaim the Gospel in more engaging and effective ways.

“Through the richness of this program, we will be able to contribute to the formation of faithful Catholic leaders, and inspire a renewed Catholic imagination promoting the liturgical renewal of the church,” adds John C. Cavadini, Ph.D., McGrath-Cavadini Director, McGrath Institute for Church Life. 

“We are excited about the work that these organizations will do to foster and support preaching that better inspires, encourages and guides people to come to know and love God and to live out their Christian faith more fully,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion.  “Their programs will serve a significant number of aspiring and current preachers who are working to reach and engage increasingly diverse audiences both within and beyond congregations.”

The Compelling Preaching Initiative is part of the Endowment’s longstanding interest in supporting projects that help to nurture the religious lives of individuals and families and foster the growth and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States.

About Lilly Endowment
Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. The principal aim of the Endowment’s religion grantmaking is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen the pastoral and lay leadership of Christian communities. In addition, the Endowment also seeks to improve public understanding of diverse religious traditions by supporting fair and accurate portrayals of the role religion plays in the United States and across the globe.

About the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame
The McGrath Institute for Church Life partners with Catholic dioceses, parishes, and schools to address pastoral challenges with theological depth and rigor. By connecting the Catholic intellectual life to the life of the Church, we form faithful Catholic leaders for service to the Church and the world.

Contact: Maggie Scroope, Program Director of Communications, McGrath Institute for Church Life, 574-631-0153,

Originally published by Margaret Scroope at on March 13, 2023.