Young Preachers Conference

Mr Dennis Strach, CSC, Mr Tim Mouton, CSC, Mr Chase Pepper, CSC

By the time in the semester when Christmas vacation rolls around, I’m ready for a little R&R, as well as some time at home with my family. I really look forward to this special time of year when I have the chance to relive some of the meaningful holiday traditions that I grew up with. This year’s Christmas vacation was no different in this regard but it was certainly unique, as I was given a special gift that made this break extra meaningful.

Thanks to the support of the Marten Program in Homiletics and Liturgics at the University of Notre Dame and its director (and my homiletics professor!), Fr. Mike Connors, C.S.C., I was invited to preach at the National Academy of Preachers‘ 2014 National Festival of Young Preachers Conference held in Indianapolis, Indiana. There I not only learned more about some the elements that make up an effective homily, but also the significance of my own personal vocation as a preacher in light of my call to priesthood in the Congregation of Holy Cross.

Mr Dennis Strach, CSC

The Festival of Young Preachers is a trans-denominational event that seeks to support young people in their call to preach. Virtually every Christian tradition was represented as over one hundred fifteen preachers from all over the country gathered to share their reflections on Scripture passages that spoke to this year’s theme, “Questions of the Soul.” I chose to preach on the question St. Paul poses in Romans 8:35—What can separate us from the love of God? —and focused on God’s faithfulness as a reason for anchoring our hope in the Lord, especially during times of suffering. This is certainly a difficult message to hear (let alone preach!), but it is a message near and dear to those of us in Holy Cross who profess the cross as our only hope.

While it was certainly an honor and privilege to preach at this conference, it was equally enriching to listen to other young preachers share the message that God had put into their hearts. It struck me in a particular way that while each individual had their own unique style, there really was no one “right” way to preach. Rather, effectiveness seemed to be the result of preaching as one’s authentic self, and preaching humbly from a life experience rooted in a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ. I left the conference inspired to discover more about what it means to possess a vocation to preach.

Mr Chase Pepper, CSC

Those who preached at the conference (including my brother in Holy Cross, Chase Pepper, C.S.C.) were able to spend time together in small groups in order to share feedback and ideas. While the Christian traditions of participants varied, we found many similarities amongst our pastoral experiences related to preaching. Together we shared helpful resources, book recommendations, preparation and delivery methodologies, and even discussed “hot topics” in the field of homiletics (for example, the role of technology or the role of the congregation as it relates to homily preparation and feedback, etc.).

The National Festival of Young Preachers gave me the opportunity to experience the beauty in both the diverse and unitive aspects that exist within various branches of Christianity, and helped me begin to discover my own voice as a young preacher in the Catholic tradition. As I continue to work to incorporate the skills I have learned at the conference and in my homiletics classes, I hope to grow in my love of God’s Word in Sacred Scripture, and I pray that I might always be an open vessel through whom God can speak.
Note: Homilies from this year’s national conference, including those preached by Dennis Strach, C.S.C., and Chase Pepper, C.S.C., will be included in a book published by the National Academy of Preachers entitled, “Whispers in the Dark” (2014).

Mr Dennis Strach II, CSC

Mr. Dennis Strach, C.S.C., is in his second-year of Temporary Vows at Moreau Seminary,and he and his classmates are currently studying preaching and Homiletics as part of their theology studies. Dennis recently celebrated Christmas with his family in Rochester Hills, Mich.

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