Dominicans Request Synod to Consider Lay Preaching at Eucharist

For 6 April 2024, , based on

Twenty-seven preachers and theologians from North America, Europe, and Asia met at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis this March 11–14 for a synodal symposium on “The Pastoral Charge for Lay Catholic Eucharistic Preaching.” The group has formally submitted its recommendations about lay preaching at Mass to the US Bishops and to the Synod on Synodality in Rome and its recently formed study group on “theological and canonical questions concerning specific forms of ministries.”

The symposium participants propose a change in canon law to allow qualified lay preachers to preach the homily at Mass. The group also recommends that the Church expand the instituted ministries of Lector and Catechist or institute a new ministry of Lay Preacher to allow for lay preaching at Mass.

Here is their proposal:

A Proposal for Lay Eucharistic Preaching to Further a Synodal Church in Mission

As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another
as good stewards of God’s varied grace (1 Peter 4:10).

Part I. Our Work: Connecting Lay Preaching at the Eucharist to Synodality and Mission

The Dominican Preaching Network—a collaboration of three Dominican schools of preaching in the United States, Germany, and the Philippines—convened twenty-seven scholars and practitioners of preaching from March 11–14, 2024, to reflect on the guiding principle of “a synodal Church in mission” through the lens of lay Eucharistic preaching. We conducted our work attending to synodal documents, specifically commissioned scholarly papers, listening and discussion sessions, panel presentations, and thematic analysis, all situated within a synodal listening process. We prayed together. We asked the Spirit’s help. As a community, we now share the fruits of our discernment and submit them for further discernment by the Synod in October 2024 and the Synod’s study group on “theological and canonical questions concerning specific forms of ministries.”

Many lay ecclesial ministers discern a call from God and receive theological and ministerial training and formation to preach. Canon law permits lay preaching and yet restricts lay ecclesial ministers from receiving an ecclesial commission to preach the homily at Mass. We gathered as a group of theologians, ecclesiologists, preachers, and a canonist to consider this obstacle to lay preaching at Mass. Responding to the Synod’s question about our Catholic identity as a synodal Church in mission, we now offer a constructive homiletic and ecclesiological appeal to charge or commission a more extensive and diverse pool of qualified lay preachers and evangelists to preach the Word of God at the Eucharist.

Part II. Convergences: Co-responsibility for the Ministry of the Word

We discovered among ourselves a remarkable number of places of deep agreement:

  • The vocation of the baptized includes a share in the prophetic office of Christ; this office includes the proclamation of the Word.
  • Within the Eucharistic celebration, an essential moment is the Liturgy of the Word: readings, Gospel proclamation, and homily. The Word arises within the gathered community, and the People of God hunger for both Eucharist and Word.
  • That the gathered Assembly might attend ever more fully to God’s Living Word made present in a liturgical communion between God and God’s People in the Liturgy of the Word, the Church calls forth prepared liturgical ministers of the Word from within the Assembly—Lectors, Cantors, Catechists, and Preachers.
  • The Eucharist, the source and summit of our life in Christ, is a synodal act. Therefore, the Church must listen to the voice of the Spirit and discern the many charisms for preaching in the community, given by the Spirit for the benefit of the Church to nourish those gathered at the Eucharistic table more fully.
  • The task of the synodal Church is to listen humbly, speak boldly, and dialogue attentively, conscious that the Spirit gives multiple gifts/charisms for Eucharistic preaching. If the Church does not make efforts to discern charisms among the baptized, it cannot live fully its synodal identity.
  • The Spirit is at work in preaching by diverse lay and ordained people from the centers and the margins, reflecting the variety of languages in gender, ethnicity, age, race, social class, sexuality, geography, and cultures. We see the fruit already in diverse contexts, including churches and oratories; Eucharistic preaching is another appropriate context.
  • The Church continues to experience an urgent and long-identified need for more effective proclamation of the Word and for preaching that reflects intercultural competence.

Part III. Our Proposals

  1. Rather than waiting for a complete revision of canon law, we propose to address the question of lay Eucharistic preaching canonically by an amendment to Canon 767 §1, to read as follows:

Can. 767 §1. Among the forms of preaching, the homily is distinguished by its placement within the Eucharistic celebration. In addition to concelebrating priests or deacons, properly prepared laity may be admitted to preach the homily, in accordance with the prescriptions of the Conference of Bishops.

  1. In view of Item 1 above, we propose expanding the use of installed ministries, such as Lector, Catechist, or a newly instituted ministry of Lay Preacher. We believe that local communities need to call forth persons who might discern the preaching charism and receive formation to exercise this ministry in their Eucharistic Assemblies. Our ancient tradition records a lay ministry of Teacher or Reader that included proclaiming the Word and expounding on the Word in the liturgy (The Apostolic Traditionand the Canons of Athanasius). This tradition can be restored by enriching the currently instituted ministries of Lector and Catechist to include preaching and by instituting a new ministry of Lay Preacher. Pope Paul VI recovered the tradition of lay liturgical ministries by establishing the instituted ministries of Lector and Acolyte. Pope Francis further revitalized these ministries by opening them to women, instituting the ministry of Catechist, and calling for further development of lay ministries in local churches.

Liturgically, our proposals hold a promise to expand the theological understanding and ministerial reality of lay preaching at Eucharist; theologically, we invite a grounding away from the distinction between clergy and laity toward the relationships of community and ministry. Ecclesially, we seek a Church in which the baptismal call of every believer, given by the Spirit for the benefit of the Church, will be more fully realized, including the ministry of the layperson as preacher at Eucharist. Therefore, we submit our work to the Synod and its Ministries Study Group for further discernment, and we offer to assist in providing our theological study.


Submitted by Gregory Heille, OP, convener of the Symposium on the Pastoral Charge for Lay Eucharistic Preaching in the Catholic Church (, +1-314-256-8881)

Maxime Allard, OP, PhD, Dominican University College; Kayla August, MPS, Boston College; Kerstin-Marie Berretz, OP, DMin,  Institut für Pastoralhomiletik; Mary Erika Bolaños, PhD, University of Santo Tomas; Wayne Cavalier, OP, PhD, Congar Institute for Ministry Development; Nathan Chase, PhD, Aquinas Institute of Theology; Elizabeth Donnelly, MTS, Catholic Women Preach; Megan Effron, MDiv, University of Notre Dame; Tom Esselman, CM, PhD, Vincentians Western Province; Sara Fairbanks, OP, PhD, Aquinas Institute of Theology; Ann Garrido, DMin, Aquinas Institute of Theology; Edward P. Hahnenberg, PhD, John Carroll University; Gregory Heille, OP,  DMin, Aquinas Institute of Theology; Ruth Anne Henderson, OP, MA, European Lay Dominicans; Mary Catherine Hilkert, OP, PhD, University of Notre Dame; Layla Karst, PhD, Loyola Marymount University; Martin Madar, PhD, Xavier University; Megan McElroy, OP, DMin,  Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids; Maurice Nutt, CSsR, DMin,  Aquinas Institute of Theology; F. Javier Orozco, PhD, Aquinas Institute of Theology; Barbara Reid, OP, PhD, Catholic Theological Union; Theresa Rickard, OP, DMin, Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt; Elissa Rinere, CP, JCD, Canonical Consultant; Casey Stanton, MDiv, Discerning Deacons; Mark Wedig, OP, PhD, Aquinas Institute of Theology; Deborah Wilhelm, DMin, Aquinas Institute of Theology; Carolyn Wright, DMin, Aquinas Institute of Theology

Scripture passage from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright 1989, 1993, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.