“Take the news of the week and make it real. Connect it to the gospel. Every story is a Catholic story. Everything has a relationship to the Gospel, to our faith. Look for connections whenever you can. Make preaching real.”
-Deacon Greg Kandra
There is a frequently cited image of Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, holding a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.
The founder’s call to make the gospel relevant to the events of the day was echoed by Dn. Greg Kandra in his keynote address at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology’s Preaching Conference on January 9.
“Take the news of the week and make it real,” said Dn. Kandra. “Connect it to the gospel. Every story is a Catholic story. Everything has a relationship to the Gospel, to our faith. Look for connections whenever you can. Make preaching real.”
Dn. Kandra is the multimedia editor for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), a pontifical society founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926. Before joining CNEWA, Dn. Kandra spent nearly three decades in broadcast journalism working at programs such as 48 Hours, 60 Minutes, Sunday Morning and The CBS Evening News.
“Preaching the Good News in Times of Bad News and Fake News,” was the title of Dn. Kandra’s presentation. He began by reflecting on something that Don Hewitt, creator of 60 Minutes, said when asked about the success of the television show:
“Tell me a story.”
Storytelling, said Dn. Kandra, was the key to 60 Minutes’ success. It is also the key to giving a homily.
“We are a storytelling people,” he said. “It is in our DNA. It started in a cave and continues today on laptops at Starbucks. We want to pass on what we believe, what we have heard.
“And for over 2,000 years we have been telling the greatest story ever told. The question is, how can we do that more effectively in the 21st century?”
Regular Sunday Mass attendance is declining in the United States. “Yet 4,000 people came for Ash Wednesday at my parish in Queens,” he said. “People were lined up out to the street…
“Where are these people on Sunday? I don’t know, but it is obvious that they want to be a part of the story, our story. How do we keep them around the campfire? How do we help them to speak the story to others?”
In a time of “fake news” Dn. Kandra urged the priests and deacons to be witnesses of the truth. “Ask what the story is, what is happening and why it matters,” he said, telling the participants to look beyond the obvious and be reporters.
“As a preacher you must ask questions, work hard and think deeply about how the gospel is unfolding in the world.”
Most importantly, Dn. Kandra urged his listeners to share the most important story of all: the story of God’s love.
“We live in a fallen world and we are a fallen people,” he said. “Each of us has a story. People wonder if God is there with them in their stories. How can our Catholic faith respond to this? It’s easy to offer feel-good bromides. But what people want to know is that they aren’t alone, that God is with them, that the Church is with them, and that the person at the pulpit is with them…
“We must practice what we preach, we must convey God’s love to a broken world. We must love one another and assure people that God loves us too.
“Let us go out and tell our story!”
Following Dn. Kandra’s keynote address was a day of break-out sessions on topics such as “Preaching and Technology,” “Preaching Amid Controversy,” “Preaching in a mixed Anglo/Hispanic Parish,” “Avoiding Accidental Racism/Anti-Semitism from the Pulpit,” and “Preaching Hope through the Funeral Rites.”
Approximately 60 priests and deacons took part in the conference at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, an apostolate of the Priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians).