Women proclaim the word – what’s happening in one German diocese.

The German diocese of Osnabrück has prepared a special Women Preaching event (13-17 September 2020). The diocese has prepared a series of videos to help prepare women to preach. The Bishop of Osnabrück Franz-Josef Bode is the chair of the German Synodal Path’s ‘Women’s Forum’.

Colm Holmes from We Are Church has forwarded the link below (in German) and the article translated into English following.


Women proclaim the word

From September 13 to 20, 2020, the week of action “Women proclaim the word” will take place as part of the international year of the Bible proclaimed by Pope Francis. Women in the field service? Inga Schmitt is a consultant in the field of faith communication for the Diocese of Osnabrück. In an interview, she explains what the action week has to do with the “Church of Participation”, what goal it pursues and why it is not so natural that it takes place.

Women proclaim the word – in other Christian denominations, women preaching are part of everyday life in worship. Saint Hildegard von Bingen, the patroness of the campaign, also preached in the Middle Ages. What is special about this initiative?

In the Catholic Church, certain tasks are officially only assigned to certain people. This particularly applies to the ministry at Mass. According to canon law, only consecrated persons, i.e. priests and deacons, are allowed to preach in worship, all others are not. The background is that the divine service should be seen as a unity and the priest who presides over the divine service assumes the entire responsibility for this unity and thus also for the interpretation of the word of God.

If preaching is actually forbidden to non-consecrated people, why is this action taking place now?

The Catholic Church does not generally say that preaching is forbidden, but only specifically in the context of mass. Otherwise, of course, every baptized and confirmed person is called to bear testimony. We think that we now have to widen the framework a little so that women in particular with their charisms can be seen and heard even more strongly than before in the liturgy and preaching. 2020 is the international year of the Bible and in this context, at the federal level in the Bishops’ Conference and in the Catholic Bible work, what can be done about it was considered. Somewhere between the women’s pastoral care and the pastoral commission, the idea arose to focus on the field service. Our bishop was thrilled with the idea. Preaching has a lot to do with the Bible and interpreting the Word of God is a very large part of the worship service. We picked up the thread because it suited our strategy so well Church of participation in the Diocese of Osnabrück fits.

What exactly can one imagine by “women proclaim the word”?

At the federal level, women’s pastoral care has invited women to submit sermons that will be used to create a book. In our diocese we have agreed that it should not just be about submitting documents, but about making women visible in worship. And also on behalf of all other non-consecrated. It is not enough to just give testimony in a family context or at work. This must also be done actively when we are celebrating worship.

So what is the specific aim of the campaign for you?

Our goal is that baptized and confirmed people can actively contribute their experience of life and faith in the divine service within the framework of the preaching. In Germany, a wide variety of women and men are involved in shaping our society. We would like to make this fruitful for the church and give non-consecrated people the opportunity to bring their talents to the service. In our innermost core we are convinced that God wants to go a way with us and shape life with us for a better one. And we believe that we can only do this in the long term if we also involve non-consecrated people in church and give others the opportunity to learn from their experiences.


As part of the week of action “Women proclaim the word” women are invited to proclaim and interpret the word of God. The initiative’s patron is the medieval church teacher and visionary Hildegard von Bingen. Around their commemoration day, September 17th, volunteer and full-time committed women will preach about God’s word in the church services in the Diocese of Osnabrück. All dates and further information can be found here: http://www.bistum.net/fvdw2020

Pope Francis recently recalled that the word of God can only be proclaimed by consecrated people. Nevertheless, this action takes place in the Diocese of Osnabrück … 

Yes and that is by no means a given! There are not many bodies in Germany that have taken up the campaign as we have. Our commitment is clearly due to our bishop, who was so enthusiastic about the idea last autumn and for whom a church of participation is very important. He sees a great opportunity in this to be able to bring the Catholic faith to men and women in Germany. If that is our goal, we need to keep that in mind. We want to bear testimony and proclaim the word of God. We can only achieve our goal in Germany if we involve a wide variety of men and women and let them talk about what moves them.

Can the action be seen to some extent as a rebellion on a small scale?

We are not interested in rebelling against fixed things like the organization of services. Rather, we see it as a clear option for how the consecrated person can take responsibility for the organization of the worship service and the word of God. If a priest allows a woman to minister in his worship service, the priest continues to have primary responsibility for the worship service. The task of preaching is also to make the word of God fruitful for the present day and that can take place in very different forms. We are many and there are many different life experiences. A priest or deacon can do this in his own way, with his speech and out of his life experience. But sometimes other contributions from other life experiences and perspectives are also needed, to make the word of God fruitful for other people. In this way the consecrated person continues to take responsibility for the word of God in his worship service, only by making it possible to bring other perspectives into the worship service in addition to his own perspective.

How is the action week in September in the Diocese of Osnabrück?

We invited women to go out and write sermons. We have also developed a small sermon workshop as online training , where women and other interested parties can learn how to do it best. The bishop wrote to the pastors of the parishes and asked them to make it possible for the women to appear in front of the parish in their church during the week of action and to preach the word of God from there and to interpret it from their point of view.

What kind of women are they who will preach in September?

They are very different women with different experiences. On the one hand, they are full-time parish and pastoral officers, but also women who are volunteers, e.g. from the kfd. Some of them are already doing liturgical services and are trained to lead liturgical services. Others were curious and just wanted to try it out.

How can women participate who are now interested in the action?

Any woman who wants to participate can contact her parish council or pastoral team directly. If there are difficulties on site, we support interested women with the arrangements and the organization. It is very important to us that the articles have a certain quality. In preparation, all those interested have  access to documents from the small sermon workshop on the Internet. This includes materials on various Bible passages as well as several video lectures by Brother Franz, who is accompanying the action. At the end of the day, worshipers should go home feeling good and ask themselves why women don’t preach more often.

What the action week has to do with a women’s quota for the church and why as many women as possible should take part in “Women preach the word”, more on this in this video:



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