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Preaching the Just Word

Program Overview

The heart of preaching is the sharing of faith among the preacher and the community. Over time, the mutual sharing among preacher and congregation, the experiencing of the same joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties, struggling and celebrating, forms a context in which the Word of God is pondered.  In that contemplation where the seed meets the fertile soil, comes the gardener, the preacher, the one who knows how to insure a yield of thirty, sixty or a hundred fold.  Excellence in preaching comes when the Word of God, oft described as a two-edged sword, strikes the hearer as both challenge and encouragement.  For that to happen, the preacher must have had that same experience mediated through a community, training, prayer, reflection and action on behalf of the Gospel.

Preaching the Just Word (PJW) is a national program to assist priests and other ministers of the Gospel to be more effective in preaching Biblical and social justice, through cultivating the spiritual lives of those who preach. The original PJW format is a five-day retreat, based on themes from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. Modifications and adaptations of this schedule are easily arranged, according to the needs of each retreat's participants. Building on the lessons learned over the last fifteen years, the program is preparing a new publication, Spiritual Exercises for Preachers of the Good Word, including five days of spiritual exercises plus additional resources.

pwj1Father Ray Kemp, Director of Preaching the Just Word

PJW fosters excellence in preaching, based on the preachers knowing themselves, their God, God’s Word, God’s people and world, and the incredible opportunity that is Christ’s gift: to work with God to build God’s kind of creation.

Structure of a PJW Retreat

The basic format is a five-day retreat/workshop, based on themes from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, integrating personal prayer with reflection upon:

  • Sacred Scripture
  • The social teaching of the Church
  • Contemporary culture
  • Homiletics
  • Liturgy

The week offers the participants an opportunity to reflect alone and in groups upon the nature of their own ministry and how it relates to the just Word.  The retreat is also offered on an interfaith basis jointly sponsored with the College of Preachers at the National Catholic Cathedral.  We also offer a three- and a four-day version, sometimes as a workshop, sometimes as a mini-retreat/workshop.  We are expanding our outreach to deacons, to diocesan and parish leaders, and our capacity to handle Spanish and English.


Both the preachers who participate in a PJW retreat and the communities in which they preach will benefit from outcomes such as:

  • An improved liturgical experience
  • Better and more focused homilies on biblical justice and the dynamics of living justly in the world today
  • Raised consciousness in congregations about biblical justice as intrinsic to faith
  • Spiritual renewal for the retreatant and a renewed commitment to the fundamental life-struggle depicted in the Scriptures

Since the first year (1991) of the program, there have been 117 retreats/workshops in the United States, Australia, Canada, Jamaica, and Germany. Evaluations for these retreats have been remarkably positive, invariably enthusiastic. Retreatants universally say that they would recommend it to a friend. The program has now reached over 7,000 preachers.