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May 21, 2015, St. Louis, Missouri – Sister Joan Delaplane, OP, will be remembered in a special way by preaching students at Aquinas Institute of Theology. The Dominican graduate school dedicated its Delaplane Preaching Studio May 11 in the presence of Sister Joan, family and friends, local Adrian Dominican Associates, and Aquinas faculty and staff.
“I am deeply touched by the honor of this Preaching Studio bearing my name,” Sister Joan said in her own preaching during a prayer service before the dedication ceremony. “But as Paul reminded the Corinthians: Paul planted a seed, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So, too, perhaps Joan, by the grace of God, was one of those who helped plant a seed here; Ed Ruane, Greg Heille, Dan Harris, Honora Werner, Ann Garrido, the Administration and Faculty, and the Lilly Foundation have watered it. God blessed our efforts and gave the increase. To God be the glory!”
Funded by a grant from the Lilly Foundation, the Delaplane Preaching Studio offers state-of-the-art cameras – hidden in a room adjoining the studio – to record the preaching of the students in Aquinas’ Doctor of Ministry in Preaching program. Once a residential program, this doctorate program is now online. Students from across the world can watch the preaching of classmates and offer their critique.
The funding for the studio came from the Delaplane Initiative for Preaching Excellence, which, in partnership with the Lilly Foundation, aims to “offer preaching formation and enrichment opportunities for an audience beyond its student body.”
The Doctor of Ministry in Preaching program , initiated in 1996, is the only such program in the United States, Sister Joan said. “There are other schools that offer a doctor in ministry and you can major or put your emphasis on preaching, but there’s no other school that offers a doctorate in preaching.” Aquinas Institute’s program is “not a remedial program” but one designed for “good preachers who want to hone their skills,” receive their doctorate, and help others in their diocese to improve their preaching, she explained. Sister Joan said at least 13 graduates of the program are now teaching homiletics in seminaries and graduate schools of theology.
Sister Joan, described as a pioneer in homiletics, began her tenure as homiletics teacher at Aquinas Institute in 1977. “For a quarter of a century, Joan pressed the cause of quality preaching at the school – increasing the number of preaching courses in the curriculum, developing new material in oral interpretation, regularly preaching at school services,” wrote Ann Garrido, D.Min., Associate Professor of Homiletics at Aquinas and a 2003 graduate of the program.
Dr. Garrido also noted that Sister Joan was the first woman and the first Catholic to serve as president of the Academy of Homiletics, which granted her its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001. Sister Joan’s other accomplishments include “founding and directing the Summer Preaching Institute, and finally co-founding the Doctor of Ministry in Preaching,” Dr. Garrido added.