Catholic woman finds way to use gift of preaching

 — Oct. 19, 200219 oct. 2002

What do you do when you’ve been given the gift of preaching and you’re a Catholic woman? Marie-Louise Ternier-Gommers faced that dilemma.

Ironically, she discovered her gift for preaching at the Lutheran Theological Seminary (LTS) where she enrolled in 1990 with the intention of taking a class or two to better equip her for the counseling work she was doing at a shelter for battered women and children. She ended up getting a masters of theological studies degree.

Born and raised a Catholic in the Netherlands, Ternier-Gommers moved to Canada at the age of 23 and married organic garden seed grower Jim Ternier, who farms near Cochin.

She says the choice of the LTS as her place of learning was strictly practical.

“I had three children under 10 and a husband who is married to his piece of land, so I couldn’t go to school full time. Besides, the nearest Catholic college is in Edmonton.”

Through LTS, she was able to take the bulk of her requirements through Extension classes.

Ternier-Gommers says the year she spent enrolled at LTS was the catalyst for enormous growth. It exposed a dormant hunger for learning and the surprising gift for preaching.

She received her MTS degree in 1997, and was chosen by her graduating peers to preach at the class graduation.

“Following graduation,” she says, “I felt I was on a free-fall into darkness. I was part of a church tradition where there was no expectation, let alone possibility, that preaching could ever be part of my ministry. I wondered why God had given me this gift if I wasn’t going to be able to use it.”

Her mentor and LTS professor Jann Boyd advised: “Sit tight … your church needs you sooner than it likes to think.”

Ternier-Gommers soon began to see this unfold. Pastoral shortages have meant more and more Catholic parishes no longer have weekly mass, but parishioners are still encouraged to gather. Some issued invitations to Ternier-Gommers to come and preach at their gatherings.

“I drew both scorn and appreciation,” she says. “Writing your own homilies is just not done in the Catholic church, especially by lay people, and certainly not lay women.”

Ternier-Gommers also found she was welcomed as an associate by the Battlefords Ministerial Association.

“I am a Catholic, without a collar, with a Protestant seminary formation,” she observes. “Somehow that combination created a certain trust level.”

That same unique blend opened church doors outside her Catholic denomination. She found herself in demand as a supply preacher for various Protestant churches. The United Church in Battleford was the first Protestant church to invite her to preach.

This amazing spiritual journey begged to be documented in book form, and Ternier-Gommers’ years as the first lay person and first female editor of Our Family Magazine, published by the Missionary Oblates of St. Mary’s Province, had given her the literary confidence to do so.

Ternier-Gommers’ book, Finding the Treasure Within: A Woman’s Journey into Preaching, a three-year project, will be launched Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Chelsea Lounge of St. Thomas More College. The event will include a presentation by Jann Boyd, the LTS professor of liturgy and homiletics who Ternier-Gommers credits with inspiring her to find her place as a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Universal Church Supplies is managing sales of the book which is published by Novalis, Canada’s Catholic book publisher. Volumes sell for $22.95 plus tax.

“I gather my book is a first in Catholic circles,” she says. “There is little published about lay ministry, and no one has published a book on lay preaching.”

She also sees her book as a voice for ecumenism, something she knew nothing about before coming to Canada. “I didn’t even know there were any churches other than Roman Catholic until I came here.”

Another launch will be held in Zion Lutheran Church in North Battleford on Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m.

Marie-Louise Ternier-Gommers is working two days a week at the Catholic Centre in Saskatoon, where she is in charge of scripture resources for parish Bible studies. She is also diocesan co- ordinator for faith-sharing groups or Small Christian Communities.

At the same time, she continues to provide counselling and spiritual direction within her local community and is a popular speaker at conventions and retreats. She also facilitates workshops in the areas of liturgy, Catholic education, parish mission statements, women’s role in ministry, spirituality, and ecumenism.

Ternier-Gommers can be contacted through her Web site:

Posted: Oct. 19, 2002 • Permanent link:
Categories: NewsIn this article: Catholic, preaching, women
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