First class of Hispanic lay leaders graduates

Ten complete the three-year School of Evangelization course


by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The dilemma facing Hispanic ministry in the archdiocese reads like a verse out of the Scriptures: The harvest is plenty, but laborers are few.

But thanks to a new program, there are a few more.

The call by Pope John Paul II for a “New Evangelization” has been answered by the graduates of a faith-formation program for Hispanic lay leaders.

The first class of 10 celebrated the completion of a three-year course of studies, “School of Evangelization, Our Lady of Guadalupe,” with a graduation ceremony on Aug. 24 at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Kansas City, Kan.

The graduates are members of St. Mary-St. Anthony and All Saints parishes in Kansas City, Kan.; Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park; and Sacred Heart-Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Kansas City, Mo.

The purpose of the program is to prepare Catholic leaders for the Hispanic community, so they can be active members in parishes as Jesus’ disciples in the New Evangelization, said Father Pat Murphy, CS, animator of the archdiocesan office of Hispanic ministry.

“The New Evangelization is an effort to re-evangelize those who have had some contact with the church, but who are not fully and actively participating in their parishes,” said Father Pat.

“In a particular way in the Hispanic community, when people move to a new country, they can of- ten lose touch with their religion,” he continued. “They simply don’t know where the churches are, or where there are services in Spanish. So this is a program to prepare leaders to do outreach in a missionary perspective.”

The School of Evangelization, Our Lady of Guadalupe is the first structured faith-leader formation program in Spanish for the archdiocese, said Father Pat.

The office of Hispanic ministry picks up the cost of the program, but students still have to make a considerable time commitment to complete the course. The course requires participants to attend weekly classes — two-and-one-half hours long — for three years.

The academic year runs from September to June, with a month off in December, and begins and ends with a retreat. The first year courses concentrate on human development and communication, the process of theological reflection, prayer and spirituality, Scripture, and lay ministry in the church.

“We’ve just started a new group of about 30 people from seven parishes,” said Father Pat. “They range in age from 25 to 55, but the core group is parents in their early 30s with two to five children, who are really the future leaders of the Hispanic community.”

In order to graduate, each student must present a final project for his or her parish or the Hispanic ministry.

One student designed a marriage enrichment program for newly married couples; another designed a course on lay ecclesial ministry as called for by the U.S. bishops’ 2005 document, “Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord.” Still another designed a youth ministry program that would involve retreats on sexuality and monthly leadership training.

Preparing Hispanic lay leaders is the key to evangelizing the Hispanic community in the United States, concluded Father Pat, because the church will never have enough Spanish-speaking priests or religious to serve them.

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