Archdiocese Local

Even a pandemic couldn’t deter these student theologians

On May 31, students from the Escuela de Teología Básica gathered at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas, to celebrate their graduation from the program. Pictured, back row, from left are: Father Daniel Coronado, Father John Cordes,  Father Ramiro Sanchez Chan, CS, director of Hispanic ministry, Miguel Madrigal, Rafael Ornelas, Lilliana Parra, Lupe Villalobos, Genaro Sanchez Fierro, Marco San Juan, Ronald  Ortega, Guadalupe  Montoya, Patricia Melgar Argueta, Father Michael Hermes, archdiocesan vicar for ministry to Hispanics, Alexander Sierra, Carlos Torres Garcia, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and Father Kent O’Connor. Pictured, front row, from left are: Catalina Izquierdo Gonzalez, Ana Paula Castillo Nieves, Martin Figueroa, Maria Del Pilar Herrera, Ana Maria Arreola, Brenda Aguilar, Brisa Martinez Vega and Jorge Martinez Barbosa. Fathers Coronado, Cordes and O’Connor are mentors to many of the graduates. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

by Ella Jung
Leaven staff

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — On a warm evening on May 31, students from the Escuela de Teología Básica gathered at Savior Pastoral Center here to celebrate a graduation three years in the making.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann kicked off the evening with a prayer and blessing.

“We give you thanks today for these individuals who have completed their foundational studies in our holy Catholic faith,” said Archbishop Naumann. “Pour forth, we beseech you, your blessing upon them, and upon all who seek the truth with all their heart.

“With the light of faith strengthened by their theological studies, draw them ever closer to you.”

The Escuela de Teología Básica, started by Hispanic animator Father Pat Murphy, CS, in 2003, helps Spanish-speaking adults grow in their Catholic faith and gain the knowledge and skills to become leaders in their communities and parishes. For the past three years, the students have met on Monday evenings for two hours, completing 15 classes throughout the course of the program.

Graduates and their families gathered at Savior to enjoy dinner, conversation and presentations of the student projects.

Jorge Martinez Barbosa presents during the Escuela de Teología Básica graduation at Savior Pastoral Center on May 31. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Amid many changes and challenges — the pandemic, online instruction, a new director of Hispanic ministry, work and familial commitments — this graduation ceremony was the light at the end of the tunnel for many of the graduates.

“It is a three-year program, so it is quite a commitment for these lay leaders who are already very busy with their family and work commitments,” said Father Michael Hermes, pastor of St. Paul Parish in Olathe. “It shows how much they love the church and their parish communities that they want to participate in this program.”

Carlos Torres, a parishioner of St. Paul Parish, admitted that his course of study was not always easy.

“It was very challenging to start with,” he said. “We faced a lot of challenges such as a change in the director of the Hispanic ministry, the pandemic and all of that.”

Despite the numerous obstacles overcome over the course of three years, Torres was excited about his graduation.

“It presented a lot of work and I am very happy for me and my college,” he said.

Carlos Torres happily accepts his graduation certificate from Archbishop Naumann. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

María del Pilar Herrera, a parishioner of Our Lady of Unity Parish in Kansas City, Kansas, described why she got involved in the program in the first place.

“I wanted to learn more about the Catholic faith so that I can share it with other people,” she said.

She focused her pastoral project on the subject of stronger marriages.

María del Pilar Herrera gives a presentation during the Escuela de Teología Básica graduation at Savior Pastoral Center. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Working during the typical school year, both individuals devoted time out of their lives to complete the program, all with their families’ support.

“The program was like a school — we had sessions once a week,” said Torres. “We had homework, exams, and readings. It was kind of intensive for an old guy like me.”

Focusing on topics such as the history of the church, sacramental theology and Christology, both Torres, Herrera and their fellow graduates were able to expand on what they already knew about their faith in order to become stronger Catholics for themselves, their families and their fellow parishioners.

The graduation ceremony was a testament to the hours of work and sacrifices they made over three years.

“I am proud of them because they are hard workers,” said Father Ramiro Sanchez Chan, CS, director of Hispanic ministry in the archdiocese. “This is really commendable of them.”

Following graduation, the graduates will implement their pastoral projects within their parishes.

For more information on the Escuela de Teología Básica, send an email to  Father Hermes, archdiocesan vicar for Hispanic ministry, at:, or to Father Ramiro at:

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Ella Jung

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