For the past five years the Hispanic Ministries outreach of the Diocese of Venice has strived to meet the needs of those desiring to be better formed in their Faith.
Father Claudio Stewart, Diocese Hispanic Ministries Director, explained that the 2021-2022 program “The Christian Virtues” was a natural follow-up to earlier Faith Formation offerings. That initial three-year program (2018-2020) included a series on the “Magisterium,” with a thorough explanation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church; “Revelation and Introduction to the Sacred Scriptures;” and the “History and Tradition of the Church.” The 2020-2021 offering was on the “The Seven Sacraments.”
With the support of Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Spanish Faith Formation Program sessions were developed immediately following the local consultation process of the V Encuentro in 2016 and 2017.
The V Encuentro was a multi-year outreach initiated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, with a goal of discerning ways for the Church in the U.S. to better respond to the needs of the ever-growing Hispanic presence. The process involved consultations at the Parish, Diocesan, regional and national levels. A final report was submitted to the Vatican in September 2019 with recommendations for inclusive action at all levels of the Church in the U.S.; these actions are now being implemented.
The idea behind the initial three-step Spanish Faith Formation Program within the Diocese was to quickly help bridge the gap in formation for Hispanics in the Diocese for whom English is not their first language. This gap had created isolation among some, and the program became empowering to Hispanic Catholics who often felt they were outsiders in the Catholic Church within the U.S., primarily due to the language difference.
The results were overwhelmingly positive as the program has shown there is a real desire for Hispanic Catholics to be formed in their Faith, Father Stewart explained. This is why the latest class was offered on the Christian Virtues and he was pleased that even during the pandemic the interest to participate remained high with more than 370 taking part in at least one of the classes.
The benefit of having the formation program in Spanish was to allow the students the opportunity to better absorb the complexities of the Faith without the extra work of translating the information. This also helped streamline the instruction and allowed for a more open discussion. At the conclusion of each program year, those who earned the certificates are encouraged to use their new-found knowledge to evangelize in their Parish community.
The Faith Formation classes were divided into five geographic regions of the Diocese to allow easier access to the courses. Students could participate in-person or online. Instructors included priests, women religious and deacons. Each level became increasingly sophisticated, challenging the participants to take a fresh look at the Catholic Church. The certificates were distributed in June and July at regional locations.
Other actions taken since the local V Encuentro sessions have encouraged a broader outreach and inclusion in existing Parish and Diocesan events. This means having sessions in Spanish at conferences, bilingual programs, and other steps that will help unify the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Venice. As this is the focus of Dioceses across the country, the goal is to create a stronger Catholic Church in the U.S.
Father Stewart said the lessons of V Encuentro remind all that there is not supposed to be a separate Faith for English speakers versus Spanish speakers, but we are all part of the same Universal Church – founded by Jesus Christ.
To learn more about other Diocese of Venice initiatives through the Hispanic Ministries Office, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/hispanic-apostolate.