For the past six 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 through a focused formation program, with hundreds participating each year.
Father Claudio Stewart, Diocese Hispanic Ministries Director, said this formation program has been recognized as one of the largest Diocesan-level outreach efforts in the nation which directly includes the Hispanic Catholic community.
The 2022-2023 Spanish Faith Formation Program sessions offered “The Gifts of the Holy Spirit,” as its latest series. This latest session completed instruction just prior to Easter.
Father Stewart said the series of “The Gifts of the Holy Spirit” was a natural follow-up to earlier faith formation offerings as more than 400 took at least one of the seven classes, with nearly 200 having earned certificates of completion.
With the support of Bishop Frank J. Dewane, the 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 growing Hispanic population. 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 new 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 Gifts of the Holy Spirit and he was pleased that even during the pandemic the interest to participate remained high.
The initial three-year Faith Formation 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.” After the initial three years, the offering in 2020-2021 was the “The Seven Sacraments,” and then in 2021-2022 “The Christian Virtues” was offered.
The benefit of having the formation program in Spanish allows the students the opportunity to better absorb the complexities of the Faith without the extra work of translating the information. This also helps streamline the instruction and allows for a more open discussion. At the conclusion of each program year, those who earned certificates are encouraged to use their new-found knowledge to evangelize in their Parish community.
The Faith Formation classes are divided into five geographic regions of the Diocese to allow easier access to the courses. Students are offered the option to participate in-person or online. Instructors included priests, women religious and deacons. Each level becomes increasingly more sophisticated, challenging the participants to take a fresh look at the Catholic Church. The seven weeks of the “The Gifts of the Holy Spirit” formation series were broken down as follows: General Notions – Fear of the Lord; Fortitude – Piety; Knowledge – Counsel; Science; Understanding; Wisdom; and Pentecost, the Feast of Love. Certificates will be distributed in June and July at regional locations.
“For next year the formation program will be focused on the National Eucharist Revival. The first part of the classes will be on the liturgy, history of the different parts of the Mass and the second part in theology of the Eucharist according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Desiderio Desidervi, an Apostolic Letter from Pope Francis,” Father Stewart said.
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.