Ministering to Hispanic Catholics

12.21.2005 | Education, CatholicThe University of Dayton's Institute for Pastoral Initiatives has launched a program that has been four years in the making: online faith formation classes taught in Spanish.

The program, which is the first of its kind in the United States, "comes at the request of dioceses," said Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, M.H.S.H., director of the institute. "We did our research and are on the cutting edge of a very important contribution to the Catholic Church in the United States."

The online courses aim to meet the needs of the rapidly growing Hispanic Catholic population in the United States. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, there are 35.3 million Hispanics in the United States, comprising 12.5 percent of the total population. Since 1990, the nation's Hispanic population has increased 58 percent, up from 22.4 million in 1990, and is projected to reach 52.7 million by 2020.

A 2002 survey commissioned by The Latino Coalition and conducted by McLaughlin & Associates' Opiniones Latinas found that 72.6 percent of Hispanics living in the United States — close to 26 million — are Catholic.

"The rapid growth demands that the Catholic Church be present in every possible form to support Hispanics' faith formation," Zukowski said. "That's what we are trying to do."

Four online courses in Spanish — Creencias Católicas, Jesús, María de Galilea and Sacramentos — and a Web page in Spanish to access them were added to the institute's existing "Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation" program, which offers more than 30 courses to more than 1,500 students a year. (See http://vlc.udayton.edu/). The first session of the Spanish courses begins Jan. 15 and runs for five weeks.

Zukowski expects the Spanish courses to appeal to primarily two groups: catechists who teach in Spanish and people searching for adult faith formation in their own language.

"This creates another portal for people to grow and understand spiritual things," she said.

Instructors from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, UD's partner in the project, will teach the first sessions, but if the demand matches expectations, the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives will soon employ Catholic Hispanic instructors from across the United States.

The institute's Hispanic Catholic Advisory Board, which includes national leaders in the catechetical field, will monitor the Spanish program closely and make decisions about future course content, teaching methodology and marketing strategies.

In January, the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives will host its annual meeting for all its partnering dioceses. Twenty-six dioceses are already part of the program, including two from the Samoan Islands. Five dioceses are in the process of becoming partners.

"This is like our board of trustees meeting," Zukowski said.

On this year's agenda for discussion are three new courses being offered in connection with the U.S. Catholic Bishops' National Directory for Catechesis that was recently approved by the Vatican.

In addition, the institute is working with the Federation of Asian Bishops to create future courses in Asian languages. Zukowski plans to travel to Singapore in May to discuss the advancement of the program in Asia with Catholic leaders from several Asian countries.

For media interviews, contact Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, M.H.S.H., at (937) 229-3126 or via e-mail at angela.zukowski@notes.udayton.edu.