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Hispanic Institute Helps Meet Needs of Exploding Hispanic Catholic Population

Friday, Jul. 2, 2010

BERKELEY, Calif., July 2, 2010— Dozens of leaders who serve the exploding numbers of Hispanic Catholics nationwide will convene at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University this summer, for an advanced program of theology and pastoral ministries.

The Instituto Hispano is held July 11 to July 23 at JST’s Berkeley campus.

“Our institute serves as a form of advanced theological education for the people at the grass-roots level ministering to the unique needs of Hispanic Catholics,” said institute director Paulina Espinosa. “More and more, the participants are coming from across the United States, where there is a great thirst for a culturally aware approach to advanced theology,” she added.

The Institute is designed as an intensive program for Catholic leaders, mostly non-clergy, who minister to or lead Hispanic or Spanish-speaking members of their parish. Often they are deacons, catechism teachers, RCIA leaders, or pre-marriage or pre-baptism counselors, and sometimes nuns or priests. Most who attend are Hispanic themselves, and are seeking a greater integration of their faith-rich culture with formal teachings of Catholicism.

Participants in the institute must first receive the necessary deaconate or equivalent training by their local diocese, and be recommended by their parish priest. Participants who attend for three summers receive a Certificate in Hispanic Theological and Pastoral Studies.

Typical course topics include Scripture, theology, inculturation and current issues in ministry. Although the curriculum could apply to any lay leaders seeking an advanced level of theological training, the classes take the Hispanic cultural context heavily into account. For instance, participants: 

-- build on the strong cultural emphasis on community, and work to encourage congregants to bring that richness to their Church lives.
- learn the formal theology and theological context for Hispanic traditions such as Day of the Dead, Our Lady of Guadalupe, novena for the dead, and Christmas rituals.
-- address the difficult paradox of the moral imperative to be honest vs. the moral imperative to minister to and provide a sense of belonging to undocumented immigrants.
-- emphasize the religious contribution of immigrants who often feel denigrated in a foreign country
-- explore the immigrant heritage of the Catholic Church, to put Hispanic immigrants into a larger continuum.

“With this perspective, immigrants start to see themselves as part of a bigger picture, less like outsiders. They see that we’ve always been an immigrant Church, and that they are just the latest to arrive,’’ said Eduardo Fernandez, S.J., a teacher and member of the advisory council for the institute. “It also causes for them a greater sense of compassion for other immigrant groups,” he added.

Interested media may attend Institute events by first contacting SCU Media Relations.

About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its more than 8,600 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, theology, and engineering, plus master’s and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see

Media Contact:
Deborah Lohse | Assistant Director, Media Relations | 408-554-5121 |


Tags: Hispanic Institute, JST, Religious Studies

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