Catholic Extension Society brings nuns from Latin AmericaThanks to a 3 million dollar grant from Hilton Foundation the program will send more than 30 women religious to diocese throughout the US to serve the underserved immigrant population in the US.
Catholic Extension, a papal society that has been supporting Catholics on the margins in America since 1905, announced the formal launch of its U.S.-Latin American Sisters Exchange Program.
The program will span a five-year period and involve 10 Latin American congregations sending more than 30 women religious to dioceses throughout the United States. Each of the participating dioceses will host a group of three sisters from a particular Latin American congregation mutually agreed upon by the bishop in the host diocese and the congregation. The program, which began this summer and continues to 2019, will create a valuable partnership both for the Latin American congregations as well as the U.S. dioceses involved.
The sisters participating in the program will receive intensive pastoral leadership training and gain valuable ministry skills that will help them build up and strengthen the faith of the people they serve. Through their work the sisters will staff ministries that serve families, provide religious education, women’s spirituality and youth and young adult ministry. At the end of the program, the sisters will return to their Latin American congregations, which will in turn benefit from their increased training and experience.
“For many years we have seen the prophetic witness of women religious in the poorest areas of our country,” said Father Jack Wall, President of Catholic Extension. When speaking of the sisters and of this program he added, “These are women who are so motivated by a profound sense of mission and a calling to serve the Latino communities that they asked to serve on the margins where they can make a significant impact. It just so happened that these communities are here in the United States. This program will help us expand more opportunities for religious women to share their teaching and evangelizing charisms in communities with great needs.”
When Catholic Extension announced the program last year, more than 30 mission dioceses initially requested to participate, and the 10 chosen include Bismarck, N.D.; Charleston, S.C.; Des Moines, Iowa; Kalamazoo, Mich.; Little Rock, Ark.; Monterey, Calif.; Richmond, Va.; San Angelo, Texas; Tyler, Texas; and Yakima, Wash. All of the dioceses selected for the program have a common thread of a booming Hispanic Catholic population, combined with a lack of resources and trained ministry leadership to meet the needs of the community. Many of these dioceses also have a large number of migrant farm workers and Latino immigrants that the sisters will minister to as well.
A key part of the training will take place at the renowned Mexican American Catholic College (MACC) in San Antonio, Texas, where a gathering of all the sisters involved in the program as well as pastors and parish leaders representing the various dioceses will take place on Oct. 16. While at MACC, the sisters will participate in the International “Sisters’ Intercultural Studies” (SIS) program before formally commencing work in their respective dioceses. Arturo Chavez, President of Mexican American Catholic College, expressed gratitude for the sisters and described their important role in evangelizing to those in need.
“When there were no schools or hospitals in the U.S., missionary sisters came to be the Church’s presence among immigrants,” said Chavez. “Today, the growing pastoral needs of Spanish-speaking Catholics is an urgent priority. These generous missionary sisters are an answer to prayer!”
“The Sisters in the Exchange Program will contribute greatly to the vitality of the Catholic Church in the U.S. by being present, encouraging, and forming people in faith,” said Sister Guadalupe Ramirez, Associate Professor, Mexican American Catholic College. “They will serve as bridge-builders (gente-puente) in the multi-cultural reality in which we live.”