SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada has awarded an innovation grant to produce a Spanish-language curriculum for permanent diaconate formation. Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology of Seton Hall University and Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Indiana will collaborate on the project.
As part of its Educational Models and Practices in Theological Education Project, ATS has awarded grants to pilot new initiatives or to support advance work that is already under way related to innovative new approaches to theological education. The funding will help schools design, develop and implement innovative educational models and practices that could be effective and of benefit to participating schools and the broader educational community.
“I applaud your collaboration in an initiative to develop a best practices regimen and curriculum of formation for Spanish-speaking deacons,” Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, said in a press release.
As the permanent diaconate in the United States reaches its 50th anniversary in 2018, the considerable growth in the Hispanic/Latino population indicates a significant potential demand for Spanish-language permanent diaconate formation programs.
Statistics from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops indicate a 71-percent increase of the U.S. Catholic population since 1960 from the Hispanic community. Nationwide, 4,544 parishes, or 26 percent, specifically serve Hispanic/Latino communities.
The Permanent Diaconate Program peer group in contact with diaconate directors of Hispanic deacon formation programs across the country shared that dioceses are struggling with limited resources and a limited number of qualified educators to provide the training.
Saint Meinrad has partnered with dioceses around the nation to provide intellectual formation of permanent deacon candidates in 19 dioceses in the Midwest and South, including more than 400 candidates. Immaculate Conception Seminary provides formation for permanent diaconate candidates in three Northern New Jersey dioceses, with considerable Hispanic/Latino populations.
The collaboration of the two institutions will result in the production of an innovative Spanish-language curriculum by May 2018. They will develop Spanish-language resources, course syllabi, discussion questions, a bibliography, videos of lectures and basic course materials for facilitators for intellectual formation for permanent deacon formation. Offered in DVD format, the program will include a 24-module curriculum.
The project will address the formation needs of Hispanic permanent deacons, and enable local bishops to tailor the formations to the needs of each diocese, drawing on the diversity, culture, racial and ethnic richness of the Hispanic/Latino community.
“Without question, the need for an innovative and comprehensive program for Spanish-speaking deacons is apparent,” Tobin said. “More than 30 million Catholics in the United States today identify as Hispanic or Latino, and of that number nearly half are foreign-born. Yet the number of Hispanic permanent deacons — only 16 percent of the total number of deacons in the Church today — is not sufficient to meet the needs of the laity in parishes, who are clamoring to learn about and deepen their faith through the guidance of ordained deacons and priests. As I have been visiting with people of the Archdiocese lately, I am hearing this call loudly and clearly.”