Skip to content

For Priests, a Crash Course in Spanish and Culture

Interview With Father Alex Yeung of Sacerdos Pastoral Center

NEW YORK, JULY 18, 2005 (Zenit) - The Hispanic community forms close to 40% of the Catholic population in the United States. Yet, there is only one Hispanic priest for every 9,925 Hispanic Catholics.

These statistics reveal an opportunity for English-speaking clergy to reach out to Hispanic Catholics -- if only they knew Spanish.

That's where Curso de Hispanidad steps in: an intensive Spanish language and culture course held in Mexico for North American priests and seminarians. This summer it runs July 19-Aug. 19.

Father Alex Yeung, director of the Sacerdos Pastoral Center, shared with us how the program immerses participants in Hispanic culture and prepares them to minister to the growing Hispanic population back home.

Q: What exactly is the Curso de Hispanidad?

Father Yeung: The Curso de Hispanidad in Mexico is a five-week intensive Spanish language and culture course for North American priests and seminarians. It is sponsored by Sacerdos in conjunction with the Department of Humanities and the Center for Language Studies of Mexico's Anahuac University.

The language module has two tracks: one for priests and seminarians with little or no knowledge of Spanish; the other for those with some previous experience.

The learning methodology is varied, with classes, individual or small-group coaching, conversation, tapes, films and visiting with families.

Both tracks emphasize pastoral Spanish usage, how to engage in simple conversations in ordinary pastoral settings, and how to celebrate the sacraments and sacramentals in Spanish.

The cultural module includes complementary classes in Latin American culture and religiosity, and visits to significant spiritual, cultural and archaeological sites in and around Mexico City.

Participants grow in their understanding of the culture from the inside, and in their ability to relate to the cultural features that their Hispanic parishioners bring with them. Hispanics have a great cultural and religious richness that, if effectively tapped and channeled, can be a source of renewal for the local churches in North America.

In the pastoral ministry module, participants are guided in putting into practice the pastoral Spanish they are learning. Participants are welcomed by the local communities and, according to the ability and interest of each, they can administer the sacraments and preach homilies in the nearby villages and towns.

Q: Why do you see a need for a course like this?

Father Yeung: One of the biggest needs among North American parishes is effective outreach to the Hispanic community, which forms close to 40% of the Catholic population, according to the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops' document "Encuentro and Mission."

This document reports that there is one Hispanic priest for 9,925 Hispanic Catholics in the United States, in contrast to the one Catholic priest for every 1,230 Catholics in the general Catholic population.

Without adequate pastoral care, migrant workers and young Hispanic families find themselves without the support of a faith community they are accustomed to in their countries of origin. The result can be a dramatic loss of faith, moral aberrations, substance abuse and family breakdown.

Besides, a significant number of North American Hispanics are enticed to join other Christian denominations every year. Fundamentalist groups and sects are making a big effort to welcome Hispanics and cater to their spiritual and material needs. There is an urgent need to increase the number of Catholic parishes that are able to provide for the sacramental, catechetical, spiritual and social needs of the Hispanic community.

Q: What are the biggest challenges that native U.S. clergy face with the Hispanic members of their parishes?

Father Yeung: I think the question might be rephrased as: How can North American parishes effectively welcome and embrace the richness Hispanic Catholics have to offer?

Surely there are aspects of "need" that require skill in addressing them: the emotional and moral situation caused by Hispanic migrant workers being away from their families; the undiscerning acceptance of materialistic and hedonistic values by first-generation Hispanics; some reticence in learning and valuing the English language and positive American cultural values, etc.

But I think that Hispanic members of the parish are much more of an asset than a "needy" community. Their religiosity, sense of God and family, hard work, joy, optimism, and love for the Church and the Pope can do so much to help strengthen parish communities in North America.

If the demographic percentages are correct, we need to think "outside the box" of considering "Hispanic ministry" as a specialized pastoral program to be engaged in by a chosen few and confined to relatively localized areas of the country.

Rather, the more priests are able to motivate their parishioners to appreciate and embrace as their own the richness Hispanic Catholics have to offer, the more vibrant and integrated these parish communities will be.

For example, something as simple and profound as celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, on a parishwide level can create a unified parish élan. Other beautiful traditions that can be easily integrated could be the celebration of Quiceneras, processions on certain feast days and the Christmas posada.

Q: What is a typical day at the conference like for participants?

Father Yeung: A typical class day consists of intensive but well-parceled language instruction. This is completed by "clinics" on how to celebrate the sacraments in Spanish and homily preparation. Each day also has an appropriate amount of relaxation.

Perhaps most importantly, the day centers around the communal celebration of the Eucharist and moments of prayer. The priests and seminarians are not lodged in private houses, and thus a real fraternal community is created in which the participants pray and study together.

Q: Besides the Spanish language, what aspects of Hispanic, and particularly Mexican, culture are participants exposed to?

Father Yeung: In order to refresh body and soul, various days of the week are planned as cultural outing days. These days are much more relaxed, in which the participants can assimilate Mexican language and culture more by osmosis than by instruction.

Highlights include the concelebration of Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and cultural visits to the pyramids and the picturesque towns of Mexico.

Opportunities for guided pastoral ministry on the weekends, going to celebrate the sacraments in the nearby parishes -- depending on the interest and skill of each -- will expose one to the religiosity, spontaneity and hospitality of the Mexican people. There may be opportunities to participate in feast day processions and celebrations, too.

Q: What are the practical benefits for native English-speakers who go through this course?

Father Yeung: I think the advantage of Sacerdos' program is its integral nature. Professional language instruction is provided by the Center for Language Studies of Mexico's Anahuac University.

Priest-teachers coach the participants in celebrating the sacraments and preaching in Spanish. Participants will imbibe almost by osmosis a greater love for the Spanish language, an enthusiasm for the faith, Mary, the Church and the Holy Father, and for the priesthood itself that is lived by the Mexican people.

It is not just about learning a language. Rather it is inculturating a priest's pastoral heart; this requires the special elements I think the course provides.

Q: How have Hispanic congregations responded?

Father Yeung: In general, I think that the Hispanic people at the parish level have unlimited patience with a priest who is starting to speak Spanish because they are genuinely enthused to see him working to meet their needs.

A Hispanic woman who helps Father Joseph Benson, a priest in Louisiana and a graduate from the 2004 Curso, related that Father Benson came back from the Curso more eager to speak Spanish, responding faster in conversations and more importantly, communicating with more confidence and gusto.

The mere fact that their pastor is showing interest in their cultural and spiritual needs and is making a committed effort has made all the difference in the world.

Father Joseph Looney, a priest in Connecticut and a graduate of the 2003 Curso, also confirms that Spanish-speaking people are not demanding that their priests speak perfectly, but rather that the priests are trying and making an effort to hear them.

Q: How have bishops responded to the course?

Father Yeung: We have run the course for two summers now, and four U.S. bishops have been among the participants.

Bishop Allen Vigneron of Oakland had this to say about the program: "I found the Curso de Hispanidad to be extremely valuable. Its pastoral focus on priestly ministry to Latinos in the United States was right on target. ...

"As I celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe this year I recognize that without my participation in the Curso de Hispanidad I would be at the periphery of this observance rather than at its heart, which is where I want to be."

Contact

Catholic Online
http://www.catholic.org CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000

Email

info@yourcatholicvoice.org

Keywords

Priests, Spanish, Culture, Yeung, Hispanic, Catholic

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity
DAN SHEA

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Information
Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Services
Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

The California Network
Inspiring streaming service

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on catholic.org

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Catholic Online Singles
Safe, secure Catholic dating

The California Studios
World-class post production service

Education
Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

Catholic Online MasterClass
Learn from experts

School Teachers
Teacher lesson plans & resources

Catholic Media Missionaries
The New Evangelization

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Socials
Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.