By Lilia Ramirez & Gustavo Vasquez
We have been married for ten years now. We graduated from McCormick Theological Seminary in 2005. Since then, we have been working in Palisades Presbytery. Lilia was ordained in 2005 and is the pastor of the Hispanic Presbyterian Church in Paterson, NJ. She is also working as chair of the Latino Ministry Team of her presbytery. Gustavo was ordained in 2007 and he is the pastor of the Presbyterian Methodist United Church, a Hispanic congregation in West New York, NJ.
To accept God’s call going into ministry in this country for people who are from a different culture, not US citizens, and not residents is not easy. Since the beginning McCormick Theological Seminary welcomed us with open arms.
Five years later we are still thinking that to study at McCormick was a great decision. When we were looking for a seminary we did not have enough proficiency in English since our first language is Spanish. Contrary to other seminaries, McCormick, through the Language Resource and Writing Center, not just offered us an English Summer Program but also English classes during the Masters -- plus tutors who worked with us all the time. It was a very important support for us in order to finish our Masters Degrees.
When we felt God’s call into ministry, to study together as a couple seemed impossible for us because of financial limitations to pay two tuitions at the same time. However McCormick helped us financially, giving us tuition, and the opportunity to work and live in campus.
In addition, the staff was great helping us with immigration procedures and forms since we were studying with a student visa. Also, helped us to get an OPT (Optional Professional Training) which is an immigration permit to work for one year in ministry giving us the opportunity to practice what we learned at McCormick.
When we were trying to find a Presbyterian Seminary we were looking for a multicultural and open institution and we found it at McCormick. Since the first time when we went to MTS to the Inquiry Into Ministry, we felt belonged to that community, we felt at home.
We had the opportunity to go back to Chicago to visit MTS, its staff and good friends there. We are still in touch with classmates and professors, in fact it has been great to see some of them at PCUSA meetings and events. We really miss so much our McCormick days, fellowship, classmates, professors, Chicago…. It was a great episode in our lives and ministries. We feel blessed for the opportunity that God gave us being part of MTS’s community.
Studying at McCormick helped us to grow intellectually, spiritually and personally. We have been recommending people that we know who are looking for a seminary to go to MTS as the best option in the USA. Specially, if they are looking for a deep and enriching experience in a multicultural setting. In fact, right now there is an inquirer to ordained ministry from Gustavo’s church studying at MTS. Her name is Jennifer Rodriguez and she is enjoying her experience at seminary as well as we did some time ago.
Our time at McCormick was a very important part in our journey of faith. It helped us to ratify God’s call for us, to experience God’s provision in our own lives, and to learn to depend only on God’s will.
In the near future we will continue serving our Lord where we are presently working and we will continue raising our two little daughters of eighteen months and three years old. We do not know for sure what God has for our ministries later, but we know that we are going to serve our Lord wherever God takes us, and that we are going to keep the great experience at McCormick in our hearts forever.