The first cohort for McCormick’s Certificate in Latin@ Theology and Ministry recently completed the program’s initial course, “Introduction to the Tasks of Latin@ Practical Theology.”
The certificate, designed in collaboration with the Asamblea Apostolica de la fe en Cristo Jesus, (Apostolic Assembly of the Faith in Christ Jesus), consists of 36-hours of classes taught in Spanish at the Masters level. Students can participate in class and complete assignments in either Spanish or English. Daniel Rodriquez Diaz, McCormick’s professor emeritus of Church History, taught the 15 students in this first cohort, which included eight men and six women.
McCormick is responding to the need for theological education among the churches and religious leaders of the fast-growing Hispanic population, which is projected to equal one third of the U.S. population by 2050. Luis Rivera-Rodriguez, McCormick’s Dean of Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs, says the certificate program is one way the seminary realizes its mission to serve, “ecumenically, the needs of Hispanic churches and leaders through theological education programs.”
Yvonne Vasquez, a recent graduate of Chicago’s Loyola University who majored in International Studies and Psychology, said continuing her education via the certificate program allows her “to be a blessing to my church,” which is located in the heart of Chicago and draws its members from across the city and suburbs. Vasquez teaches youth and young adults and wants them to become “more empowered,” she said. “I teach because I see the need. They need to learn apologetics and be defending their faith.”
Likewise, Pastor Celestino Guzman and his wife, Herlinda, applied to the program to better prepare themselves for the challenges their congregation faces in Waukegan, a city north of Chicago with a large Hispanic population. Among the challenges are how to retain and mentor young members as well as how to remain relevant to congregants who are increasingly better educated, according to Herlinda, who co-founded the church with her husband 25 years ago. The certificate program was a way to fulfill a need to “better educate myself,” she said. “We self-educated for 25 years in the church.”
Her husband agrees that the example they set is important. “We need to show our younger generation that it’s never too late or you’re never too old to educate or improve yourself. Many give up too early,” Pastor Guzman said.
Oscar Velazquez, a pastor in Aurora, IL, said the certificate program and fellow participants helped prepare him to tackle the tough issues his Hispanic congregation faces. Not all the young people who attend his church speak Spanish and as a result, often feel culturally, as well as generationally, alienated.
His church is also in the heart of a struggling lower-income neighborhood. While Latino community challenges are not necessarily different than those in other poor neighborhoods, solutions often need to take a different twist. For example, the many single parent households in his congregation are often result from immigration deportations that split up families, he said.
The neighborhood currently lacks positive role models and one reason he studied at McCormick was to find ways to improve this situation. “I want to train to serve my community better,” he said.
For more information regarding the programs, contact Priscilla Rodriquez, Administrative Coordinator for the Study of Latin@ Theology and Ministry. email@example.com  or 773-947-6310