Office of Hispanic and Latino Ministry: Opening Doors for Students and the Hispanic Community

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

On a chilly evening in early December, a group of seminarians, monks, Saint Meinrad co-workers, and members of the local Hispanic community gathered on campus for Las Posadas, a Latin American tradition that commemorates Joseph and Mary’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Faces glowed with candlelight and voices united in prayer and song as the group traveled from door to door seeking shelter for Mary.

Las Posadas is just one of many events Saint Meinrad’s new Office of Hispanic and Latino Ministry (OHLM) has hosted since being established two years ago. The Office, housed under the Center for Youth and Young Adult Evangelization, was made possible by a $999,620 grant awarded to Saint Meinrad in the fall of 2021 by the Lilly Endowment’s Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative.

The three-phase initiative is designed to help theological schools across the United States and Canada as they prioritize and respond to the most pressing challenges they face as they prepare pastoral leaders for Christian congregations both now and into the future.

In the first phase of the grant, Saint Meinrad partnered with Springtide Research Institute to better understand the needs of the Hispanic community, identify their strengths and opportunities, and explore the challenges that they face. The study found that faith leaders need multicultural skills formation, and that is what OHLM is working to do.

OHLM’s main objective is to prepare faith leaders, including seminarians, permanent deacons, lay ministers, and youth, to better serve the Hispanic community in their local parishes. They are a support office for the Seminary and School of Theology, providing translations when needed.

“This office has ties with every department here,” explains Ana Perez, the director of the Office of Hispanic and Latino Ministry.

Ana has partnered with departments in the School to create programing and opportunities that introduces students to Hispanic culture. These opportunities have also introduced the Hispanic community to Saint Meinrad.

The Permanent Deacon Program now provides formation entirely in Spanish. There are also supplemental online courses in Spanish available for native Spanish speakers who are taking courses in English.

The Office aims to have one event or program every month. In the spring, the Saint Meinrad and local Hispanic communities gathered for fellowship and authentic Mexican food for Cinco de Mayo. In the fall, they challenged each other in a soccer tournament.

It’s not all fun and games though. Ana also organized hands-on ministry opportunities for the seminarians on Sunday afternoons. The seminarians lead lessons and discussions on Catholic faith with Hispanic adults and youth.

Ana, originally from Mexico, knows the Hispanic community and the challenges they face. She hopes to see more of a Hispanic presence on campus.

“We don’t know that we are welcome to come here,” she says. “It saddens me that that’s the reality, and how do we fix that?”

In July, the Continuing Formation Office and OHLM partnered with the Dioceses of Evansville, IN, and Owensboro, KY, to host a day-long workshop for parish catechetical leaders completely in Spanish.

In addition to learning about the ministry of a catechist, participants prayed and sang songs together. They also had a tour of the art and architecture in the Archabbey Church led by Br. Jude Angel Romero, OSB.

“A lot of things are happening at Saint Meinrad,” says Ana. “What a gift to bring the Diocese of Evansville and the Diocese of Owensboro here.”

Her work is opening doors for Saint Meinrad students and the Hispanic community to come together and strengthen the Catholic Church.

“I care about my community. I see the challenges,” Ana explains. “God put me here. It’s important to respond to that calling.”