Congar Institute for Ministry Development September, 2012.San Antonio, TX     

If I were to give a name to this past summer, it would be “Game Changing.” By far the most significant change for us is the arrival of our new team member, Alejandro Siller. In the short time that he has been here, Alejandro has put us on notice that he brings transformative energy, wisdom, vision, and relationships to the Assistant Director position. Welcome indeed! Change is in the air for our services as well, as we participate in a new creative regional collaboration in adult faith formation and as we observe turning points in US Hispanic leadership among our collaborators. Change, too, comes in the way we engage technology to increase our reach. Finally, change comes to me personally as I begin a new part-time position as Director of the Doctor of Ministry program at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio where the Congar Institute is already based. I will continue as Director of the Institute. Sometimes change is not welcome, yet it is inevitable. As we see the changes described in the articles below, our gaze of faith challenges us to observe the movement of the Spirit. Come along for a wild and graced ride!

Fr. Wayne Cavalier, OP

“Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers” workshop.

By Alejandro Siller

The signs of our times show us the rapid change in cultural and ethnic composition within our Church communities in the USA and the challenges that brings to our pastoral ministry at all levels of leadership. How do we minister to each ethnic and cultural group? What about the inter-marriages that take place between different groups, how do we minister to them in their newly born culture? How do we care and minister to different generations of cultures? How do we build a unified Church community in the midst of its diversity of cultures and its constant changes? As pastoral ministers we need to be opened to a change of hearts and to acquire new skills and behaviors. How do we prepare for this challenge?

Congar Institute is prepared to respond to this challenge. During the month of July I participated in the first group Training of Trainers for this workshop developed by the USCCB Committee on Cultural Diversity. I learned and reaffirmed skills and behaviors that allow me to increasingly become more sensitive and respectful to differences in others such as culture as well as differences in generations, age, gender, education and socio economic “class” among others.

Congar Institute is prepared to respond to this challenge. During the month of July I participated in the first group Training of Trainers for this workshop developed by the USCCB Committee on Cultural Diversity. I learned and reaffirmed skills and behaviors that allow me to increasingly become more sensitive and respectful to differences in others such as culture as well as differences in generations, age, gender, education and socio economic “class” among others.

At Congar we are prepared to Train the Trainers for this workshop in your own dioceses.

St. George Project: A Creative Hybrid Approach to Ministry Formation

The Congar Institute values flexibility so that we can be as responsive as possible to the unique needs of the church in particular locations. That is why we are partnering with the Diocese of Salt Lake City and the Parish of St. George in the far southwestern corner of Utah to support a new effort in adult faith formation. This hybrid response combines consulting, mentoring, ministry supervision, and sharing of Resource Persons to help build the capacity of the parish to develop a regional response to the formation needs of adults. Fr. Martin Picos, Pastor of St. George, turned to Susan Northway, Diocesan Director of Religious Education and Lay Ministry, to help him develop an adult faith formation program in the parish. Next, Mrs. Northway turned to us to assist her in responding. We will help Mrs. Northway in a creative response to Fr. Picos’ request. First, we will support the parish DRE in planning and implementing the program. Second, we will mentor her in this new area of responsibility for adult faith formation. Third, Mrs. Northway is placing several lay ecclesial ministers-in-formation to teach in the program as their supervised practice of ministry site. We will also mentor the DRE in serving as their supervisor of ministry. Fourth, we will provide resource persons to offer the spiritual formation components of the program. Not only do we hope to build the capacity of the parish to offer adult faith formation and to further develop the capacity of the ministers-in-formation, but with Mrs. Northway, we also hope that this formation opportunity will cultivate the ground for a new harvest of vocations in lay ecclesial ministry for the region.

Building the Church by Investing in Leaders

Once known primarily for funding the building of Catholic churches in under-served areas, the Catholic Church Extension Society has deepened its already momentous impact on the church by focusing also on building the capacity of the church in home (U.S.) mission regions. That doesn’t mean building larger churches, but investing in the church’s most important resource: its people. Recognizing the challenges that growing Hispanic populations are presenting to already-under-resourced dioceses, Extension is stepping up to help home mission dioceses create and fill 100 new positions in Hispanic lay leadership. Investing $7.5 million over 3 years, the Hispanic Lay Leadership Initiative will have a significant long-term impact on the Church’s pastoral presence among growing Hispanic populations in rural areas of the United States. Read more about this game changer at Extension’s website: http://www.catholicextension.org/funding-request/strategic-initiatives/hispanic-lay-leadership-initiative

US Catholic Hispanic Community at a Turning Point

The Catholic Hispanic community is at a turning point in this country. For many years, the leaders of the Hispanic community have worked very hard to get the attention of the gatekeepers in the US Church for the good of the Hispanic community. Today, they have arrived even earlier than expected at the point where, in a rather disorienting moment, they are becoming the gatekeepers. As Cardinal George put it, the pioneers in the community spent many decades assisting the church “to find ways to ‘welcome the stranger.’” Now, Hispanic Catholics have “already begun to be protagonists in the ‘new evangelization’” in their own community and beyond. At the annual meeting of the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Directors of Hispanic Ministry (NACDDHM) in Chicago in early August, this reality was symbolized by the presence of a healthy number of Bishops who came to be present to the group and to enter into dialogue with them. It was further evidenced by a panel in which African American and Latino Bishops dialogued with one another and their audience about the challenges their communities face and opportunities for collaboration between the two communities. University of Notre Dame Prof. Timothy Matovino additionally aided the Directors in celebrating the memory of Hispanic ministry and ministers in the US and looking toward the future with hope. His important new book, Latino Catholicism, describes the journey thus far and identifies future trends for Hispanic ministry.

Congar Institute Partner Named Outstanding Diocesan Director

NCADDHM Award Recipient Announcement: In her capacity as Director of the Diocese of Salt Lake City Hispanic Ministries Office, Maria-Cruz Gray: Diocese of Salt Lake City, UT serves the local church in the most remote mission areas in Utah, an area encompassing 85,000 square miles. She works tirelessly during the week, as well as devoting numerous evenings and weekend to travel and visit those who cannot afford to travel for formation and catechesis.

In the past several years, Maria-Cruz has spearheaded several very significant programs which are illustrative of her service to the church. In September 2010, together with the Congar Institute, she began the lay Ecclesial Ministry program in Spanish to form ecclesial leaders who could serve the Hispanic community. website: [Read complete article on NCADDHM ]

New Bilingual Resource Persons join the Congar Institute

We are thrilled to add several wonderful bilingual Resource Persons to our list of specialists. Their educational background and experience is outstanding. Their bilingual abilities will bring much needed support in areas of formation, especially in the Spanish language, for the Home Mission Diocese where we collaborate.

Ruth Bolarte, IHM. She holds a Doctorate of Ministry with a concentration on Adult Spiritual Formation and Pastoral Ministry from the Catholic University of America. She also holds and Masters on Religious Studies from St. Charles Seminary. She studied Greek and Hebrew at the Gregorian University in Rome, Italy. Ruth was the Director of the Catholic Institute for Evangelization for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for more than six years. She is now the Director of the Office of Multi-Cultural Ministry at the Diocese of Metuchen, NJ.
Victor Carmona. He holds a Master’s Degree in Moral Theology from the University of Notre Dame and is currently a Candidate for the Doctorate Degree in Moral Theology / Christian Ethics at the same institution. His pastoral leadership experience include, among many other things, serving as a Consultant for the Mexican Catholic Conference of Bishops. His teaching experience includes leading workshops in English and Spanish. He is currently teaching the course Foundations of Moral Theology at Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas, where he recently moved with his family.
Palmira Perea Hay and Steve Hay, bilingual (English/Spanish) master-level social workers, have worked extensively with immigrants through Catholic Charities in Lubbock, Texas and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Palmira is fluent in American Sign Language through her work with her deaf\blind sister and deaf communities in Texas and New Mexico. Palmira and Steve have participated in inter-cultural ministries for the past 30 years. They are Associate Members of the Victory Noll Sisters.
Renata Furst is a latina scholar with extensive experience in adult faith education for Hispanic and non-Hispanic people. She holds a PhD. in Theology/Biblical Studies from the Université de Montréal. In addition to teaching at the parish level, Renata has taught in both English and Spanish at the graduate level at several universities. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Scripture and Spirituality at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas.

A Change in Mentality

by Fr. Wayne Cavalier, OP

In an important recent letter, Pope Benedict XVI described one of the consequences of the renewed understanding of the Church wrought by Vatican II in these terms: “the laity in the Church…should be considered not as ‘collaborators’ with the clergy, but as persons truly ‘co-responsible’ for the being and activity of the Church.” [Read the brief letter here]. Using terms that contrast a pre-Vatican II attempt to articulate an understanding of the role of active laity as more or less helpers to the hierarchy with the Vatican II understanding of their role as sharers in the very mission of the Church by virtue of baptism, the Pontiff emphasized the change in mentality such a vision demands.

This was the focus of a summer course I taught at the Rice School for Pastoral Ministry in the Diocese of Venice in Florida. The course, principles and practices of adult faith formation, started with the foundational understanding, as the Pope’s letter also states, that the demands of discipleship call for a mature faith significantly fostered by ongoing formation. Just as Benedict XVI calls for a “change in mentality,” so the course challenged the participants to rethink faith formation from the ground up. As significant as the content of the course was, so was the form of the course. I taught 30 students in four locations simultaneously through interactive video. Other students and interested parties who chose to, could experience the course later through a video stream on a diocesan website. A new teaching experience for most of us, we were challenged to find ways to turn this remarkable classroom environment into a true community of learning. After some tweaking of how we used the equipment, I think we were quite successful. Like many mission dioceses with which we work, the Diocese of Venice is geographically large. Often, students drove 2 or more hours to attend classes, or the faculty drove to them. Now with at least four sites and more planned throughout the Diocese, the commute to classes is dramatically reduced without negatively impacting the learning experience. [Watch the course and others]

A night of fun and fundraising

On August 11, 2012 the Friends of the Congar Institute held the Second Annual fundraiser “Gala Congar” in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was a great evening of fun, games, food and drink while honoring John and Jean Henkels, the recipients of the 2012 Yves Congar Award for their long record of servant leadership in the Church in Utah.

The funds raised at the event will support Lay Ecclesial Ministry formation programs in the Diocese of Salt Lake City and other Home Mission Dioceses. We are deeply grateful to the Friends of the Congar Institute and to the many people, from different dioceses and groups, for their contributions and for making this fundraising event a great success. The help received will make it more possible for someone called to serve God’s people to respond fully to that vocation. Furthermore, this assistance is multiplied many times over as these committed and competent lay pastoral leaders go on to serve effectively many others in need of their pastoral care.

We are truly blessed to share the vision and the mission of the Congar Institute with so many brothers and sisters in Christ. May God bless all those who made this event possible. Click here to see pictures of the event

Friends of the Congar Institute:
  • Dr. Dominic and Virginia Albo
  • Amy Albo
  • Jason and Alison Arndt Wild
  • Pamela Avery
  • Adam and Mary Arndt
  • Tami Bernstein
  • Paul and Clara Brennan
  • Reverend Wayne A. Cavalier, O.P., Ph. D
  • Robert and Rocio Cowlishaw
  • Colleen Gudreau
  • Deacon Forrest and María Cruz Gray
  • Paulette Hill
  • Joan Loffredo
  • Paul and Kim Long
  • Gerri Mackey
  • Reverend Ray John Marek, OMI
  • Lizett Farias
  • Tiffany Martin
  • Susan Cook Northway
  • Reverend Carl Schlichte, O.P.

Caravan for Peace

We congratulate our Assistant Director for Hispanic Programs Alejandro Siller- González, for having successfully coordinated the welcoming of the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity traveling from Mexico through San Antonio this past August 24. The Caravan continued its journey visiting other cities in the USA and will end their travel in Washington D.C. The Parish of St. Leonard in the south side of San Antonio was the location for the event; this community generously welcomed us with true Christian hospitality.

A total of approximately five hundred persons participated representing local organizations and a variety of faith traditions. They gathered to listen to the stories shared by some of the forty victims of violence traveling in the Caravan. The lead person is Mr. Javier Sicilia who is also a victim of violence and lost his son last year in Mexico. Participants were moved to compassion and solidarity as they listened. During the sharing of food and the communal reflection and prayer there was a sense of hope and consolation among participants, knowing that God was listening to the cry of the suffering through the hearts of each one of those present.

The purpose of the Caravan is to create awareness among the people of how the violence in Mexico has its roots in both Mexico and in the USA and that the present solutions implemented by both governments are not solving the problem. There is hope that better solutions will come from people of good faith from both countries. The goal is peace with justice and dignity in Mexico and in the USA.

Alejandro’s experience with the Caravan has brought to us in the Congar Institute, a better understanding of the life stories of many of our first and second generations of Hispanic immigrants we serve in Mission Dioceses throughout the USA.

Click here to see pictures of the event and to read the full news article by San Antonio Express News.


285 Oblate Drive
San Antonio, TX 78216-6693
Email: congarinstitute@ost.edu
Phone: 210-341-1366 Ext. 269
Fax: 210-341-4519

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