By Elsa Baughman
PONTOTOC/HOUSTON – Six Hispanics from St. Christopher Mission and four from Houston Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish have just completed an online theological formation course using a new program called CAMINO. This program is offered in Spanish through the collaboration of the Southeast Pastoral Institute (SEPI) and STEP, the Satellite Theological Education Program of the University of Notre Dame.
For Maribel Sánchez, a member of St. Christopher Parish, it was very convenient to study from the comfort of her home and during the time most suitable for her. During a telephone conversation she said she believes that God does not always choose knowledgeable people to serve him but that he helps prepare those who wish to serve. “In my prayers I constantly asked God to put me on his path and not let me deviate from his path,” Camino means ‘path’ in Spanish. She thinks this is not a coincidence.
Now, she feels God is giving her the opportunity, through this course, to learn more and strengthen her faith. Sánchez recommends CAMINO to people who want to be informed about the teachings of the Catholic Church and are interested in keeping their faith alive, especially those who can’t take courses at a parish due to driving or schedule restrictions. “These courses help us to be more focused on God, on our church, on our faith community and on our own traditions,” she noted.
Danna Johnson, lay ecclesial minister at St. Christopher, said she is thankful to the support of the University of Notre Dame and SEPI, for this training tool to enrich Catholic faith among Hispanics.
Like Sánchez, Veronica Torres, a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, said it was very easy to follow the classes during her free time at home. “When I had doubts about any part of the content … I asked Walter Fircowycz during our meetings on Sunday with the other three participants.” Fircowycz, was the facilitator of the course in Houston. Torres is now taking a second course.
CAMINO courses are designed by university professors and leaders in Hispanic ministry. A facilitator guides each course to encourage the participation of all in a dynamic community of virtual learning. Each class lasts between four and seven weeks and costs $50. The first week is an orientation to ensure that all participants get to know each other and to get used to the website. After the orientation, each week focuses on a different theme. The course is flexible and each participant works independently to complete the weekly assignments.
The requirements to participate in a CAMINO course include weekly reading of assigned texts, discussions about the content of each class and preparation of weekly written assignments. Each participant will spend four to six hours per week on the class.
The next two courses based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church will be offered from June 8 to July 24 and from Aug. 31 to Oct. 16.
The course topics are, Creed: an encounter with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Hispanic Ministry: topical and possibilities; prayer and spirituality; and sacraments and liturgy. The description and contents on each of these courses is available on the website: www.camino.nd.edu.
The courses can be taken in participation with a diocesan group or independently. Those who wish to organize a group in their parish should contact Esther Terry or Sister Maria Elena Mendez of the Office of Hispanic Ministry, 601-949-8466.
By Elsa Baughman