These are some of those who earned Diocesan Certificates of Completion in the Spanish-language Faith Formation program seen June 30 with their certificates at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs. (COURTESY)

Faith formation in Spanish completes second cycle

Venice  |  Phase two of a three-year Spanish-language faith formation program has concluded in June with nearly 500 earning a Diocesan certificate of completion.

The Spanish Faith Formation Program was conceived to satisfy the requests that came directly from the local response to the Diocesan V Encuentro consultation process which began in 2016. The results having been overwhelmingly positive as the program has shown there is a real desire for Hispanic Catholics to be properly formed in their faith.

With the support of Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Diocese Hispanic Ministries Director Father Claudio Stewart, the faith formation sessions were developed immediately following the local consultation process of the V Encuentro in 2016 and 2017. The V Encuentro is a multi-year outreach initiated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, with a goal of discerning ways for the Church in the U.S. to better respond to the ever-growing Hispanic presence.

The idea behind this initial three-step program in Spanish was to quickly help bridge the gap in formation for Hispanics in the Diocese for whom English is not their first language. This action, Father Stewart explained, is empowering to Hispanic Catholics who often feel they are outsiders in the Catholic Church within the United States primarily due to language difference.

The benefit of having the formation program in Spanish was to allow the participants the opportunity to better absorb the complexities of the faith without the extra work of translating the information. This also helped streamline the instruction and allowed a more open discussion.

Much more is in the planning process for expanding Hispanic Faith Formation within the Diocese, Father Stewart added. This means a broader inclusion in existing Parish and Diocesan events, such as including sessions in Spanish at conferences, bilingual programs and other efforts that will help unify the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Venice. As this is the focus of Dioceses across the country, the ultimate goal is to create a stronger U.S. Catholic Church.

“There is not supposed to be a separate faith for English speakers versus Spanish speakers,” Father Stewart stressed. “We are all part of the same universal Church founded by Jesus Christ.”

The Spanish Faith Formation Program provides a structured and ongoing formation of the lay people in the Diocese Hispanic Community. The program’s goal is to allow people to be in contact with the Deposit of Faith (Depositum Fidei) – sacred tradition and sacred Scripture. So as to help ease the process, it was decided that this effort would be divided into a three-year course. 

The first section was carried out in 2017-18 and it covered the Magisterium, with a thorough explanation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The second course in 2018-19 (just completed), was dedicated to the revelation and introduction to the sacred Scriptures. The third course, scheduled to begin this fall, will cover the tradition of the Church from a historical perspective.

The first two courses each brought in more than 700 participants with approximately 60 % of participants qualified and received a Diocesan Certificate. The Faith Formation classes were divided into four geographic regions of the Diocese to allow easier access to the courses.

Those meeting the course requirements, including a minimum attendance and the passing of a final exam, earn the certificate of completion. 

Five Masses were celebrated to mark the completion of the course and afterwards to present the Diocesan certificates. These Masses took place June 9 at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples, June 23 at St. Raphael Parish Lehigh Acres, and then June 30 at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs and Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton.