We did two workshop presentations in Spanish during the first three months of 2014. One took place in the Diocese of Fort Worth and the other with a Glenmary Missioners lay community in Plymouth Diocese of Raleigh in N.C. The facilitators were Alejandro Siller-Gonzalez, Assistant Director for Hispanic Programs, and Louise Anne Pinette de Siller, MAS, Expert Resource from the Congar Institute.
The goal for these workshops was to facilitate awareness in participants’ of their own potential for pastoral leadership and how to develop this potential further, assuming their God given gifts as well as their rights and responsibilities in society and in the church.
We had a great experience facilitating these workshops with about ninety participants in Fort Worth Texas and twenty five in Plymouth North Carolina. Each workshop was done in three sessions, one session per month in a full day, we finished both in March. Even though the goal was similar to both groups, the particular needs of each community made each different in content and in the ways of facilitating them. As facilitators, we made sure the group had a space that would enable a learning process with the experience of the love and compassion of Jesus at the personal level as well as the communal.
Participants included adults, youth, young adults and couples integrated in a learning community and the majority were immigrants from Latin America. They were very participative and engaged in learning. Participants had different levels of formal and informal education, and they all benefited with the small group discussions and the activities that reaffirmed the learning process. The teaching methodology used was that of motivating participation based on participants’ own knowledge and life experience. The presence of the Holy Spirit was felt by all of us during the process of prayer, learning and the group experiences.
The learning and sharing process among the participants had moments of joy. There were also moments of challenge due to unresolved and painful personal and communal experiences in our live of faith as well as in our personal and family life; these moments were opportunities that helped us grow. They were grace-filled moments where the presence of the Spirit was felt to console, enlighten and lead us to reconciliation with ourselves, others and God. The participants built a space of trust, hope and deep respect for the dignity of each other, even though many were just getting to know each other during the workshop.
Some of the participants shared with us their experiences and learning in the workshop:
“At the beginning of the workshop, I was not sure I was going to learn anything new. Soon I became aware that the way the workshop was being presented was helping me understand the themes better and I was able to integrate this learning in my life”
“I discovered that ministry is service to others and is a response to the discipleship of Jesus.”
“I learned to accept who I am and to accept that I am a person in need of others.”
“I became aware of my need that Christ be the center of my life.”
“I learned that I need to be a “witness” of Christ’s teachings in order to be a good disciple and leader.”
“Much humility and patience is needed to become a leader.”
“I learned about Jesus’s leadership style and the values He teaches”.
“I learned that I need to know and accept my own culture in order to understand and accept others’ cultures.”
“I feel more confident in my volunteer parish ministry”.
Lorraine Vancamp from the Glenmary leadership shared the following experience as participant to this workshop:
“Their comments (participants) informally and from written evaluations indicated to me that they are beginning to realize that the priest or Pastoral Coordinator needs their gifts and talents in leading the community. The times of personal and group reflection about the activities, Alejandro and Louise Anne facilitated, were instrumental in their growth as parents and parish leaders. In my opinion, this was a new way of learning which affirmed their dignity as adults capable of participating as leaders in the mission of the parish. (Read more about her reflection following this link)
We are grateful for the leadership of Sister Ines Diaz, SSMN, Delegate for Hispanic Ministries in the Diocese of Fort Worth, in inviting us to further the ministry formation for Spanish speaking Hispanics in her Diocese. Her knowledge of the community, her prayers and encouragement made it possible for us to respond to the needs. We are now being invited to do the next workshop level with the same group and to present the workshop to other deaneries that are requesting it.
We are also very grateful to the Glenmary Missioners community who invited us and made the workshop possible in the Diocese of Raleigh under the leadership of Betsy Dwyer, Director for Justice Commission; Lorraine Vancamp, Director for Pastoral Ministries and Services; and Julian Crespo Pastoral Coordinator for the Parish of St. Joan of Arc where the workshop took place. We have received information that we will be invited to do this workshop next year possibly in Georgia.
We are certainly blessed by these invitations to serve God’s people.