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Certification program for Spanish-speaking catechists

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Catechists are teachers of the faith ranging from school teachers to parents. A new certification program focuses on the Spanish-speaking community to better prepare them to communicate the faith effectively.

The diocesan Offices of Faith Formation under the leadership of Father William P. Saunders, episcopal vicar for faith formation, and the Spanish Apostolate have partnered with the Catholic Education Center to create a new certification program for catechists in Spanish, the first time the certification will be offered in a language other than English.

The program started last month at Queen of Apostles Church in Alexandria under the guidance of Father Alexander Diaz, pastor. With more than 50 percent of the diocese being Spanish speaking, Father Diaz believes this was a necessary step to integrate Hispanics into the diocese and he is very grateful to the Bishop for allowing this new program.

“People are very happy that we are being taken into consideration,” said Father Diaz. “We are an important and essential part of the diocese.”

Coming out of a year heavily impacted by COVID-19, there were concerns the certification program wouldn’t get as much enrollment as was hoped but that wasn’t the case. More than 40 people sat in front of Father Diaz Sept.20, eager to start the certification program.

As Catholics, communicating the faith would seem natural but there is a very specific language to communicate the faith effectively. Getting certified gives a catechist the tools and confidence to communicate the faith, organizers said.

As Colette Lienhard, special consultant for catechetics, put it, “you might feel comfortable helping your kids with their math homework but that doesn’t mean you would teach an advanced math class. When teaching the catechism to children you might struggle to find the right words to say or how to present it in an organized way. That’s why certification is necessary,” she said.

“Catechists in our diocese are vital to the formation of the youth and elderly because they are the ones who plant the seed in the hearts of everyone. Every catechist serves as the kickoff of our faith,” said Father Diaz.

Joel de Loera, director of the Spanish Apostolate, is grateful to Father William P. Saunders, diocesan director of catechetics, for agreeing to offer this certification in Spanish. “Now more than ever, we need our Spanish-speaking catechists to be well trained. The Holy Father recently formally instituted the ministry of ‘catechist,’ so this is all providential.” He added that both offices and “our priests and the entire Catechetical Council team have been instrumental in making this dream of the Hispanic community come true.”

There are plans to offer the program in more locations.

Batista can be reached at ana.batista@catholicherald.com

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021