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VLCFF group - University of Dayton program online. (CT Photo/E.L. Hubbard)
VLCFF group – University of Dayton program online. (CT Photo/E.L. Hubbard)

Camina con Cristo, a pilot program aimed at raising up lay leaders from within the Latino/Hispanic community in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, recently honored its first thirty-four participants.

Dina Beach, Assistant Director for Latino Catechesis at the Archdiocese and coordinator of the pilot said the program forms and empowers leaders to pursue outreach, evangelization, discipleship, catechesis and many of ministerial roles in the parishes.

Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr invited all the parishes of the Archdiocese to consider participating in Camino con Cristo in May. The thirty-four participants from the Latino community, representing the parish communities of St. Ann, Holy Family, and St. Charles Borromeo, all of Cincinnati; Holy Trinity (Norwood); St. Julie Billiart (Hamilton) and St. Mary (Dayton), came to the program at its beginnings in June.

Thirty-four Camina con Cristo participants received certificates following their completion of the Echoes of Faith course, one of the methods being studied. An Oct. 22 Mass and celebration, hosted by the Office of Evangelization and Discipleship at St. Julie Billiart parish was concelebrated by Bishop Joseph Binzer, Father Tom Wray; Director of the OED and Father Rodolfo Coaquira. Joining them were Beach, parish representatives, OED staff, and friends and family members.

“This celebration marks significant progress in our effort to reach the Latino members of our faith communities throughout the Archdioces,” Beach said. This is the first time the Archdiocese has directly facilitated a formation program targeting the Latino and Hispanic communities.

“We are seeing that when parishes call Latino members to faith and service in the church, the Latino community responds,” she said.

Beach, alongside key leaders from the represented parish communities, examined two models for formation of the Latino faith leaders, the more traditional on-site model entitled Ecos De Fe and an online course entitled the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation, facilitated through the University of Dayton. The traditional pilot program has seen the 34 Latino students achieve basic certification status thus far, while the online program currently has 42 participants pursuing a two and one-half year program.

Latino/Hispanic communities are growing, with increase in the population locally seen primarily in the central and southern regions of the Archdiocese, according to a 2014 report issued by CARA, a national, non-profit, Georgetown University affiliated research center that conducts social scientific studies about the Catholic Church. The CARA report, Cultural Diversity in the Catholic Church in the United States, indicates the Latino/Hispanic population identifying as Catholic within the Archdiocese, is between 39,000 and 40,000 persons.

“To reach the growing population effectively,” Beach said, “we have to form disciples and empower leaders from within the Latino community for outreach, evangelization, discipleship, catechesis and all manner of liturgical and service ministries within their local parish communities.

“These men and women will draw others within the Latino community to faith and integration into our wonderful Catholic communities throughout the Archdiocese. We are seeing it happen here, today.

“It’s my hope,” she said, ”that this is the first of many celebrations as we expand and reach out to the Latino community, parish by parish.”

Having completed the Echoes of Faith course pilot, and with the blessing of Archbishop Schnurr, Beach is now reaching out to every parish in the Archdiocese, offering her service in consultation, to reproduce the Camina con Cristo success.

“The Archbishop wants to see us make an even bigger impact in our parishes as we reach out to the Latino/Hispanic communities,” Beach said. “We invite every pastor to pick up the phone and schedule an initial consultation. From what we now see, there is nothing but good that will come to the parish, the Latino/Hispanic communities, and the entire Archdiocesan community as a result.”

Pastors and parish ministry professionals looking to take advantage of this offer should contact Beach at the Office of Evangelization and Discipleship, 513-421-3131 x 2735. General inquiries by participants are also welcome. More information is available on the Archdiocesan website; http://www.catholiccincinnati.org.

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