As coordinator of adult formation for the Hispanic community, Sister María de los M. Orozco Olaya enjoys the opportunity to journey with the men and women enrolled in the School of Basic Theology offered for Spanish-speaking persons by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. She is also justifiably proud of participants when they graduate from the three-year program and return to their parishes better equipped for different ministries.

Recently, a class of 24 adults celebrated completion of their coursework during a dinner with Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann. The group is pictured above with Archbishop Naumann (back row) and Sister María (front row, second from right). This group was the fifth to graduate from the program, which has as its mission the development of Catholic leaders among the Hispanic community. The School of Basic Theology has awarded certificates to 117 persons.

Graduates of the School of Basic Theology return to their home parishes better prepared to serve as catechists, lectors, ministers of the Eucharist, ushers and other roles. Some have become directors of religious education; others minister to the elderly and homebound.

Over three years, they learn to do theological reflection, ways to work with the different cultures within the Hispanic community and communication skills. The third year is intense with lessons about the history of the Church, ecclesiology, and sacramental and moral theology. Priests, women religious and laypersons teach the courses. Sister Helen Therese Mack facilitates the class on prayer and spirituality. The program is based on coursework previously offered by the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo. Diocese that staff of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas adapted and later further modified.

Sister María is overall coordinator, interviews candidates and does theological reflection with participants after each seven-week course. She is also available to meet with students during the program to encourage and mentor them as many experience theological texts for the first time. In addition, she goes into the parish to see how graduates of the program are doing after they receive certification.

To cap their completion of the program, participants prepare projects for implementation in their respective parishes. They present plans for these initiatives during the graduation dinner, also attended by pastors and priests from their parishes. An example project is a healing ministry developed to serve women or couples who have lost an infant through miscarriage or abortion.

Graduates of the recent cohort came from parishes in Wyandotte County (Our Lady of Unity, Blessed Sacrament and the Cathedral of St. Peter) and from the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo. The class of 35 that will begin in September 2019 will include participants from Good Shepherd Parish, Shawnee, Kan.; St. Paul Parish, Olathe, Kan.; Holy Cross Parish, Overland Park, Kan.; and Wyandotte County. To qualify for the program, applicants must be active members of their parishes.

Sister María admires the participants who attend weekly from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. from September through June or July. “This is a good program for the Hispanic community,” she concludes. “It is also good for the Church as we are developing more ministers and more leaders within the Hispanic community.”