Portrait by Ellen Marello
Right now, we are focusing on the importance of being more creative about our theological and pastoral programs. We might still be thinking that students must come to us, and that we must have this traditional, “leave home for four years kind of experience,” which is awesome and amazing, but it might not be the reality. I am inviting my colleagues to be very creative in how we design graduate theological education.
The Pathways for Tomorrow grant we received is giving us the space to ask tough questions and think creatively about possible answers. When we invite Latinas/os, being culturally competent and creating welcoming structures are important, yet student retention, as crucial as it is, is not the only reason to do this work. It also carries theological importance. The American Catholic Academy could benefit from the Hispanic communal experience with God.
Unfortunately, many programs supporting Latinas/os are based on a deficiency approach, endorsing the notion that they are lacking and need help. Truly seeing and valuing people for who they are is a different kind of true welcoming. It has a different sense. This is important and creative work.