By Chris Hazell
The CPM is designed to form, educate and prepare adults to serve in their parishes, schools and other Catholic organizations as knowledgeable disciples of Christ. Students can take courses in the areas of theology, morality, pastoral ministry, evangelization, marriage and family life, and more.
Father Fray Luis Gerardo Arraiza of Our Lady of Lourdes, a Capuchin friar, sees the program as a wonderful blessing for nourishing the diverse members of his parish. He believes it is critical for his parish community to receive this type of formation. Even though his parishioners hail from traditionally Catholic countries such as Mexico and El Salvador, many of them know very little about the traditions and teachings of Catholicism.
“In the Hispanic communities of the past, the grandmothers were the ones who transmitted the faith, but this is not the case now. People need to know what the Catholic faith means, and the more they know, the better influence they are going to have in transmitting the tenets of the faith to our young families and youth,” said Arraiza.
Twenty-three parishioners graduated from the Spanish CPM program in 2020, and there are another 32 currently in the program. The cohort is made up of volunteer parish leaders in the areas of adult catechesis, liturgy, young adult fellowship and marriage formation.
"The Certificate in Pastoral Ministry program is awesome. It is a great program that offers growth in many aspects of one's life,” said Our Lady of Lourdes parishioner Alicia C. Contreras. “I learned much more in depth about our faith, and it helped my personal journey with my family. It also helped me grow to become a better leader in my community. It was a pleasure to learn alongside my brothers and sisters in Christ as we all engaged. The professors were amazing, well prepared for each class, and did a great job! I am grateful to all."
Arraiza is grateful for the chance to benefit from a Catholic institution of higher learning. He sees the relationship as mutually beneficial, allowing members of his parish to grow intellectually and spiritually while also enriching UD’s community with diverse perspectives and gifts from a variety of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.
The Diocese of Dallas is an instrumental partner in making the certificate program affordable. A total of 18 courses are required to complete the program, and the diocese covers half the cost. Our Lady of Lourdes covers another 25%, so parishioners only pay 25% of the normal cost for each course. By easing the financial burden, many ministry volunteers in the parish have been able to take advantage of the CPM program.
“The School of Ministry has been blessed to be able to offer outstanding formation programs for years,” said Neuhoff School of Ministry Dean Theodore Whapham, Ph.D. “Our partnership with the Diocese of Dallas and support from pastors like Fray Luis have made it even easier for us to continue this important work.”
“I'm very pleased with the program and very thankful to UD,” said Arraiza. “It has been great, and I pray to God that the relationship will continue.”
While many of Arraiza’s parishioners are finishing the program, he is amazed by how many want to keep learning. Even though some have had little formal education and are extremely busy with managing family and work responsibilities, they have a desire for a continuation of growth in their knowledge of the faith. Arraiza feels that this proves the program is greatly benefiting parishioners and empowering them to spread the Gospel to those both within and beyond the Church.
“Knowledge of the faith only adds richness and meat to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I think when you get to know Scripture and Tradition with a capital ‘T,’ it really offers a much wider perspective,” explained Arraiza. “And I want to believe it gives us tools to dialogue with other Christians, people of other faiths and people who may not believe.”
Deacon Alex Barbieri of St. Francis of Assisi is not only the parish’s deacon but also its senior director of operations. He also has been encouraged by the fruitfulness of his parish’s collaboration with UD. In February 2020, St. Francis had 39 parishioners enroll in the CPM program offered in Spanish.
Of 40,000 parishioners, about a third speak Spanish as their primary language. Barbieri believes the CPM can fulfill two of the parish’s major goals. The first is to help form teachers and catechists empowered to evangelize others through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and related ministries. The other is to equip and inspire parishioners to reach out to those in their community with the greatest educational and material needs.
Similar to Arraiza, Barbieri believes that helping others deepen their knowledge of the faith ultimately helps them become better disciples of Christ — something he knows firsthand as a student in UD’s English CPM Program.
“Before you catechize, you have to drive that relationship with Christ, that discipleship,” he explained, emphasizing that the program is effective because it is committed to helping students love and serve Christ at its core.
As a student himself, he is impressed by how the program takes practical, “secular” knowledge and applies it to serving the Church.
“I'm a big fan of the Jesuit model of finding God in all things, and what I love about the program is that it takes bits and pieces from the secular world and the business world and looks at them through the lens of living life as a Catholic in 2021,” said Barbieri. “In my case, it doesn't just help make me a better manager of a parish but a better disciple of Christ as a manager.”
Aside from the program’s intellectual engagement and professional relevance, Barbieri also appreciates the relational and collaborative nature of it. This remains the case even after courses were transitioned online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The program really does foster a dialogue amongst the students and the professors. I've never been in an educational environment where there was such a willingness and acceptance of being vulnerable,” said Barbieri. “And like any relationship, when you can let down those guards, drop those pretenses and platitudes, and get vulnerable with people, it just makes the content that you're learning come to life in such a real way.”
Ultimately, the CPM program in Spanish has helped two of UD’s neighboring parishes better know and share the hope of the Good News.
“People are learning about their faith, and I'm really thankful for it,” said Arraiza. “As St. Peter tells us, we have to be able to give a reason for our hope in Christ.”
Read the story in Spanish here.