By Clare Venegas
What started as a course to equip Atlanta, Georgia-area ministry leaders to teach youth about Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body (TOB), has grown to reach Spanish-speakers all over the world, as one of UD’s popular continuing education programs offered through the Ann and Joe O. Neuhoff Institute for Ministry and Evangelization.
“It’s an example of how UD is truly helping the universal church,” said Pia Septien, affiliate instructor and Spanish language program coordinator at the University of Dallas.
From as far away as Columbia, Mexico, South and Central America, and even the UK, the University of Dallas’ “Teología del Cuerpo” continuing education course attracts lay Catholics and religious of all ages, backgrounds and educational levels, most of whom serve in youth or marriage preparation ministries at the parish or diocesan levels.
“The message of God’s love resonates with Hispanics,” said Septien. “When they hear a message of the Gospel and of God’s love, they are attracted to the idea of dignity that the Church offers.”
Theology of the Body, which draws from 129 lectures delivered by St. John Paul II during his Wednesday audiences at St. Peter’s Square between 1979 and 1984, lays out a fundamental understanding of the human body as a means to understand God. Rooted in the Church’s fundamental teaching on the creation of man and the complementarity of man and woman, the teachings are particularly relevant to understanding the Church’s view on some of the most controversial issues of our time, from gender identity and sexuality to contraception and abortion.
The University of Dallas began offering the course in 2016 both in English and Spanish at the request of the Diocese of Atlanta, one of the many dioceses and parishes in the U.S. that partner with UD for continuing education programs.
However, the demand for a Spanish language course, which is taught by Guadalajara, Mexico-based instructor Evan Lemoine, continued to grow, and the response has been strong ever since.
“I was able to speak at the University of Dallas Ministry Conference a couple of times,” Lemoine said. “While there were times when we were unsure about attendance, we’re now at the point where we’re getting 30-50 participants each year.”
What makes the UD course so unique, Lemoine explained, is that it is the only program he teaches that gives students the ability to learn the Theology of the Body catechesis in the actual order it was delivered by Pope John Paul II.
“TOB is a breath of fresh air,” Lemoine said, “Like fresh water after three weeks in the ocean. You have this longing for it, and when you see it and taste it, you realize this is what I was looking for, and you just didn’t know that this was it.”
Septien noted the continuing growth and reach, even for the fall of 2021 course.
“We’re very excited to see how much this program has grown,” Septien said. “Even this fall, we already have enrolled a Mexican seminarian and a high school religion professor in Valencia, Spain, who is a father of five. It’s a blessing to see how much God has grown this program, and how much, even in the age of COVID, how the internet has expanded UD’s reach to Hispanic audiences worldwide.”
For more information about the Theology of the Body course in English or Spanish, click here.