Spanish Institute students receive certificates at annual ceremony
Story and photos by David Martin
CHICOPEE – Students in the Spanish Institute at Our Lady of the Elms College said this educational program for the Springfield Diocese’s Latino community helps prepare them to share their faith with young people as catechists.
Eighteen students from the Spanish Institute were awarded certificates after three years of study during a celebratory Mass mostly in Spanish at the Elms College Chapel on Oct. 21.
Jessie Clas, a second-year student teaches religious education classes for various grades at her parish, Blessed Sacrament/All Souls Parish in Springfield. Class said the children are always very curious and have all kinds of questions, so participating in the institute is very helpful for her.
“I wanted to grow in my faith and formation,” said Clas. “Things that I thought I knew about our religion and our faith, I was like, ‘Oh wait a minute, I thought that I knew all this,’ and since I started coming to the classes, I found it interesting and started learning more and more each day.”
The principal celebrant of the Oct. 21 Mass, Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell, apologized for offering his homily in English. Bishop McDonnell recalled that when he was growing up in the Bronx, there was a farmer living nearby with a grapevine that would hang over and shade his back yard. Each fall they would gather grapes from the vine and his mother would make jam and jelly from it, while the neighbors from Italy would make wine.
The bishop said he remembered how they enjoyed so many different things from the vines. He described how one time he traced the vines back to find one branch growing to the ground and from there all the vines spread out.
Bishop McDonnell compared the grapevine to the Gospel read during the Mass. He said, “Jesus is that one branch and those being certified tonight are spreading out from him, though their roots will be different and the way they manifest themselves as Christ’s followers will be different, but as long as they stay attached they will continue to do the work of Jesus.”
“We come tonight to congratulate and to say, ‘Go out in the world and show what Jesus is all about.’ I don’t care if your fruits are jams or jellies, or raisins, or a glass of wine, I want you to be the people of God who want to make his name known. We come tonight to celebrate your mission to go out and bear fruit,” said Bishop McDonnell.
During the award ceremony, which was attended by nearly 100 people, students received their certificates from Elms College professors Martin J. Pion and Ann M. Schwein, and a blessing from Bishop McDonnell.
Recipient Carmen Rivera had also received a certificate during the first awards ceremony three years ago. She said the education through the institute helps her as a catechist to have a higher level of religious background so she can teach more appropriately first- and second-year confirmation students at her parish, Blessed Sacrament/All Souls Parish in Springfield.
“For me it was an inner spiritual growth and because I’m always wanting to learn more and more about my spiritual background. I have also been doing more in-depth reading and there is more growth in me prayer wise,” said Rivera.
Rivera said the classes are offered in Spanish, but since she speaks both languages she tape records the classes, translates the tape and received permission to turn in her papers in English. Both Clas and Rivera said the homework assignments encourage students to do their own research in theology to find the meaning behind Scripture.
“The teachers were great; they explain everything in great detail. They are available all the time to assist you in whatever you may need,” said Clas.
Both students also recommend the educational and spiritual program to all in the Latino community.