Many English-speaking seminarians at Mundelein spend at least one summer studying abroad in a Spanish Immersion program. With an increasing Hispanic population in the majority of US dioceses, our seminarians are answering a call to learn the Spanish language in order to minister and care for all of their parishioners. The cultural immersion takes them to a deeper level of understanding and relationship with their parish community.
This summer was a life-giving experience. I went into it without much Spanish exposure at all. Before the two-week immersion at Mundelein, I could barely introduce myself in Spanish. Thanks to the efforts of Senora Patel and Senora Gonzalez during that intensive class, I felt comfortable going to Guatemala.
Upon arriving in Guatemala, I was struck by the kindness of the people and I was particularly pleased with my host family. The matriarch of the home was a lovely 94-year-old woman who did not speak any English but had a lively spirit and a joyful attitude. It was a treat to spend time with her throughout the summer and hear her constant sayings. For example, she would often remind us that we are all God’s children after reciting some of Psalm 23.
My Spanish teacher and I began with an interesting conversation regarding her confusion as to why God places her with seminarians. I came to find out that she had had a negative experience with the Church over 8 years ago, which had led her to stop going to Mass and instead go to a Protestant community. Little by little, I spoke with her about the wounds that she has and also the questions she had regarding our faith. We often read the Bible together and I gave her a Catholic Catechism. After a few weeks of these discussions mixed in with our regular Spanish lessons, she was willing to come back to the Church through the Sacrament of Confession.
It was a beautiful day of mercy when her and I each went to Confession with a great priest I had met. Then, I served the Mass in which she received the Eucharist for the first time in nearly 25 years. Thanks be to God for this woman and her willingness to respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.