Fordham University’s Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GRE) has received a $100,000 grant to help increase enrollment in the Latino ministry program that is part of its Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies and develop a doctoral concentration in the emerging field.
The three-year grant, which has been awarded to GRE by an anonymous donor, will also be used to bolster outreach efforts to Hispanic parishioners through the school’s Spanish-language website, known as Isidoro, which offers courses in theology and scripture targeted at Hispanic parishioners and churches with large Latino congregations. Some of the funding will also be used to develop an institute focused on Hispanic ministry, said Claudio Burgaleta, S.J., assistant professor of theology.
“Thanksgiving has indeed come early to the GRE,” said Father Burgaleta. “This will allow us to serve a community that is the present and the future of the Catholic Church by providing leadership training for those in that community.”
The Hispanic community is among the fastest growing within the Catholic Church in the United States. According to 2000 census figures, Latinos account for 71 percent of all the growth in the U.S. Catholic population since 1960, and there are now 4,000 parishes with a Hispanic ministry. Moreover, some 37 percent of the Hispanic population in the United States is under the age of 18.
Currently, GRE’s percentage of Latino students stands at 7 percent, and Father Burgaleta said that the grant, coupled with ongoing efforts, should help the school push those numbers higher to “begin to reflect the diversity of the New York Archdiocese.”
Rev. Anthony Ciorra, Ph.D., dean of GRE, called the grant a “quantum leap forward” for the graduate school and its plan to include the growing Latino population. “This grant enables us to build on Fordham’s legacy of outreach to the Latino community,” he said.
As part of the master’s degree in pastoral studies, students can opt to focus on Latino ministry and take 12 credits in Hispanic studies, ministry, theology and spirituality both within GRE and through Fordham’s Latin American and Latino Studies Institute (LALSI). The Isidoro site, which Father Burgaleta helped launch in July 2007, offers an 18-credit online certificate program in Hispanic faith formation. “The influence of Latino culture, language and traditions raise different concerns to be addressed [in ministry,]” said Father Burgaleta. “We want to build our curriculum to meet those concerns.”