Worldwide Spanish-language evangelization program builds up Hispanic Catholics' confidence in proclaiming Christ

DETROIT — In the age of the new evangelization, it's becoming apparent that for the Church to evangelize modern society, the laity must play a crucial role. 

So it's good news that enrollment in Sacred Heart Major Seminary's lay ecclesial ministry programs are at near record highs.

But for members of the Hispanic Catholic community in southeast Michigan, college-level theology courses can often be inaccessible because of budget-stretching tuition fees, academic requirements and language barriers.

It's for that reason the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Office of Hispanic Ministry formed an official partnership this spring with the San Andres School of Evangelization, an international education program offered in Spanish for adults to learn more about the faith, to better prepare them to be evangelizers, and to serve in parish life.

The San Andres School of Evangelization is offered worldwide, Melecia Arredondo, director of the San Andres School of Evangelization, told Detroit Catholic through a translator. 

“We form new evangelizers for the evangelization of the community,” Arredondo said. “Everyone can join the school of evangelization, from children to adults, no matter the education level.”

Locally, the San Andres School of Evangelization, located at 7060 McGraw St. in southwest Detroit, serves students from mostly Hispanic parishes in the area, as well as from Holy Family Parish in Novi and the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak.

Hispanic Catholics lift their hands during a praise and worship event at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit before the Pentecost vigil. (Melissa Moon | Detroit Catholic)

“The school helps (students) get the basic knowledge of the faith they are living,” Arredondo said. “We are rooted in the Scriptures, and that is something we want to help people acquire as a vocation, just the basics of knowing the faith. We have seen a lot of personal conversion through the program, and they in turn convert their families and parishes.”

The San Andres School of Evangelization originated in 1980 in Guadalajara, Mexico and has spread across North, Central and South America because of its effectiveness.

The school has had a presence in the Archdiocese of Detroit since 2010, when Detroit Auxiliary Bishops Donald Hanchon and Arturo Cepeda encouraged more outreach to the Hispanic Catholic community, said Karla Flores, associate director of Hispanic Ministry for the Archdiocese of Detroit. 

Startup funds from the Southwest Vicariate Grant helped train laity to better assist their pastors in predominately Hispanic parishes, Flores said.

“The school started here because Bishop Cepeda and Bishop Hanchon knew the school as a great option for people who could not go to formal education institutions,” Flores said. “After some years with the Southwest Vicariate Grant funding the school, we saw the results, and the archdiocese thought it would be worth it to bring the school into a more formal partnership as part of the Hispanic Ministry office.”

Approximately 1,500 people have participated in the San Andres School of Evangelization since it came to Detroit in 2010, and around 40 graduates from the program have continued their education at Sacred Heart Major Seminary for a more formal lay education.

“We offer the same message, going over the kerygma and what it means to bring Christ into people’s lives, but the seminary offers a higher level of education,” Arredondo said. 

The school prepares material for adults between the approximate ages of 35 to 60 who may not have attended a school in years, but see the need to be involved in their parish's mission, Flores said. 

“They are not regular students who just graduated from college and want to study more, or just graduated from high school and are ready for college-level courses,” Flores said. “These students could be a little afraid of going to an institution like the seminary with automated class registration and the formality of it all.”

A couple kneels in prayer during Eucharistic adoration at SS. Andrew & Benedict Parish in southwest Detroit. (Mike Stechschulte | Detroit Catholic file photo)

The San Andres School of Evangelization “is a very friendly option, a personalized approach where they are invited to attend to increase the competence and confidence in themselves as they continue their formation,” Flores continued. “And when they are more prepared, they can go to the seminary knowing more, because they have received that leadership training, they are more confident in themselves, ready to study.”

The school taught 160 people last year, but Flores said those numbers likely will increase to keep up with the spiritual demands of Detroit’s growing Hispanic population.

“We need more people who are well prepared to help us in the parishes,” Flores said. “Our priests cannot do all the work by themselves; they will need volunteers, staff to help them. And we want people who are ready, who have encountered Christ, who know Christ, and are formed and ready to help out at the parish.”

For Arredondo, the more formal partnership between the San Andres School of Evangelization and the Archdiocese of Detroit is an affirmation of the work the school has been doing for the past nine years in Detroit.

“It is our desire that every person gets to know the message that we are proclaiming, the one that (Detroit) Archbishop (Allen H.) Vigneron is inviting us to proclaim,” Arredondo said, “to unleash the Gospel with everyone in the whole archdiocese. This helps us do what he is asking us to do, to bring the Gospel to the people.”