Skip to Main Content

Bilingual Faith Formation

School of Ministry Receives Grant for Bilingual Faith Formation


Father RamirezDate published: Sept. 14, 2018

This spring, the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine awarded the Ann and Joe O. Neuhoff School of Ministry a $24,050 grant to support the CCD’s goals of promoting Catholic biblical literacy. Given to Father Rafael Ramirez, affiliate assistant professor in the school of ministry, this grant will fund a full scholarship for one bilingual student to complete a Master of Theological Studies with a concentration in biblical studies. Upon completion of the two-year program, the student will be qualified to teach in the school’s Escuela Catolica Biblica, providing Spanish language classes in biblical studies.

As one of three grants given by the CCD to help “foster practical responses to biblical literacy,” this grant responds specifically to the Neuhoff School of Ministry’s need for more bilingual instructors. Of the over 800 students enrolled in its continuing education programs, 61 percent are Hispanic. Yet, while these students come to study in the school of ministry seeking to grow in their faith and are particularly attracted to the school’s programs offered in Spanish, especially its Catholic Biblical School program,  due to the lack of programming available in Spanish elsewhere, there is a shortage of available bilingual instructors.

“The real challenge is the tremendous need for Spanish language faith formation programs and the limited number of qualified instructors that we have,” said Dean and Associate Professor of the Neuhoff School of Ministry Ted Whapham. “Our average class size for our Spanish language continuing education programs has been between 50 and 60, and we have had some classes as large as 90 students, which is really untenable. It is much too large to provide quality instruction, and so the demand in the community outpaces our ability to provide courses. The major difficulty is finding qualified master’s-level instructors who are bilingual.”

While the school of ministry provides master’s degrees in theological studies, supplying the training necessary to qualify someone to teach in the school’s continuing education programs, the funding to support this solution was still lacking — until Ramirez discovered a way to obtain that, as well.

“I am a member of the Catholic Biblical Association, and in the meeting last year it was mentioned that there were all these available funds provided by the royalties of the New American Bible translation,” said Ramirez. “We are always looking for financial help to grow our programs, so I immediately saw the opportunity for us because our program fits perfectly with the purpose and the areas of interest of the grant.  

Not only will this grant support bilingual biblical studies within the Neuhoff School of Ministry, it will also help meet the needs of the Diocese of Dallas. Of the over one million Catholics in the diocese, 65 percent are of Hispanic descent. “While many are bilingual, many prefer to pray and study in their native language,” said Whapham. Referring to a previous study on why traditionally Catholic Hispanics are leaving the church in droves, Whapham argued that this is due to an inadequate response to their pastoral needs, including faith formation in their native language. He then stated that it is the shared responsibility of both the diocese and the University of Dallas, being the area’s only Catholic university, to provide this formation.

“So this particular program, this particular grant, is a modest effort to expand our programs and better meet the needs of the Hispanic community,” he continued. “It’s hard to think of something more practical than this.”

As it meets the concrete needs of both school and diocese, the grant will fulfill the mission statements of both the Neuhoff School of Ministry and the University of Dallas as a whole, both dedicated to the recovery of the Christian intellectual tradition and the renewal of Catholic theology, all while serving the needs of society.

“We need to be not only deeply steeped in our understanding of Scripture, but we need, as the university’s mission statement says, to contribute to the renewal of Catholic theology,” said Whapham. “That is not just in academic circles; that has to be in the life of the church — theology in particular. Like philosophy, it’s not just something you sit and think about … it has to impact the way you live in the world. And that really should be true of all that we do: it is not just thinking great thoughts, it is being great people. And so the Neuhoff School of Ministry and its programs, especially this grant as a specific incarnation of that, is an example of how the university contributes to the community that it is a part of. It is a concrete manifestation of what we stand for.”

Discover more about the Master of Theological Studies and the Catholic Biblical School in the Neuhoff School of Ministry.

News

Prestigious Physics Fellowship Supports Alumna's Research

In a mountain range in Italy, Sophia Andaloro, BS '19, investigates dark matter. One of the 2019 Cardinal Spellman recipients at UD, Andaloro received both the 2020 NSF Graduate Fellowship and the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration Stewardship Science Graduate Fellowship (DOE NNSA SSGF) this past year, her first year in graduate school at Rice University. She is one of five graduate students who will join the NNSA program this fall.

+ Read More

How Do You Build the Perfect Sandcastle?

According to a team of University of Dallas juniors, there's an optimal water-to-sand ratio, roughly 6%, along with a borrowed methodology that's endured the test of time dating back to the relics of the Old Kingdom. The students' research, titled "The Best Sandcastles Are Egyptian: Pyramids Reign Supreme," was awarded a Meritorious designation in the International Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM) -- a first in university history.

+ Read More

Alumnus Named Among 2020 Most Influential Black Executives in Corporate America

Savoy, the leading African American business and lifestyle magazine, recently dubbed University of Dallas alumnus and Gupta College of Business Hall of Fame recipient Irvin Ashford Jr., MBA '00, among its 2020 list of elite Black executives. The listing garnered Ashford industry recognition along with the likes of Robert Smith, billionaire founder of Vista Equity Partners, out of more than 500 prospective candidates.

+ Read More