Thursday, Mar. 8th 2018

Conception seminarians experience Hispanic culture

Seminarians reflect on their weekend immersion experience

Conception Seminary College seminarians traveled to a Des Moines, Iowa for a weekend experience immersed in a vibrant Hispanic community. Following are two of the seminarian’s reflection on their experience.

by Hugo Rodriguez, a seminarian of the Diocese of Davenport in Iowa

This past weekend I along with my sophomore class and some pre-theologians spent the weekend in Des Moines, Iowa. We were immersed for a weekend in a fraction of the Hispanic community that gives so much life to the Church today all over the United States.

I am studying for the Diocese of Davenport, also in Iowa, but was born in Mexico and have lived in the United States for 14 years. Consequently, I have grown up in very similar communities to the ones we experienced this weekend, so it almost felt like I was back at my home parish in Ottumwa, Iowa.  

I must admit though, that I thought I would not get much out of the weekend since I believed it was mostly geared towards seminarians who do not have experience with Hispanic communities or the language. However, I realized I had so much to gain from this weekend when I met part of the Rodríguez-Ceballos Family: Jose, Teresa, Eduardo, and Pablo. In spending two nights at their house, eating and conversing with them at their table and even driving to get some street tacos one night, I realized what a blessing these opportunities are for us seminarians.

Jared Ludwig of the Archdiocese of Omaha and Hugo Rodriguez of the Diocese of Davenport with their host family.

Jared Ludwig, a seminarian of the Archdiocese of Omaha, and I spent hours learning our host family’s life stories, and I felt so at home with their hospitality and deep love for the Church. In the times we prayed together, I remember thinking of how blessed I was to be there but how more blessed I would be to one day be doing the same thing with my own parishioners as a priest if God wills it.

Experiences like the one I had this weekend fuel my desire to become a priest. God clearly spoke to me through the weekend, in the generosity and openness of my host family, in the incredibly packed Spanish Mass on Sunday and the two Columbian priests’ love for their people, in the many immigrants’ personal yet familiar stories that they shared unreservedly, and in the fun and joy that I shared with my brother seminarians on this immersion into the Hispanic community. I pray that those who go on this weekend trip next year can experience and fuel their desire for the priesthood as well.

by Casey Zimmerman, a seminarian of the Diocese of Salina in Kansas

Conception seminarians assisted Fr. Fabian Moncada of Our Lady of the Americas Parish in Des Moines, Ia. during their Hispanic Experience weekend.

This past weekend, the Sophomores and Pre-Theology seminarians had the opportunity to go to Des Moines, Iowa for an immersion experience with Hispanic people. Each of us got to stay with a Hispanic host family for the weekend and participate in the parish life of a parish with many Hispanic ministries. It was a truly blessed experience and one I will not soon forget.

One of the first things that struck me was my nervousness. I was worried about whether or not my Spanish was going to be good enough to communicate effectively with my host family. It was exciting to use the Spanish which I had been taught at the seminary, but the reality of using it as my primary language over the weekend was daunting. In a small way, this helped me identify with the struggles of migrant families and those coming to a new country to make a better life, but who know nothing of the language. I found myself frustrated with myself on numerous occasions because I was unable to express myself or adequately understand another during a conversation. Luckily, there were many bilingual children who were able to assist in translating.

In getting to know my host family, I was able to hear some of their personal story on how and why they came to the United States. The tribulations they went through, the hardships they suffered, and the strength they drew from each other despite living for a while in different countries was inspiring. Their strong faith was evident, and not just in their personalities. There were so many visible statues of Our Lady of Guadalupe and other Christian symbols that were the centerpieces of walls, tables, and rooms.

Another impactful aspect of the weekend was the generosity and love present in the Hispanic culture. My host family regularly gathered extended members of their family, including numerous small children, together into one house to dine. The food was delicious and copious, and they wanted nothing more than for their guests to eat first and be satisfied. The family atmosphere was a beautiful change from the academic setting of the seminary, and it was so touching to get to play with the kids and watch them play and care for one another.

While a single weekend is never enough to comprehend the intricacies and uniqueness of a culture, it was educational and enjoyable to become more familiar with the Hispanic culture within the Catholic Church. They are a huge, though often overlooked, part of the Church in the United States. I believe that this experience will feed well into a fruitful ministry with the Hispanic men, women, and children in my diocese.

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