UIW Receives Major Grant to Invest in Future Hispanic Ministry

January 26, 2023

Grant Part of National Project to Empower Future Latinx Theologians

Student wearing UIW shirt and cross necklace

San Antonio – The University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) has received a major grant to be used to empower future Latinx theologians. The $110,000 grant awarded to UIW is part of a $7.9 million dollar grant from the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment as part of a national effort being led by the University of Notre Dame and Boston College.

Specifically, the five-year project, known as “Haciendo Caminos”(“creating pathways”), seeks to address the lack of U.S.-born Hispanic seminarians, priests, deacons, women religious and lay ministers. The project seeks to empower new ecclesial leaders from predominantly Latino Catholic communities across the country through theological and ministerial formation at the graduate level.

“The demographics are very clear; the future of the Catholic Church in the United States is directly related to how effectively we respond to the spiritual, educational and social justice issues of Latino/as today,” says Dr. Arturo Chavez, associate vice-president of Mission at UIW. “There is a glaring need for integral formation and access to higher education for Latino/a leaders who have discerned a call to ministry. They want to serve as pastoral leaders; however, so many of these faith-filled men and women cannot qualify for employment in parishes and dioceses because they do not have the requisite degrees and training. The multimillion dollar grant from the Lilly Endowment is a God-send at this time.”

Notre Dame and Boston College have partnered with four regional institutions in the “Haciendo Caminos” project: Barry University, Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University, Loyola Marymount University and UIW. In turn, these regional partners will identify at least twelve collaborator schools from across their respective regions to assist in the project. UIW plans on working locally with The Oblate School of Theology and the Mexican-American Catholic College.

Together, the institutions will work to identify and award 100 individuals with $30,000 scholarships each to study theology at the Masters level and achieve a vocation in ministry. In addition, the project will host National Vocations Summits aimed at bringing together students enrolled in undergraduate programs with consortium representatives and peers who have pursued this calling. And the project will also host a series of Summer Formation Symposia where cohorts of young Hispanic Catholic students engaged in Master’s degrees in ministry from all partner institutions will be invited to gather together for human, spiritual, pastoral and theological formation.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few,” (Matthew 9:37) quotes Dr. Javier Clavere, dean of the UIW College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences who will lead UIW’s efforts on the “Haciendo Caminos” project. “The Latinx community has a profound need for ministers and pastoral leaders; however, so many of these faith-filled men and women who want to serve cannot access training that will enable them to gain employment in parishes and dioceses. Our moral obligation is to provide access and opportunity to all God-filled individuals willing to serve. The multi-million dollar grant from the Lilly Endowment is a God-sent gift to achieve our objectives of providing access and opportunity. UIW and its Pastoral Institute, in partnership with the Oblate School of Theology and Mexican-American Catholic College, will offer substantial fellowships to Latinx individuals eager to study pastoral theology at the graduate level. This is just another of example of how, at the UIW College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, we invest in the lives of future innovators and leaders, creating pathways to greatness in the service to God for the benefit of others.”

“Theological schools play an essential role in ensuring that Christian congregations have a steady stream of well-prepared leaders to guide their ministries,” says Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Lilly Endowment. “Many theological schools believe that their paths to the future depend on their abilities to form strategic partnerships with other schools and church agencies. These grants will help seminaries develop innovative and collaborative approaches to theological education that we believe will strengthen their efforts to prepare and support excellent leaders for Christian communities into the future.”

According to the University of Notre Dame, currently about 45% of all Roman Catholics are Hispanic and that percentage is more noticeable among Catholics younger than eighteen at about 60%.