UIW Pastoral Institute Receives National Award

June 28, 2024

Sr. Eilish Ryan, CCVI and Dr. Michael Romero/Director, UIW Pastoral InstituteThe University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) and the UIW College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS) are proud to announce that the UIW Pastoral Institute has been recognized with a national award from the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States (ACHTUS). UIW was well represented by Dr. Michael Romero, director of the Pastoral Institute and Sr. Eilish Ryan, CCVI and former longtime director of the Pastoral Institute at an award ceremony held by ACHTUS on Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in Boston.

The UIW Pastoral Institute prepares men and women for positions of leadership and service to communities and the Church through contemporary roles in ministry. In keeping with its mission, the department provides students with a breadth of knowledge in the liberal arts and Catholic culture, offers a solid foundation in biblical and theological studies in preparation for ministry and equips students with the leadership skills and intercultural fluency needed for effective pastoral ministry in today’s multicultural dioceses, parishes and institutions.

“I am deeply grateful for this recognition of the Pastoral Institute at UIW,” says Sr. Eilish, who led the Institute for more than 30 years. “To me, it acknowledges the vision, commitment and labors of many people for over 55 years to academic pastoral ministry education and formation, and in particular to Hispanic ministry development in Texas and across the United States.”

The award was presented by Dr. Ahida Pilarski from St. Anselm College in New Hampshire. Pilarski said during the ceremony, “The 2024 ACHTUS Award is given to the Pastoral Institute at the University of the Incarnate Word, above all, because of the longevity of its service to our people and to the theologians who accompany them and for its firm and profound alignment with the mission of ACHTUS.”

Officially established in 1968 by Fr. Virgilio Elizondo and Sr. Theresa McGrath, the Pastoral Institute at UIW was originally a certificate level academic and pastorally oriented program to promote the vision of the Second Vatican Council for a renewed church in which lay leadership was to be specifically encouraged and developed. In 1972, the Master of Arts degree program was initiated with the strong support of then Archdiocese of San Antonio Archbishop Patrick Flores. When the Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC) opened, graduate students had the opportunity to enroll in some advanced courses focused on Hispanic theology and culture. The Bachelor of Arts degree was added in the 2000’s when an agreement was made between the two institutions that students enrolled in the BA program could take their core courses at UIW, the courses for their pastoral ministry degree at MACC, and receive an accredited bachelor’s degree from UIW. The relationship continues this way today for BA and MA students.

“The Pastoral Institute houses our identity, our charism, and our Mission at the University,” says CHASS Dean, Dr. Javier Clavere. “With the creation of the new chaplaincy concentration, the Pastoral Institute is trailblazing to the future of ministry, exploring innovative ways to offer support to others in their need. In a world experiencing the rapid emergence of artificial intelligence at speeds never seen before, the Pastoral Institute continues its commitment of keeping our spiritual and human experience at the center of our educational enterprise. ‘To be the face of God to everyone we meet’.”

Sr. Eilish credits the many leaders of the Institute for its success including Elizondo, McGrath, Dr. Robert Colbert, Dr. Denise Doyle, Dr. Jakob Rinderknecht and now, Dr. Romero. She also points out the continued collaboration with MACC was accentuated and solidified by the work of Dr. Arturo Chavez when he was president of MACC. Chavez now serves as Associate Vice President of Mission at UIW.

Over the course of more than five decades, hundreds of students have earned their master’s degree through the Pastoral Institute at UIW and even more have received certification. Today, there are 21 students studying at the BA and MA level.

“I was totally surprised when I received news of the award. It is an honor, and I am thankful to ACHTUS for the recognition,” says Romero. “The Pastoral Institute is collaborative by nature and will continue to be so as it grows. We have added new programs as a response to the need for them in the community. We have a new Chaplaincy Concentration in the master’s program where students will be able to earn Clinical Pastoral Education units, and we have added an associate degree. We are excited about the future of the Pastoral Institute and we look forward to many more gifts as God has given it.”

For more information on the Pastoral Institute, please contact Dr. Michael Romero at maromer6@uiwtx.edu or https://www.uiw.edu/chass/academics/departments/pastoral-institute/.