Future priests heading south to learn Spanish

As a seminarian for the Diocese of Albany, I am asked to do many things: I am asked to become educated in the fields of philosophy and theology; I am asked to pray; I am asked to live a simple lifestyle; I am asked to live celibately.

I freely and willingly do what is asked of me because I have faith that my formation is not just for my own good or for the good of my soul, but is also for the good of the people I will serve as a priest in the future, and for the Church community.

Recently, we seminarians have been asked to do a little bit more. We have been asked to learn Spanish in order to better serve the growing Latino population in our Diocese.

Right now, there is no priest in our Diocese who is a native Spanish-speaker. While some priests have taken it upon themselves to learn Spanish and a few deacons from Spanish-speaking communities minister in parishes and prisons, we have not yet had any priests come out of these communities.

But the Church still has the responsibility to minister to these communities' needs. Therefore, the diocesan Voca-tion Board has decided to encourage familiarity with, and ideally fluency in, the Spanish language among seminarians.

This summer, seminarian Scott VanDerveer and I are being sent to a school run by the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in Cochabamba, Bolivia, for a six-week Spanish immersion program.

The Instituto de Idiomas Maryknoll (www.ideim.org) teaches many languages to clergy, religious and laypeople who work in places where those languages are prevalent.

We have spoken to a variety of people who have found this school effective in learning Spanish. Unlike other Spanish immersion programs in Latin and South America which operate for profit, the Maryknoll school is a religious institution: They teach the Spanish language but also emphasize words and concepts needed for evangelization.

We will learn specialized language for use in liturgy, homilies and discussions about faith and religion. We will be housed with local families so that we will be forced to use the language every day.

This program is also cheaper than many other for-profit schools. (These are your Bishop's Appeal dollars at work.)

Scott and I are excited to begin this adventure. We are excited to learn another language, but we also look forward to discovering the culture of Bolivia, the way of life of missionaries and the experience of Catholicism in a poor, mountainous, landlocked South American country still influenced by Incan beliefs.

We desire, as a result of this experience, to have an ability to converse in Spanish with our brothers and sisters here who do not know English - but we also hope to have an expanded worldview, a greater appreciation of cultures and ways of life foreign to our American experience and a better understanding of the universality of our Church.

As with all of our formation for the priesthood, the education and opportunities are meant to form us into well-educated and compassionate people who carry on the mission of Christ, spread the Gospel and work for the good of our brothers and sisters everywhere.

Our hope is that this experience of Bolivia and our instruction in the Spanish language will help us on our journey of priestly formation.

(Daniel Quinn, a native of Holy Trinity parish in Johns-town, is in formation for the priesthood for the Albany Diocese.)

The Evangelist will periodically feature reports from diocesan seminarians on their studies, work and development.