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Tylan Ricketts among 11 seminarians

immersed in Spanish language program

Special to the Register
P.J. Voegeli was a little skeptical about the Spanish immersion program. But, he said, “Our eyes have been opened,” or, because they are immersed in Spanish, “¡Nuestros ojos se han abierto!
He and 10 other seminarians are studying as hard as possible in Spanish classes from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in a program supervised by the language department at Pittsburg State University. They began their studies June 3 and will be immersed until July 25.
Seven of the seminarians are studying for the Diocese of Wichita, two are from the Diocese of Dodge City, and two from the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo. Most have had a head start with a few courses of high school Spanish. Voegeli, a member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Wichita, and a student at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Md., said the program actually began the weekend before June 3 when he and the other “estudiantes” were introduced to their host families, who speak only Spanish with the seminarians.
In addition to living with their host families one weekend, the seminarians have a family dinner with their host families on Sundays after Mass, and are participating in Our Lady of Lourdes’ Hispanic youth ministry in Pittsburg.
Although the language course is described as an immersion program, the students do take a break after 7 p.m.
“We have to get some homework done,” Voegeli said, “so it’s nice to be able to speak a little English, because a lot of us aren’t very far along in Spanish.”
They spend their evenings as guests of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, which has converted and renovated a former convent as guest housing. “They’ve done a wonderful job of remodeling, we are spoiled and blessed,” he said.
Voegeli said he initially had doubts about the program, partly because the program was in the diocese. Many immersion programs are based in Spanish speaking countries, but Voegeli said they are getting a similar experience through the Spanish speaking community and the Spanish speaking religious sisters in the Pittsburg area.
“The (Spanish speaking) community down here isn’t that large, but their needs are so great that you get an experience with the language, but more so, an experience with the culture,” he said. “Now, I know I wouldn’t want to do it outside the diocese.”
Not only are the seminarians learning Spanish, he said, they are learning it from the people they will serve after they are ordained. “It helps me to reach out to the people now,” Voegeli said.
He had one request of the faithful of the diocese for those in the language program. In English, he said: “Pray for us!”

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