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Diocese of Charleston to Participate in U.S.-Latin American Sisters Exchange Program
11/20/2014 4:39:32 PM

CHICAGO, IL - Catholic Extension, a papal society that has been supporting Catholics on the margins in America since 1905, announced the formal launch of its U.S.-Latin American Sisters Exchange Program, which was made possible through an initial $3 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

The program will span a five-year period and involve 10 Latin American congregations sending more than 30 women religious to dioceses throughout the United States. The Diocese of Charleston, SC is hosting Sister Maricela de Jesus Gomez Hernandez; Sister Gabriela Hermila Gruz Ruiz; Sister Margarita del Carmen Morales Galdamez; and Sister Matilde Ahu Rivera. The sisters were selected from Latin American congregations and are mutually agreed upon by the bishop in the host diocese and the congregation. The program, which began this summer and continues to 2019, will create a valuable partnership both for the Latin American congregations as well as the U.S. dioceses involved.

The sisters participating in the program will receive intensive pastoral leadership training and gain valuable ministry skills that will help them build up and strengthen the faith of the people they serve. Through their work the sisters will staff ministries that serve families, provide religious education, women's spirituality and youth and young adult ministry. At the end of the program, the sisters will return to their Latin American congregation, which will in turn benefit from their increased training and experience.
"The Sisters will be leaders of the New Evangelization in the Hispanic community an inspiration to help reinforce, strengthen and extend the work of the Church in South Carolina," said The Reverend Monsignor Ronald R. Cellini, VF, VP, Pastor of St. Gregory the Great in Bluffton, South Carolina.

In Charleston the sisters will help develop the Hispanic ministry by building faith communities, parishioner participation, and fostering leadership growth within the Hispanic community. The sisters are also needed for parish ministry with predominately Spanish speaking families in their homes and at the parish level.

"The Diocese of Charleston is so excited for our Latin American sisters to arrive," expressed Kari Suski, who works in the Office of Stewardship and Mission Advancement in the Diocese of Charleston. "We know they will have a great impact to our ministry, especially our Hispanic population. We are looking forward to working with the sisters over the next several years and are so thankful to Catholic Extension and the Conrad Hilton Foundation for making this possible."

When Catholic Extension announced the program last year, more than 30 mission dioceses initially requested to participate, and the 10 chosen include Bismarck, N.D.; Charleston, S.C.; Des Moines, Iowa; Kalamazoo, Mich.; Little Rock, Ark.; Monterey, Calif.; Richmond, Va.; San Angelo, Texas; Tyler, Texas; and Yakima, Wash. All of the dioceses selected for the program have a common thread of a booming Hispanic Catholic population, combined with a lack of resources and trained ministry leadership to meet the needs of the community. Many of these dioceses also have a large number of migrant farm workers and Latino immigrants that the sisters will minister to as well.

"For many years we have seen the prophetic witness of women religious in the poorest areas of our country," said Father Jack Wall, President of Catholic Extension. When speaking of the sisters and of this program he added, "These are women who are so motivated by a profound sense of mission and a calling to serve the Latino communities that they asked to serve on the margins where they can make a significant impact. It just so happened that these communities are here in the United States. This program will help us expand more opportunities for religious women to share their teaching and evangelizing charisms in communities with great needs."

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