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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Six seminary students here for Spanish immersion program

  • Six Diocese of Wichita seminary students have plunged into a Spanish immersion program in Pittsburg.



    The program, covering June and July, is a joint effort involving the diocese and Pittsburg State University, according to Fr. Mike Simone, director of vocations for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita.

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  • Six Diocese of Wichita seminary students have plunged into a Spanish immersion program in Pittsburg.
    The program, covering June and July, is a joint effort involving the diocese and Pittsburg State University, according to Fr. Mike Simone, director of vocations for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita.
    “The seminarians are taking intensive Spanish classes at the university, and have recently gone from a 200 level conversation class to a 500 level literature class,” Fr. Simone said. “Two of the Missionary Catechists sisters here are also taking intensive English classes.”
    Seminarians participating are Eric Nichols, Zachary Pinaire, Jason Knauff, Sam Brand and Andrew Walsh, all students at Kennrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis, and Rickey Kotrba, who attends Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md. All are preparing to eventually become priests in the Diocese of Wichita.
    “For their first weekend in Pittsburg, they were dumped on the doorstep of Hispanic families,” Fr. Simone said. “They were brought back to the church for  Sunday
    Mass.”
    The experience was eye-opening to the students.
    “I’m probably the one of the six of us with the least language training,” said Pinaire. “In the family I was with, the parents spoke broken English and one of the children, a 9-year-old daughter, spoke better English than her parents. It was pretty nerve-wracking, and gave me a feeling of what any immigrant would feel coming to the United States and knowing no English. It was scary and kind of mortifying.”
    “People are coming here to better their way of life, and it’s very moving,” Walsh said. “This program is helping us learn Spanish and learn about other cultures. This is a major issue in our society, and in the church as well.”
    “Spending that weekend with the family showed me that the people emigrating here want the same thing any American wants, a better life for their family,” Knauff said. “They do seem to be finding a way to prosper, and they’re bringing a wealth of heritage to the church. Our Lady of Guadeloupe is popping up all over now, and it’s good.”
    In addition to attending PSU language classes, the students are also continuing their cultural contacts, including meeting weekly with the Missionary Catechist sisters.
    “One week we’ll meet and share our North American culture with them, and the next we’ll meet and they’ll share their culture with us,” Fr. Simone said. “We’re also going to be meeting with community leaders, including Penny Armstrong and Pittsburg Police Chief Mendy Hulvey.”
    “The best part is having dinner with the families, talking with them and eating good Hispanic food,” Brand said. “We’re living together at the convent, we speak Spanish until 7 p.m. and we cook for each other.”
    Page 2 of 2 - There have been a few snags there — like a batch of pancakes that burned up — but otherwise the summer is going well.
    “One of the things that makes Pittsburg so appealing is that it’s more welcoming to immigrants than many communities,” said Fr. Simone, originally from Weir. “Pittsburg has made this appealing on all kinds of levels.”
    He praised Dr. Judy Berry-Bravo, chairman of the PSU modern languages department, and other faculty members.
    “PSU is a very good fit,” Fr. Simone said.
    “Everybody has been very helpful and supportive, and we have good teachers,” Brand said.
    Nichols sees an even greater help and support behind the program, noting that it is being done for a very different purpose than when college students normally take language classes.
    “This is a work of the Holy Spirit for His future purposes,” the future priest said. “The Holy Spirit is giving us an opportunity to fall in love with Jesus through falling in love with some of the most materially poor people in the community, state and United States. I ask people to pray for us in this.”

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