Dr. Renata Furst has accepted an appointment as Associate Dean for Hispanic Engagement. Her responsibility will be to seek new ways to engage Hispanics in theological education at Oblate School of Theology. She succeeds Father Bryan Silva, OMI, who held the post for two years.
The School’s Hispanic Engagement Committee concluded that OST needed an associate dean for this purpose and that it must be a member of the existing faculty since funds are not available to hire a new faculty member to assume the position. Current members of the committee are Dr. Furst, Dr. Scott Woodward, Ana Frietze, Julia Hinojosa, Dr. Rodolfo Luna, Victoria Luna, Dr. Rose Marden, Brenda Reyna, Fr. Bryan Silva, OMI, Fr. Bob Wright, OMI, and two students to be appointed by other members of the committee.
“I’m hoping to take some of the things Bryan worked on and move them forward,” Dr. Furst said. One major concern is that Catholic education at a graduate level is lagging behind Protestant institutions in making theological education accessible to Hispanics,” she said.
“I’m interested in providing on-ramps to theological education, especially for lay people. We have several certificate programs, some in Spanish; we have a number of Hispanic staff, more than most U.S. schools, and we offer services to Hispanics. We offer certificate programs such as the IFP/PFI; in addition, we started a certificate course in Scripture study and the Espiritualidad y Dirección Espiritual program. These and other certificate programs need to be brought together to provide the foundational theology needed,” she said.
Engaging with Hispanic culture is an ongoing, multifaceted challenge, since the nature of the Hispanic population in the United States is continually shifting. Dr. Furst said that OST does a very good job of supporting seminarians from a Hispanic background in cooperation with Assumption Seminary and the religious formation houses. “I think we do far better than most other places, but it can still be expanded and improved. We have Fr. Bob Wright’s courses on Hispanic culture and the differences between U.S. and Hispanic cultures. Three Scripture courses have also been offered in Spanish, or bilingually.” In addition to on-ramps, OST offers access to the PhD program by belonging to the Hispanic Theological Initiative, a program that offers scholarship and mentorship opportunities for students who normally would not complete a doctoral degree.
Another plus is the Continuing Education program under Victoria Luna. At the heart of its Spanish offerings is the Escobedo Lecture, a free public event that brings current issues in Hispanic theology to a broader audience.
OST has committed itself with energy and enthusiasm, via the Hispanic Engagement Committee to deepen and expand an important component of its statement of purpose: “Drawing upon OST’s location and long dedication to the Mexican-American presence in the Southwest, its learning, teaching, and research pay particular attention to the diverse and rich Hispanicreality of the Americas.”