Synods and Synodality, a School of Theology and Ministry course being offered this fall to more than 15,000 participants, is the latest in a series of the school's virtual courses and webinars that have attracted thousands of participants from more than 40 countries throughout Latin America and beyond.

The courses—offered free of charge and completely in Spanish—are part of STM’s Formación Continua, a continuing formation program developed by the leadership of the school’s Latinx and Latin America initiative.

Rafael Luciani

Rafael Luciani

Supported by Catholic educational institutions and organizations from around the world, the courses and webinars provide participants who want to deepen their human, spiritual, and theological development from a Christian perspective with unmatched access to renowned theologians, ordained and lay ministers, and scholars on a variety of topics.

“The beauty of this program is that it is bringing the knowledge and expertise offered by a university to places it doesn’t normally reach,” said School of Theology and Ministry Associate Professor of the Practice Rafael Luciani. He said students in the virtual courses include lay people, priests and bishops, religious communities participating together, as well as missionaries, representing nearly every Latin American country.

 “We are trying to spread renewal to the Church community from Madrid to the Amazon,” said Luciani, noting that a course on Christology offered earlier this year had more than 14,000 registrants.

Organizers plan to offer three five-week courses per year, with shorter, two-week webinars made available during course breaks. All are free and in Spanish. Students completing the virtual courses earn a certificate of participation from the STM.

Previous courses and webinars remain accessible on the STM website, including courses on Women in the Church and Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, and a webinar on Christian spirituality.

“Besides the fact that these courses and webinars are offered entirely in Spanish, what makes them unique is the global outreach,” said STM Associate Professor Hosffman Ospino. “Any Spanish-speaking person from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe can join. The instructors are well-known scholars from different parts of the world who accepted the invitation to partner with the STM to share their wisdom and experience.

Maria del Pilar Silveira

Maria del Pilar Silveira

“This initiative expands the horizons to the Spanish-speaking theological world, from which much of the energy renewing Catholicism comes these days.”

The School of Theology and Ministry is supported in this effort by an international network of Catholic institutions and organizations including the International Federation of Catholic Universities, Universidad Alberto Hurtado (Chile), Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (Venezuela), Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Cali (Colombia), Universidad of Deusto (Spain), Universidad Católica de Pernambuco (Brazil), Universidad Pontificia Comillas (Spain), Pontificia Universidad Catolica Argentina, Confederation of Latin American and Caribbean Religious (CLAR), Centro Bíblico Teológico Pastoral para América Latina y El Caribe (CEBITEPAL – CELAM), and the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network, among others.

The Synods and Synodality course, which is coordinated by STM Visiting Assistant Professor Maria del Pilar Silveira, features 22 instructors, including Cardinal Baltazar Porras, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Caracas and Archbishop of Mérida, who serves as a member of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and was delegate president of the Synod for the Amazon; Mons. Héctor Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, president of the Peruvian Episcopal Conference and president of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM); Father Carlos María Gallí, dean of the Faculty of Theology of the Argentine Catholic University; Gloria Liliana Franco, ODN, president of the Confederation of Religious of Latin America and the Caribbean (CLAR), and STM student Nathalie Becquart XMCJ, who served as auditor of the Synod for Youth and is a consultant to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.

According to Luciani, the popularity of the courses is due to the outstanding instructors who are leaders in their field as well as the topics that are addressed.

“Synods and synodality are of current interest for the Church,” said Luciani, who is one of the instructors in the course. “Supported by Pope Francis, synodality is a new way of being a Church that invites Catholics to review the structures and ways of proceeding so that our Church reflects Jesus of the Gospels. It literally means walking together, laity, pastors, and the Bishop of Rome. The course will offer elements of discernment that will help participants to understand the meaning and challenges of a Church called to undertake processes of synodal conversion.”

Kathleen Sullivan | University Communications | October 2020