The School of Theology and Ministry, in collaboration with the Boston College School of Social Work, has launched a new program to form leaders to respond to the needs of Hispanic Catholics in the United States. Rooted in the Ignatian tradition, the Leadership Certificate is taught completely in Spanish and is designed to educate Latinos interested in serving as leaders in their parishes, training them not only in issues of theology and spirituality, but also on how to address social issues arising in their communities.

Felix Palazzi

Félix Palazzi, School of Theology and Ministry

“This Leadership Certificate program will empower people by offering them the tools they need to address real problems happening in their communities,” said STM Associate Professor of the Practice Félix Palazzi, who leads the initiative with BCSSW Associate Professor Rocío Calvo. “With a strong foundation in theology and spirituality, we can train people to address needs in an Ignatian way, and put faith into action in a conscious way.”

The partnership with the School of Social Work was a natural fit, said Palazzi, who noted that the Leadership Certificate has a theological and spiritual foundation, but a social orientation. The program is designed to train and empower participants to address issues related to economics, housing, immigration, food insecurity, as well as legal issues.

According to Palazzi, the Leadership Certificate is the only program of its kind in the United States that combines faith formation, spirituality, and community engagement for Spanish-speaking laity.

Rocio Calvo

Rocío Calvo, Boston College School of Social Work

“We are approaching leadership from a cultural, Hispanic perspective and providing training that will make these Latino communities feel empowered and supported,” said Calvo, director of the Latinx Leadership Initiative at the School of Social Work.

Calvo noted that the program’s instructors are practitioners who work in Latino communities on a regular basis and know what the needs are in these communities. They have expertise in areas such as Hispanic ministry, pastoral ministry, theology, philosophy, leadership training, Ignatian spirituality, behavioral health, and social work.

“We are responding to a national need,” she added. “And with our leadership program being fully online, we can reach a national audience.”

Calvo said it was exciting to “break down the silos” and develop a program like the Leadership Certificate that reaches across two schools within the University to address needs of the Catholic Church on a local level and a national level.

According to Palazzi, the Leadership Certificate is the only program of its kind in the United States that combines faith formation, spirituality, and community engagement for Spanish-speaking laity.

“When theological education in the United States is limited to instructors and resources available only in English, it shuts out the millions of Spanish-speaking Catholics in the U.S.,” said STM Associate Professor Hosffman Ospino, an instructor in the program. “Because the Leadership Certificate is offered entirely in Spanish, we are meeting important linguistic and cultural needs while also forming theologically and ministerially the next generation of Catholics in the U.S.”

There are more than 340 participants currently enrolled in the program. All are required to complete two compulsory courses and then two courses within each of the central program components: theology, leadership, and spirituality. The final requirement is the creation of a community impact project the participants can put into action.

Palazzi is also working on establishing a hybrid model of the program that brings the curriculum directly to parishes. To start, he is collaborating with the Boston Archdiocese on programming for Saint Benedict Parish in Somerville.

The Leadership Certificate dovetails with the Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus, a set of priorities guiding the Jesuits for the coming decade. According to Palazzi, the Leadership Certificate will fulfill this by promoting Ignatian spirituality, caring for the specific needs of marginalized communities in the U.S., and offering young people faith formation and ways to improve their local communities. 


Kathleen Sullivan, University Communications | September 2020