Sister resigns Hispanic ministry duties to focus on work with her order

By | January 12, 2011

“I share in visioning for our future, participating in decisions on behalf of the community and overall administration,” she told The Compass in an e-mail. “Our life within the church calls for ongoing discernment and renewal. It is my privilege to have a significant role in that process.”


Sr. Jane Riha, second from right, meets with participants in the Discipulos de Cristo ministry formation program in 2009. Sr. Jane, a Sister of St. Francis of the Holy Cross, resigned her position as Hispanic ministry formation coordinator to focus on her duties as a member of her religious community’s leadership team. (File photo)

Sr. Jane’s work in Hispanic ministry, especially Discipulos de Cristo, helped the diocese expand its outreach ministry to Latino Catholics in northeastern Wisconsin, said Tony Pichler, diocesan director of lay ministry formation.

“Sr. Jane began the Discipulos de Cristo Program from the ground up,” he said. “She has been instrumental in taking the vision of the Lay Ministry Formation Field Advisory Board, which saw a need for Hispanic ministry formation that was on par with the Commissioned Ministry Leadership Formation Program, and bringing that vision into a lived reality.”

Fluent in Spanish, Sr. Jane served for five years as coordinator of Hispanic pastoral ministry in the Fox Valley before taking on a similar role for the diocese.

“Her tireless dedication, knowledge of the culture, love for the people and skill with the Spanish language made Sr. Jane the perfect person to get this program off the ground,” added Pichler.

Sr. Jane said she is pleased with the growth of Discipulos de Cristo.

“The program evolved over a period of time to the complete program it is today,” she said. “Through the creativity of the professional faculty, a marvelous curriculum was developed to meet the ministerial needs of Hispanics. Thirty-six persons graduated from the program. These persons have enhanced their service in the parishes by providing leadership and by initiating new ways of serving the Hispanic community.”

She sees the program continuing to grow — with some adaptations.

“The program is in its fifth year so it is a good time to evaluate what could be done differently,” she said. “The Commissioned Ministry Leadership Formation Program has long been accredited by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In the upcoming renewal of accreditation, the lay ministry formation program for Hispanics will be included in the evaluative process.”

According to Sr. Jane, her experience as Hispanic Ministry Formation coordinator showed her that more work is needed “in terms of accepting the diversity among us as well as working toward (cultural) integration within parish settings.”

“Hispanic Catholics … are generously sharing their time and talent” in parishes, she said. “The language barrier remains one of the greatest challenges to interaction and integration within a parish setting.” While learning another language as an adult is not easy, Sr. Jane added, “perhaps there is a need for both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking persons to make a greater effort to learn the other’s language.”

Because of the shortage of priests ministering to Hispanic Catholics, there is a growing need for qualified lay ministers, said Sr. Jane.

“The assistance of well-prepared Spanish-speaking persons who have a solid theological and scriptural foundation, will provide a marvelous support for the pastor,” she said. “The pastor has a significant role in the calling forth, especially with the Hispanic community. It is important that parish leaders continue to invite the laity to prepare for service and leadership within their parish.”

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