"...Online Newsletter from the Pittsburg State University College of Arts and Sciences"

When the Seminarians Came


Education requires flexibility.  This was proven during the Summer Semester of 2011 when the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures stepped out of the traditional format to teach Spanish to students from a seminary in Wichita.

Six Diocese of Wichita seminary students plunged into a Spanish immersion program in Pittsburg. The program was a joint effort between the diocese and Pittsburg State University, according to Fr. Mike Simone, director of vocations for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita.

Left to right, Back row: Mr. Brett Smith, Dr. Judy Berry-Bravo, Rickey Kotrba, Zac Pinnaire, Jason Knauff, Andy Walsh, Father Mike Simone, Dr. Grant Moss, Anatolia Ruiz, Front row: Eric Nichols, Sam Brand Seminarians

"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."

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."

"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 it," Fr. Simone said.

--This story was adapted from a story by Nikki Patrick in the Pittsburg Morning Sun

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