2: Attracting Hispanic Families to Catholic Schools


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English Show Notes / Notas del Programa en Español

BONUS Episode in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month! (Sept 15th-Oct 15th)

With Susana Solorza, Madrina, Holy Name Catholic School and Ann Flaherty, Superintendent, Diocese of Owensboro

In today’s program Susana Solorza shares with us her experience of being a Madrina, following the Madrina Model from Notre Dame, to help increase enrollment of Hispanic students in Catholic Schools. Then we will hear from the superintendent Ann Flaherty about the background work that went into implementing the Madrinas program.

Resources Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Notre Dame University’s Madrina’s Model

Free eBook on Hispanic Culture for Catholic Ministers

Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers

Posadas Resources:

Teachers Pay Teachers resources for Las Posadas

Children’s Musical Script about Las Posadas

Pilgrim Image of Mary and Joseph to use during Posadas

More about our guests’ ministries:

Holy Name School was featured in a recent Catholic News Service article found in English and Spanish in the Western Kentucky Catholic September 2018 issue and the Latino Enrollment Institute (LEI) was featured in the February 2017 issue.

The Diocese of Owensboro

Owensboro Catholic Schools

Supporting Scholarship Tax Credits

EdChoice KY

Supporting Hispanic Youth in Applying for College

Suzy’s best tip is to call the school they’re interested in directly and ask them what is available for Dreamers, DACA recipients and undocumented students.

Filling out FAFSA for undocumented students

DACA students FAFSA process

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my audience.

English Text of Episode/ Texto del Episodio en Español

Summary of this Episode


Greetings Gente Puente! We are a community of gente puente: building bridges between God and his people, and also between different cultures and languages. In today’s program Susana Solorza shares with us her experience of being a Madrina, following the Madrina Model from Notre Dame, to help increase enrollment of Hispanic students in Catholic Schools. Then we will hear from the superintendent Ann Flaherty about the background work that went into implementing the Madrinas program.

Si no tienes ninguna idea lo que acabo de decir, no te preocupes. El podcast Gente Puente tiene episodios en Ingles y otros en Español. Si no eres bilingüe todavía puedes leer la entrevista y ver todos los recursos de hoy en las notas del programa que se encuentran en Patticc.com/s2. No quieres perder este episodio sobre los esfuerzos que han ayudado aumentar el número de estudiantes hispanos que se inscriban en las escuelas católicas.

I am Patti Gutiérrez from Patti’s Catholic Corner. We are a team with experience in ministry who provide Catholic translations from English to Spanish or from Spanish to English. I am your host for these interviews. This podcast is for you if you are a leader in a Catholic ministry. Here you will hear interviews about the Hispanic/Latino Ministry best practices from all over the United States to get practical ideas, strategies and resources that can help you in your ministry! You will also receive encouragement from other ministers who understand all the joys and struggles that come with ministry.

But before I start, I want to tell you about a free eBook that I have put together for Catholic ministers who have been raised in the prevailing culture and would like to understand Hispanic/Latino culture better to serve this population in their ministries. You can find it and all the resources mentioned in this episode and also a summary of the episode in English and Spanish, in the show notes found at patticc.com/2.

If you want to join the conversation in real time and see what’s coming in the next episodes, come join our private Facebook group! Just look for Gente Puente on Facebook to find us and be part of the group.

Today’s bonus episode is being published on the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s a little longer than most episodes will be since I decided to include two interviews. After all, it’s a bonus episode! As I said at the beginning, we are going to hear from Susana Solorza. She serves as something called a Madrina in a Catholic school. It is a concept put forth by Notre Dame University’s Alliance for Catholic Education to help Catholic schools in the U.S. recruit and retain Latino families in Catholic Schools. You can find out more about the program in the Show Notes. After talking with Suzy, I decided to also invite the superintendent, Ann Flaherty to share her experience bringing the Madrinas Model to the Diocese of Owensboro. So, stay tuned and you will hear from her as well. Also, I apologize for some small audio issues we had while recording. I’m still trying to get the hang of this! ? But each episode I’m hoping will sound better and better. Now let’s listen to my conversation with Susana Solorza, Catholic school Madrina.

Interview with Susana Solorza, Catholic school teacher and Madrina

Welcome! Opening Prayer: Lord we come before you so grateful for all the many blessings you have given us, especially for the gift of serving in your Church. We know we are not perfect and so we thank you for your mercy and for choosing to work through our broken humanity. Lord Jesus you prayed that we would be one as you and the Father are one, pour out your Spirit as we strive to be gente puente, uniting the Body of Christ. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. And kindle in us the fire of your love. Amen.

Thanks! I’m Susana Solorza from El Paso and my parents are from Chihuahua, Mexico. We moved to Henderson, KY in 2002. We went to Holy Name Catholic Church and St. Michael’s in Sebree and we went to Holy Name School. I graduated from Western KY University with a Bachelor’s in Cultural Anthropology and Spanish. After graduation I was at an Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration and someone from the Diocese approached me about a new position Diocesan Director of Hispanic Youth and Young Adult Ministry. I said yes and with the support of many colleagues I worked there until at another Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration the principal from Holy Name school approached me to see if I would be interested in being a teacher there. People had told me I should be a teacher my whole life and here I was being asked directly.

What is your current role?

I am a Spanish teacher at Holy Name School in Henderson, KY. I teach Kindergarten to Eighth grade. For the Seventh and Eighth grade I teach a high school level course. I am also a bridge between the school and Hispanic families.

Can you tell us about your growing family?

Sometimes I say my vocation to marriage came through my vocation to motherhood, because I always knew I wanted to be a mom. We have been married for 4 years and now we have a son Santiago who is 8 months old.

Tell us a little about the Madrina project you want to share with us today.

The superintendent was working on how to increase enrollment of Hispanic families in our Catholic schools and saw that we had made some progress at Holy Name school. It reflected exactly what the Madrina Program from Notre Dame University taught. It is based on relationships which is so important in Hispanic culture. In this program someone who is well connected in both communities and who can function well in both cultures and languages is a representative of the Hispanic community. It could be a teacher but also could just be a volunteer that has experience with the school.

We will link to the program in the show notes, but how did you learn about it?

Ann Flaherty, assistant superintendent at the time, was already working with the administration of Holy Name School and they went to Notre Dame. But none of those that went were Hispanic or bilingual. After they hired me they shared the information they got with me. I hope to go in the future.

Besides supporting Hispanic families and attracting more, were there other goals of this program?

It is also to create a unified community. Not two separate communities, just a part of our school with whom we communicate differently. For example, some families respond well to email or a letter in the folder. With our families you just email me and I will get the information to them and they respond better. Also incorporating their Catholicism and traditions into our school has been important. Identifying their gifts and considering them part of us.

Do you have a specific example?

Yes. We were able to celebrate the Posadas at school. All of the teachers got involved. We wanted something about preparing for Christmas, not just a Christmas program. I told them about Posadas where we dress up like Mary and Joseph looking for a place to have Jesus. They thought it was perfect. We incorporated the Posadas into our lesson plans and the music teacher taught the music. I couldn’t be there that day but everyone who participated loved it and they want to do it again. It was great for the Hispanic kids to see something at school that they have at home. It is a Hispanic tradition that can now be a Holy Name tradition.

I’m sure we will have an episode about Posadas in the parish, but do you have resources for teachers about including this in the classroom?

Yes. We used booklets from Teachers Pay Teachers. Everything was already there in English and Spanish. It was great for Kindergarten to Fifth grade. You would need something more for the older kids. In religion they used the English version and in my class we used the Spanish version. And the music was bilingual.

How long have you been a Madrina and what advice do you have for someone starting out?

This is my third school year. I would start with getting really good contact information including a cell phone. Email doesn’t always work. I would call or send a text to each family to let them know that you are available if they need to relay information to the office. It’s important to create that link from the beginning. For example, today a child was having trouble with his cafeteria account and I could text the mom right away and she knows she can send me a text message too. Trust is really important.

Break – Sponsor: eBook “5 Cultural Differences You Need to Know to Succeed in Hispanic Ministry”

We will continue with my interview with Suzy in a moment, but I want to take a minute to tell you more about my free eBook, 5 Cultural Differences You Need to Know to Succeed in Hispanic Ministry. It goes through 5 dimensions of culture comparing the prevailing culture in the U.S. with Hispanic/Latino culture and gives concrete examples of how these differences play out in ministry settings. One of the things we dive into is the focus on relationships that Suzy has explained are so crucial to the Madrinas Model. You can download this free book today by heading over to the Show Notes at patticc.com/2.

Now let’s continue with my conversation with Susana Solorza.

How have you built that trust? Besides being part of the parish and many families already know you. How do you build trust with a new family?

We have had a few new families I didn’t know. But it’s true, it’s easier with the families I already knew. With new families I invite them to my classroom. If you don’t have an office it would be harder. I invite them to come, I ask about their kids, if they know about the t-shirts we have for sale, etc. I invite them to my space and talk with them. It’s important for them to know I’m on their side and I have resources that can help them.

Is there something that has surprised you or exceeded your expectations? Has God showed up?

All the time. There was a family where the father was injured at work and paralyzed from the waist down. The mom could have worked but had to take care of him. They had two girls and one was a Holy Name student. Neither adult could work. The Holy Name student didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. But the teachers wanted to help. So I talked with the family to find out what their needs were and after a while they finally said just anything would help. So the teachers organized a canned food drive and a penny drive to help families in need, but it was really for this family. And we were able to fill their truck with food.

I can see how it helped so much having someone like you to be the bridge between this family who trusted you and the school. You are gente Puente Suzy! Good job!

That’s what I say to the administration – you were already doing the work, I am just the link. That is what Madrinas do, it’s like the last piece of the puzzle to connect everything.

I can see how it that family could have easily taken their girls out of Catholic school during that time of need without saying anything about why. Because they would not have had someone they trusted to talk about it with. Good job. I can see it’s a good position for you. I want to hear a little more about your ministry, what excites you and challenges you.

Every day I get up and tell God these are your hands and feet and ask him what I need to do. Everyday it’s something different. My ministry in general sometimes is focused on the social needs like going to the doctor appointments, finding a doctor, looking for a bus route so the kids can get to school in the morning, educating families about college. That is a big thing for me – helping our Hispanic kids from the parish go to college. And educating the parents about how they can. We have had several “DREAMers” that didn’t know if they could. I work with them to make it a reality, for example, telling them I can help them with the FAFSA and to come to my classroom and we’ll fill it out together. It could be students that were at the school or just young people I see in the parish or at Mass and I ask them about their plans and share information with their parents. I want to share opportunities and look for ways to involve the whole family. Helping parents in general is also something I want to be a big part of my ministry. Helping them to find their role as a parent in this new place.

Bridging the gap of cultural differences for those who come from places where the entire family unit raises the children together and now they have immigrated here and maybe don’t have anyone or extended family to help. Is that what you mean?

Yes. Help them with these aspects of parenting that I’m experiencing now first-hand.

One of our goals with the Gente Puente podcast is to create a community for ministers to encourage one another. You have now been in ministry for several years. Can you share something you’ve learned about being a leader in ministry?

Yes. Something I had to learn was that it’s not always about what I want. For example, I saw a problem and I wanted to find a solution that I like when I was a youth. Or I heard something and it seemed great to me. But sometimes it wasn’t what the community needed. I have learned to take myself out of it – not ignore my gifts, but –

Seeing what the community is asking for?

Yes. What are the things that the families are facing and how can I help. Because sometimes I wanted to implement things that seemed important to me or that I needed. But now I see what I want but I also hear what others are saying. Or sometimes that they aren’t saying – like a mom that injured her foot and walked around for a month and it wasn’t getting better. I was thinking I need to take care of you – and you need to take care of you. Being aware of what the community needs is important.

We need to wrap up but before we finish, can you leave us with a few words of encouragement and a prayer for new or struggling ministers?

You are going to get tired but it is so worth it. Every crazy hour and unexpected thing you have to do, it’s worth it, they need you. You are a minister for a reason. God put you in this position of ministering because you have something to give. There are people that have nothing and we need to be there. Keep going. Sometimes that’s all we have. The Holy Spirit is the one who is leading us. We don’t always know where he’s leading us but we know we are in good hands. OK I’ll close us in prayer.

Holy Spirit I ask you to guide us as we stumble in the direction that you need us to go. I ask that as we are walking with those that we are ministering, that you are the one leading. That we are doing the walking, and we are there in the everyday moments, but we know that you are leading us towards something greater. Lord help us as we minister to those in need and help us be ministered when we need it as well. Amen.



What an awesome interview, wasn’t it!? I just love Suzy. She’s always so upbeat and positive and makes us all smile. During her interview she mentioned our next guest, Ann Flaherty. Ann has played a crucial role of laying the groundwork for the success of the Madrinas Model across the Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky. For the sake of time, I had to cut down the length of the interview, but if you want to read the entire interview you can find it in the Show Notes. Ann also mentions Sr. Fran Wilhelm, OSU several times. Sr. Fran was the pioneer of Hispanic Ministry in the Owensboro area and tirelessly served immigrants in the community for 25 years through her ministry Centro Latino. She is now retired, but continues to be an inspiration to us all. Now, let’s hear from my conversation with Ann Flaherty, superintendent of the Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Owensboro.

Text of full Interview with Ann Flaherty, Superintendent

Welcome Ann!

Thank you for inviting me.

Tell us a little about yourself and your position.

I finished my 40th year as an educator. I’ve been a teacher, a guidance counselor, an academic counselor, an assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent and I’m not the superintendent in the Diocese of Owensboro for the Catholic schools. There are 17 across the Diocese. We are a mission Diocese. Generally, we have single digit percentages of Catholics. So, we’re working very hard to not only keep our schools open, but to grow them and hopefully one day add to those. As far as Hispanic Ministry, I was introduced to it in my first year as assistant superintendent. Mr. Mattingly, our superintendent at the time invited me to attend a workshop but on by Notre Dame’s Madrina Program in the Diocese of Evansville.

That’s what introduced me to it. Prior to that while I was guidance counselor at Owensboro Catholic High School I was the one in charge of exchange students. I had worked with Sr. Fran in bringing in the first family of Hispanic students. So I learned a lot. I had not been trained. Just as a minister of the Church, love kids and love students and just did what was needed and what I was instructed to do by Sr. Fran and those who spent a lot of time with Latinos.

Thank you. Tell us about implementing the Madrina program locally

It has been a long journey. Once we came back from that workshop in 2013, we talked about what direction it needed to take. I started researching. I read and taught myself about what you need to do to move schools and dioceses forward. I learned that the most important aspect to build a Madrinas Model is relationship – with Latinos that is the most important aspect when you want to bring them into your schools.

So I took Luis Ajú, Jr. (Hispanic Youth Minister at the time) we visited all the Owensboro Catholic Schools (OCS) and the Central Office and we introduced the models to all the administrators and the secretaries. I had read that the foyer, entrance, signage, welcoming atmosphere was very important for Latino families. So I wanted secretaries to know Luis who would hopefully serve as Padrino at the time would be welcomed. Also wanted to connect Luis to Lilly Barr who is a Panama native teaching Spanish at the Owensboro Catholic Middle School. Luis and I met with Brescia to get their first Hispanic enrollment committee running so we could share ideas there too. Luis and I and Mr. Mattingly attended the Immigration Workshop where you presented in May 2013. So we did a lot of prep work that way.

Kevin Kauffeld the Chancellor was on board so he asked me to write a Catholic Extension grant so that a principal and two teachers from St. Mary Elementary in Paducah, could attend the four-day workshop at Notre Dame, bring back what they learned from that two year program – what happens is they attend the Notre Dame workshop, they assign you a mentor, who was Yvonne Schwab who had implemented the Madrinas Model and was very successful. She mentors them through the next school year and then the principal attends a workshop in Arizona for several days the next year to be able to take it to the next level.

At that point we had two successful programs in the Diocese. One at Holy Name, and you’ve already heard Suzy Solorza speak and another at Bowling Green. So I did some interviews with the people that were instrumental in those programs. Fr. Bradley on behalf of Bishop McRaith who wanted to move this initiative forward said we’re going to bring Hispanic families into our Catholic School. So he worked with Fr. Andy Garner, his associate and Daryl Hagan, his principal, and found a Padrino who was Suzy Solorza’s father. And they began to successfully bring in Hispanic Families. Everyone was instructed in cultural differences. They began to have bilingual Masses and some Spanish prayers. That was very successful. And so there has been great growth there. And now Suzy serves as the Madrina at Holy Name. It’s been beautiful.

Then Fr. Andy went to St. Joseph’s in Bowling Green where he worked with Jan Lang, the principal there to bring in Hispanic families and Burmese families as well. So we’re ministering to both immigrants and refugees. Those have been two very successful schools where the Madrinas has worked. Fr. Andy was probably the Padrino there at St. Joseph’s at the beginning. I have found that the pastor is the absolute most important key and link to Catholic School enrollment of Hispanic families. I’ve learned that through experience. If you don’t have their backing it’s really hard to move forward. Secondly you need to have the administrator or the principal on board as well.

I then was invited by Richard Murphy to talk to the Centro Latino Board about our efforts to increase Hispanic enrollment. I met with Fr. Brad Whistle, the Episcopal Vicar for Owensboro Catholic Schools at the time, about the possibility of Hispanic enrollment and financial aid. That has become the biggest obstacle to enrollment of Hispanic families in our Catholic schools. Fr. Brad started a fund at the parish and through the school board started an OCS fund. It started small but it was important. He was moved and is now in Paducah working with St. Mary’s school system.

After that, Suzana Solorza-Shelman (she’s married now with a child). She became our new Hispanic Youth Ministry so we started over again and visited all the Owensboro Catholic schools, the principals, secretaries, director. I met with your husband Chris because another aspect of a successful Madrinas program is to go to Masses where Hispanics attend. So, I worked with Chris and Fr. Carl McCarthy so myself and the OCS director Ken Rasp and Suzy and we all got together. We went to Mass, ate and then met in the parish hall after Mass. Sr. Fran came and brought a couple of families and Suzy translated. That was another obstacle we came across – we don’t have a lot of bilingual people in our schools. Suzy has put in a lot of work of translating all kinds of school admission, financial aid, paperwork and interpret for those who aren’t bilingual. Especially before she moved to Holy Name. Fr. Joshua McCarty was there as well.

Then we went to an Owensboro Catholic schools pastors meeting since we’re focusing on OCS. That has about a third of our students. So we felt like right here in town we could get this model going, try things out and see if we can attain what Holy Name and St. Joseph had attained.

Let’s talk about the difference between the schools you’re talking about.

Owensboro Catholic School is a system. What happened in 1998-1999 is they consolidated to conserve resources so that smaller schools out in the county who had two or three grades with one teacher and not many instructional resources – we consolidated to make it more efficient economically and equitably so resources were equal for every child. So 15 parishes came together and they created 6 elementary schools, one middle and one high school. Then in 2004-2005 they consolidated once again and became the K-3 campus, 4-6 campus and the middle school & high school. The group that governs those schools are the Episcopal Vicar, now Fr. Pat Reynolds, was Fr. Brad Whistle. He oversees the 15 pastors from whom parishes students feed into the OCS system. So it became important to attend a pastor’s meeting to explain to them what we were doing. Suzy came with me and her brother Jose who was a senior in high school and president of the National Honor Society. He shared his experience at Holy Name and Catholic High and we filled in with some information.

Then we had Fr. Tony Shonis, now the Associate of Holy Name ask Lilly Bar to come and speak to the entire diocesan presbyterate. So she did that and it was beautiful to see the priests listening to her explain how important this initiative was. And then Suzy and Lisa Clark (the principal who attended the Latino Enrollment Institute) to talk to all of our administrators in the Diocese at the annual Mid-South Leadership Conference and Retreat. They talked about cultural similarities and differences and the Notre Dame Madrinas Program. So now we’ve gone from Owensboro Catholic Schools and we’ve spread to the presbyterate and all of the administrators across the Diocese. That took us a year and half.

Then we brought in the mentor to – Lisa Clark at St. Mary Elementary in Paducah and the other principal that I wrote a grant to attend LEI as well, and Yvonne Schwab – we brought her in to talk to all of our administrators as well. In addition to the time I spent at the PACES meetings of all of our administrators talking about the Madrina program, progress, best practices. Then Suzy and I began visiting OCS schools again with the new local Hispanic Minister, Sr. Pilar to again introduce her to all the administrators and secretaries. We took Sr. Esther, the Hispanic minister in Paducah to St. Mary Elementary school. We’re now hitting the faculty. We want the faculty to be comfortable, so we visited every classroom.

Then I wrote the grant for second school, Holy Name. By this time LEI has figured out that the pastor is key as the principal, so this time they both went plus a teacher and we through the two-year program with Notre Dame. Then brought all that information back and gave it to Suzy who they hired as their new Madrina. That was the great gift of their education in the LEI program. And she is now carrying the ball and following in her father’s footsteps.

The Diocese has been important. The Bishop is fully in support of this. In fact when the new President at Owensboro Catholic School was hired, Tom Lilly, he said my biggest request of you is to enroll immigrants and refugees. So what he has done, with Sr. Suzanne Sims who brought a dozen Burmese from St. Pius and has enrolled them in OCS this year. The Diocese also supported a workshop called Building Intercultural Competencies for Ministers and we had several administrators attend that too.

It took a lot, several years to get us to this point. I continue to meet with new directors and administrators as there is turn-over. But it has been successful across the United States and we’re seeing it slowly take place in Owensboro Catholic Schools. I actually forgot about a family that I helped get enrolled with Sr. Fran too. We’re making forward progress. The two biggest obstacles are financial aid and if we can get this scholarship tax credit passed in the State of KY – this new report that comes out from Boston College, that is one of the strategies to overcome the financial aid obstacle. If we can get that passed – I worked very hard on that last year with the KY Catholic Conference and met with legislators. We started our first rally in Madisonville. We are working on the other big obstacle, and that is having bilingual administrators, secretaries, administrative assistants and teachers that can assist as well. That’s the history and the pros and the cons.

How have you overcome that obstacle of the money? You said you set up a scholarship fund. Can you explain to me how that works logistically for the parish schools and the OCS consolidated system.

There are two pieces. For Financial aid we use a company outside the schools to equitably assign aid based on need. So the companies have now started providing materials in different languages. We usually have someone sit with them and walk through the paperwork. Fr. Brad and I talked about funds at the school system designated for immigrants and refugees at the parish level like he started and also in the system.

That’s after you’ve already gone through the first round of asking for financial aid from the third party?

Yes. Then the scholarship tax credit is that the state (it’s already available at the federal level) – about half of the states have some kind of school choice in a tax credit or voucher. So we’re working hard to move that forward because that would open up a huge ability to meet the needs of Hispanic families. It is so that corporations or individuals that are wealthy can contribute to a scholarship granting organization like our Diocese – Louisville has been doing it for years – and they will give toward the scholarship pool and then because it’s a donation the state will give them tax credits. The way the Archdiocese of Louisville does it you fill out an application and state the amount you would need to be able to attend and they would award you scholarships to attend. That’s how they have increased Hispanic enrollment. That’s where most of my energy went last year. If it hadn’t been for the pension crisis we probably would have gotten it passed.

So currently individuals or organizations can already donate, it just isn’t a tax credit, is that right?

Yes. And that’s what happened when Fr. Brad was at Lourdes. And OCS School Council started one like that too. I’m not sure the status of those funds.

I’m hearing that some pastors, associate pastors, Hispanic ministers, a teacher and a parent have been the Madrina/Padrino. How has that worked?

Our goal is to have a mother in the Hispanic community that is well-connected, has a good relationship with the Hispanic community that would enroll their children in the school and then serve as the Madrina. That’s our goal. Based on research it’s all about relationship. It’s like when I moved into town I didn’t know where to move, I didn’t have anyone I knew here, so you just go with the flow. This mother, father, or grandparent could serve as the connection between the Hispanic community and the school. That’s our goal. We have not yet arrived at that level. Abraham Brown at Holy Name has been awesome as well. That inter-connection of the parish and parish staff with the school and its staff has been fabulously successful. But we haven’t gotten to the point of having a parent as Madrina/Padrino. Suzy has served in that role for us. That’s what we would like to see happen. We would also like to see that person be on the School Council. We need Hispanics on our councils in roles of leadership. We would like to see Hispanic principals or teachers or secretaries or part-time secretaries or whatever they would be called to do. Because that gives us a bilingual people in the school system. Right now we are dependent on those called to Hispanic Ministry in the Diocese either through diocesan or parish roles. That’s our push is to get somebody with leadership ability that has good relationships with the community – connected to the school and respected by the school. Even has space within the school so that he or she can minister to their community. We’re not there yet. We’re just hoping and praying still.

One thing that I love listening to you talk is the long-term vision that you have. You know that there is a lot that needs to happen in the background and you’ve done years of prep work that for someone might seem like nothing is happening. Maybe it’s easy to give up. But you’re saying we have to prepare the ground over these years. We have to have key leaders in the schools and diocese understanding the cultural aspects of it, the relationship and bringing the people into schools so they get to know the Hispanic ministry leaders in the parish for example. And even now you’re saying this is what we’re doing now, we’re seeing progress, but this is where we’re headed. There’s still a long-term goal that you know it’s going to take. Can you give some encouragement for other superintendents or school administration in sticking with it or the ways you’ve seen gifts and hope over the years that it is actually producing fruit and it was worth all those years of effort?

Yes. Honestly the first thing that all of us need to understand is that about 70% of American Catholics under the age of 35 are Latino. And 67% of practicing Catholics 18-34 are Latino. The future of our Church lies in our Hispanic culture and people. They are going to bring us hope. We are going to see a change in our Church. A much-needed change in our Church. Bringing back the importance – Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Blessed Mother, the relational aspect of practicing and worshiping and serving in our Church. We don’t have a choice. This is where the future of our Church lies. If we don’t jump on board and work then we are remiss in our duties as – not just as those who work for the Church, but as practicing Catholics. We are remiss. You go to Church and you look around – and I’m talking about me in y 60s. We are a bunch of grey hairs. Unless we color our hair of course. But for the most part we need our Hispanic families. We need to become one community. So it’s been worth every single minute of it. I’m not going to stop. My goal is to continue to work with the Hispanic community. Possibly in the area of tutoring or welcoming families or introducing them to the people I know. I’m not going to quit because that is the future of our Church and I love our Church. I love Christ. And I see that as in the American Church this is the route that Jesus and the Holy Spirit has us walking. And if you aren’t on the path then you’re missing the boat.

What are the moments of joy? When I get to walk through Owensboro Catholic High School and Middle School who I sat with as we filled out paperwork and talked to the director. Talking to them and seeing them smile and glow and talk about the things they’ve gotten involved in and the things they like most about the school and their grades. That is the ultimate joy for me to see them succeeding and being involved in a school where they are still a minority. But they figured out how to share what they have with those around them. That’s the joy for me.

Thanks Ann. It’s been a pleasure. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your experience of the Madrina Program or the Padrino program as you have called it. I hope that it continues and we can see those long-term fruits soon. But I really appreciate you sharing what you have learned so far and I’m sure it’s going to be helpful for other administrators.


Isn’t Ann awesome!? She gets so fired up talking about welcoming Latinos into our Church and Catholic schools. You just got to love her.

Here are some key takeaways from today’s interviews:

  1. Relationships and building trust are at the center of the Madrinas Model and successfully making Hispanics feel welcome
  2. The blessing of attracting Hispanic families is helping them to share their gifts, faith and traditions which enrich the entire school and parish. Suzy shared a lot of resources about the Posadas as well as some resources for helping Hispanic youth attend college which are all found in the Show Notes.
  3. The support of the Pastors and school administration, as well as the Bishop and diocesan personnel are key to the successful implementation of the Madrinas Model.
  4. Once that support is there, the two biggest obstacles are financial aid and needing bilingual staff members in the schools.
  5. The best way to overcome the first is to set up targeted scholarship funds which is easier when your state has a scholarship tax credit. Check out EdChoice KY if you want to support this credit in KY and learn more about it.
  6. It takes time to see progress. Incremental change over a sustained period of time. It’s not going to happen overnight. But all the hard work will be worth it when you can be part of building the future of the Catholic Church supporting Hispanic/Latino children and their education.

I hope you also received a lot from these interviews.

If you want to donate toward EdChoice, you can find the link in today’s Show Notes along with links to all the resources mentioned in this episode, including my free eBook on Hispanic culture. Pick up your copy today at patticc.com/2 .

Don’t forget to join the Gente Puente Facebook group to be part of our growing family of Catholic leaders who share their experience and encourage each other! You can find us at http://www.facebook.com/groups/gentepuente or simply look for Gente Puente on Facebook.

In the next episode, we will hear about setting up a safety plan for immigrants from a pastor who has now experienced immigration raids at two different parishes where he has been serving. He shares practical advice about what has helped and what he has learned. So don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast Gente Puente on Apple Podcasts , Google Podcasts or your favorite podcast app so you do not miss any future episodes!

Thanks for listening today. May God bless you and your ministry as gente puente!

35 episodes available. A new episode about every 10 days averaging 42 mins duration .