Mexican American Cultural Center evolves into Catholic college

by Catholic News Service

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What began in 1972 as the Mexican American Cultural Center has evolved into the Mexican American Catholic College.

The board of directors held a press conference Oct. 24 to announce the unanimous decision to expand the mission of the 36-year-old institute by offering a fully bicultural, bilingual ministry formation program that can lead to a bachelor's or master's degree in Catholic pastoral ministry.

"This is a day to say 'thank you' to Jesus Christ and Our Lady of Guadalupe," said Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer of San Angelo, chairman of the board. "We are going from an institute that offers certificates to a college awarding degrees in pastoral ministry."

By the year 2020, it is expected Hispanics will represent more than 50 percent of U.S. Catholics. This shift has occurred already in Texas and many other states among Catholics under the age of 25.

"This is both a source of hope and a challenge," said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of San Antonio. "There are many challenges that we must address if we are to pass on our Catholic faith and our country's core values to future generations."

Noting that formation in the faith is among the top five priorities set by the U.S. bishops for the next 10 years, he said the urgent social and spiritual needs of Hispanics at this time in history call for innovative ways of ensuring that future generations will remain Catholic and attain higher education.

The Mexican American Catholic College, better known as MACC, "will respond to this priority, providing an excellent setting for Hispanics to access higher education in the faith in a welcoming, cultural environment," the archbishop said. "MACC will be a solution for some of the obstacles that Hispanics, including seminarians, permanent deacons, religious and lay faithful, encounter in pursuing higher theological education."

"Since MACC and Assumption Seminary are already key leaders in the church for ministry formation -- especially in Hispanic and multicultural ministry -- we are prepared to step out in faith once again to respond to the urgent priorities of our church," said Father Lawrence J. Christian, Assumption rector-president. "But we will not do this alone."

The Mexican American Catholic College has complied with the requirements of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Workforce Commission for degree-granting status.

This allows it to develop its bilingual degree plans, transition into a Catholic college, enroll students, begin the program in the fall of 2009, and initiate the process of accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Arturo Chavez, the college's president and CEO, said the program will follow a "staged-learning" approach, designed to increase the proportion of second-language courses as a student progresses through time. By the time a student graduates, at least half the course work would be accomplished in his or her second language.

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