Aquinas Institute of Theology is pleased to announce its selection to receive a $330,000.00 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to support The Montesinos Project over the next three years. This funding will enable Aquinas Institute to become more reflective of, and responsive to, the multicultural context in which we live – along with the wider Church in which we serve.
“The Montesinos Project will unite the study of theology with the concrete lived-reality of minority groups in the St. Louis area,” explains Rev. Leobardo Almazan, O.P., who was involved in the Project’s conception. “As an educational endeavor, the Montesinos Project will allow Aquinas Institute to prepare future ministers who possess the necessary skills to work in multicultural and inter-religious settings. The Montesinos Project will promote, in the classroom and outside the classroom, keen sensitivity regarding issues of social justice and active involvement in the promotion and protection of human rights among Aquinas Institute students and faculty, and in the population at large.”
Named after Dominican Friar Antonio Montesinos, who challenged the attitudes and practices of his day over 500 years ago in an effort to recognize the human rights of indigenous people, the Montesinos Project seeks to transform Aquinas Institute attitudes and practices to allow the school to fully embrace and enjoy the rich cultural heritage that surrounds it. Given current demographic trends within the Catholic Church, Aquinas Institute also desires to reflect and respond to the growing population of Latino Christians in the United States. The school seeks to accomplish this goal by increasing the presence of Latinos in its faculty, staff, board and student body; by revising its curriculum to include Latino concerns; and by conducting greater outreach to the local Latino community.
“As Director of Hispanic Ministry for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, I am excited about the recent Henry Luce Foundation grant given to Aquinas Institute for the Montesinos Project,” said Aquinas Institute Board Member, F. Javier Orozco, OFS, Ph.D. “The need to form leaders that have the right intercultural competence in ministry, and are proactive in building bridges of dialogue and respect between different ethnic and social communities remains an urgent priority for our Church and society. I look forward to working with Aquinas Institute in leading us to greater inclusion.”
In addition to reviewing its theological curriculum to include theologians of culturally diverse backgrounds, the grant will equip present and future students, faculty and staff for effective intercultural ministry to bring about its own diversity transformation, as well as to attract persons of color to study, teach and serve on the board of trustees at the Institute. Further Montesinos Project activities are being finalized for inclusion over the next several years.
“This grant will enable the Aquinas Institute community to build capacity for cultural and intercultural proficiency and competence, which is the most strategic step church ministers can take today to respond intelligently to their challenges and to what parishes, schools, and organizational realities are telling us,” said Aquinas Institute President, Rev. David G. Caron, O.P. “Effectively responding to Blessed Pope John Paul II’s and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s calls for a New Evangelization begins with the capacity for cultural and intercultural discernment. It increases the ability to engage one’s own culture, as well as modern, secular culture, and a myriad of other cultures with the Gospel. This grant will assist us to move in that direction.”