Recently a small group of Latina women gathered for mutual encouragement and sharpening while celebrating both their commonalities and their cultural particularities. These women—alumnae of Palmer Theological Seminary’s Spanish-language Master of Theological Studies (MTS) program—began their time together by sharing something from around their home that reflected their country’s heritage. There were a llama figurine and palm fronds from Bolivia, a coaster with Columbian artwork, and a textile wall hanging from the Dominican Republic, to name a few. The women gathered to consider, “what now”. After obtaining an advanced theology degree, what is their call and how are they living it out in contexts that don’t often position women for Church leadership?
The Spanish-language MTS is one way Palmer evidences its commitment to provide accessible and affordable theological education on a global scale. This program is primarily offered online, utilizing a cohort model, and serves cohorts across three continents. It is the seminary’s fastest growing program, representing more than 30% of total graduate student enrollment.
Febe Liz Montero Zuñiga, a 2020 Spanish-language MTS graduate, has been serving this aggregate of the seminary’s alumni community as a chaplain for the past 18-months. Febe lives in eastern Bolivia and is fluent in three languages: Spanish, Portuguese, and English. She has a passion for listening, caring, and teaching. Serving an aggregate that spans continents, languages, and cultures is complicated—to say the least. Febe has discovered both shared and particular joys and concerns among the Latino/a alumni and discerned contextually common ways to minister to them. One of which was gathering this group of women from 6 different countries for sacred sharing, listening, and prayer.
She says, “I see my chaplain role as one of listening. I don’t advise; I simply offer sacred space to listen and to be with the person. Sometimes they need to cry, to be heard, to share frustrations, to talk about their ministry, to share their dreams and accomplishments…I simply accompany them and pray with and for them.” Febe animates well the mission of the Center for Alumni Care and Seminary Engagement—CARES—by continuing to nourish whole persons to share the whole gospel in the whole world through a ministry of care and connection.
Jesus says, “I come that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b). As human beings, we are created to live life together celebrating our particularities while connecting through commonalities. Life abundant is life together. Let us continue to care and connect with all of creation.
Christen Blore, MSN, MDIV ‘18 began seminary studies after an almost two-decade career in nursing. She serves the Palmer community as Chaplain and Director of CARES. Christen is an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. and serves at Eastern University as Adjunct Faculty in the Theology Department.