Citing growing diversity and accessibility as major motivators, the CREDO Institute is launching a new Spanish-language version of its health and wellness clergy conferences this November, said William S. Craddock Jr., managing director.
"Our bottom-line commitment is, we want every eligible deacon, priest and bishop active in the Church Pension Fund to have the opportunity to attend a CREDO conference and we are in the process of making that a reality," Craddock said.
The Rt. Rev. Wilfrido Ramos-Orench, Bishop Suffragan of Connecticut and conference leader for the new Spanish-language CREDO, called it "a very important initiative, given the significant growth of the Episcopal Church among Spanish-speaking people in this country and in Latin America and the Spanish Caribbean.
"We need to provide for the wellness of our clergy involved in Hispanic/Latino ministry development so that they can be even more effective in their ministry," he said. "CREDO can be the vehicle to do that in a sensitive and effective manner."
"From my own experience, I see CREDO as a wonderful resource for us clergy as we wrestle with important issues of vocation, emotional and spiritual wellness, and financial well being," he added. "It provides a safe and professional environment to explore such issues and concerns in the context of a community of discernment and learning."
The Rev. Gay Jennings, the institute's associate director, agreed. "We're really excited about this new CREDO. It takes us into becoming more available and accessible to the whole church and it's always been our hope that every single member of the clergy who is eligible could attend."
Beginning this year, CREDO also will offer the first CREDO II conferences for those who attended a conference six to eight years ago, and is considering a conference for lay professionals.
CREDO 'Renews Passion, Sparks Discovery'
Since the first pilot CREDO conference was held in 1997, more than 2,300 people have participated in some 93 conferences, including bishops, priests and deacons, Craddock said.
"CREDO is an opportunity for people to discern and examine their personal lives and to come up with a way to move forward with a plan that incorporates the financial, vocational, health and spiritual aspects of their lives," he said. "It's a holistic approach with the underpinning of holiness and sacred space, where clergy can get realigned to ministry, to their relationship with God and their families and communities. It's for renewing the passion for what they do in life and who they are," he said.
Headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, CREDO grew out of a 1994 committee established by the Church Pension Fund (CPF) to explore ways to support clergy wellness on a national level. The institute's mission is to serve all clergy in the pension fund and to date, about 99 percent of clergy have been invited. Annually, 35 percent of those invited attend, Jennings said.
A typical CREDO conference includes 32 clergy participants randomly selected from the CPF database of active clergy. Eight faculty members present topics involving spiritual, health, vocational and financial wellness. The presentations, combined with reflection, prayer and dialogue, are designed to spark personal discovery as well as a future vision for participants.
Since such Province 9 dioceses as Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Venezuela are enrolled in the CPF, development of a Spanish language CREDO will eventually allow for their clergy to fully participate, Jennings said.
Spanish-language is 'Key to Development and Understanding'
Ramos-Orench said that the opportunity to experience CREDO in Spanish will make a big difference to participants, "because the feelings and the symbols of the language go so much beyond the spoken word. Cultural awareness and sensitivity is extremely important in any educational process. We have put together a very competent and highly professional team responsive to the particular needs of participants."
Julie Hermes Castillo is one of those team members. Castillo says she's not sure what to expect when offering the financial component in her first Spanish language CREDO this November, but "being able to communicate with Spanish-speaking clergy in their own language is key for their development and understanding," she said.
The Rev. Martha Anderson is a pediatric nurse practitioner who runs a school-based health center at John Pershing Junior High School in Brooklyn. Her focus at the November conference will be health care issues.
As a four-year veteran of CREDO teams, Anderson says she jumped at the chance to join the upcoming November team.
"Every time we do a conference, at least 30 priests attend and I'd say about half are really working seriously on their health and are in pretty good shape. And the other half scare me, because they aren't doing anything about it.
"I learn so much every time I do it. CREDO gives people a respite from having to be in control and in charge and take care of other people. It's a time when clergy are really encouraged to take care of themselves and to let the team take care of them," said Anderson, who also serves at Holyrood Church in Manhattan. "And so many people are struggling with one of the four areas or maybe more than one. It's an opportunity to get some clarity and to make a plan and to work toward some change.
Anderson's focus is basic health care especially "The health of the heart, because the things that you do to keep your heart healthy are the things you need to do to keep your whole body healthy," she said. "I'll talk a little bit more about how diabetes is a major concern for Latinos," she said.
Jennings said invitations will be mailed soon for the November conference to clergy for whom Spanish is a first language who are living and serving in the United States and Puerto Rico. Subsequent conferences will encompass Province 9 and other dioceses. A French-speaking version may eventually follow, she added.
'Tweaked and Tailored', and Culturally Sensitive
Craddock said the tried-and-true CREDO process was "tweaked and tailored", for cultural sensitivity.
"We're not just translating our materials into Spanish and offering the program, we're being very sensitive and intentional to position a lot of content and process it so it responds in a healthy way to the culture. There's a contextual difference in the Spanish-as-first-language clergy in the United States and Puerto Rico and clergy from Central America or Mexico."
The conference design began with the assistance of a design team of Spanish-speaking and Latino clergy and laity. "We've been very careful about growing this in a structured, healthy way that has sustainability," Craddock said. "All of the faculty members are bilingual. It will be a fantastic conference."
Prior to this new team, CREDO provided simultaneous translation. "Now, we won't need to do that," he said.
The new team was a natural evolution of the institute's desire to serve clergy, General Convention 2003's mandate to offer all materials in both Spanish and French and the increasing diversity of the church. He said: "CREDO has been very intentional about bringing together a group of people from around the church who are Latinos or are involved in Spanish-language ministries to tell us what they need, rather than us assuming what was needed."
Ramos-Orench said he joined the team because of his own CREDO experience. "It gave me a gift that I treasure highly. To be a member of the Spanish CREDO team will offer me the opportunity to share this gift or treasure with others. I see also my participation as a professional challenge in this stage of development of my life as a bishop of the Church. I am very excited about it, and I think it will prove to be a great gift and resource to the Hispanic Church."
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