As the result of a grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) will provide English language training to seminarians in Haiti and the Dominican Republic for entry into its Masters in Theological Studies Program.
"As a native of Haiti and a VTS graduate, I am truly grateful to see the launch of this initiative," said the Rev. Joseph Constant, director of Ethnic Ministries and Student Life at Virginia Seminary. "The Episcopal Church in Haiti and the Dominican Republic are a source of life and light to citizens of both countries â¦ this partnership will strengthen all three institutions."
Through the Carpenter grant initiative, the three seminary partners will support English language immersion, build up a faculty in two dioceses within the Episcopal Church, and provide access to theological education by concretely addressing the language barrier. The program will also benefit VTS students, many of whom already take advantage of cross-cultural immersion experiences in the Dominican Republic, by offering opportunities for them to expand on their knowledge of Spanish, French or Creole.
According to the Very Rev. OgÃ© Beauvoir, dean of the Seminary of Haiti, the seminaries in Haiti and the Dominican Republic have extremely limited resources.
"The faculty in Haiti consists of resident priests who are strong in particular areas of study but who have no advanced or doctoral degrees," he said. "The faculty are often borrowed from other denominations or rotated through the seminary during short term mission trips by English-speaking professors from the United States who instruct with the help of a translator. Neither scenario creates an ideal learning environment, leaving a lack of followup for students' questions."
The Dioceses of both Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which have one theological seminary each, are part of the Episcopal Church. Despite strong opportunities for church expansion and planting, the training of priests is often difficult due to the lack of English speaking skills, one of the top barriers for access to educational opportunities.
The grant will fund two semesters of in-country study of English, six months of English language study at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), and enrollment in summer programs at VTS. Upon completion of English language training, qualified students will be enrolled in VTS' Master in Theological Studies program.
"The partnership between the seminaries of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Virginia Theological Seminary is a true witness of mutual responsibility and interdependence," said the Rt. Rev. Telesforo Isaac, retired bishop of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic, "It is a testimony to what the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion at large can do when they work together for the benefit of the Church."
Founded in 1823, VTS is the largest of the 11 accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church. The school prepares men and women for service in the Church worldwide, both as ordained and lay ministers, and offers a number of professional degree programs and diplomas. Currently, the Seminary represents more than 42 different dioceses and five different countries, for service in the Church.