By Sadie Stresky
This summer, seminarian John Michniuk of the Diocese of Covington had the opportunity to attend a Spanish immersion and ministry program in Mexico City. The Curso Hispanidad program was directed by the Legionaries of Christ exclusively for priests and seminarians.
Michniuk’s summer experience lasted six and a half weeks. He stayed at Casa de Retiro San José, in Tlalpan, Mexico City. His daily schedule consisted of attending morning prayer and Mass, followed by a five-hour Spanish language course at the local Universidad Anáhuac-México Sur.
“Speaking the local language was difficult at first,” Michniuk said. “Everyone spoke Spanish with a bit of translating, and I had to speak and answer questions in front of people completely in Spanish.”
“The participants returned home after each evening prayer session and had ministry duties. They frequented Saint Ursula Parish each week and visited local families at their homes for fellowship and ministry. The group would also attend evening conferences on various topics about Hispanic ministry. Some of the speakers included Msgr. Eduardo Chavez, the Postulator of Saint Juan Diego’s cause for sainthood (2002) as well as Mr. Alejandro Aguilera-Titus, the Assistant Director of the Subcommittee for Hispanic Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
On weekends, the men were guided on cultural trips around Mexico City. Michniuk said his favorite part of the experience was visiting the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Seeing the Basilica was a moving experience. Michniuk also enjoyed serving Mass and getting to meet both Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, the Archbishop of Mexico City and Bishop Jonás Guerrero Corona, Auxiliary Bishop of the archdiocese.
Michniuk returned home with a great appreciation for the people and culture of Mexico.
“It is extremely important to be there and experience Mexico firsthand,” he said. “It gave me an understanding of Mexico’s culture, faith, and the struggles and resilience of its people.”
Michniuk and his group took two mission trips outside of Mexico City, where they had a chance to meet and minister to the poorest of the poor.
In spite of dealing with pesky mosquitoes and high altitude, he said he is grateful for the opportunity to travel to Mexico to learn about a different culture: “I got to see things I have never seen in the United States, and I now have a stronger understanding of a culture that is much different than my own.”