Curious Crusader: Spanish night classes

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Photo by Colin Lancaster

You might have accidentally walked into an all-Spanish class in Gorman, or you might have seen a large group of people in the Art Village at night, but have you ever wondered what they were learning? 

These students are part of the Neuhoff School of Ministry’s continuing education program. The classes are for catechists, ecclesiastical ministers, deacons and other individuals looking to educate the Catholic community of North Texas. 

In total, there are currently 870 students enrolled, but some attend the classes on campus at the University of Dallas while others learn online or at a different location.

Spanish language coordinator and instructor Pia Septien was hired 14 years ago to handle the program initiatives in Spanish. She explained how the program has grown. Initially, getting people to sign up for the Spanish program took a great deal of outreach, and the cost was an obstacle for some. 

“I started working, recruiting during the summer, and it was the beginning of August [when] Dean Brian Schmisek told me ‘we have two students signed up,’” said Septien. At that point, the Spanish initiative would have had to be canceled due to the lack of enrollment.

The Spanish initiative required books imported from Spain, adding to the cost of tuition. The total cost of the program concerned Septien, but she had faith in the program. She recalls telling Scmisek her plan. 

“I’m going to Mexico City,” said Septien. “I’m going to pay a visit to Our Lady of Guadalupe Basilica, and I’m going to ask her [to take care of] her children that happen to be at the other side of the border.” 

A month later, 106 people signed up, and the Spanish program continued. 

Septien acknowledged the work people would do in order to afford the education.

“They would sell tortas, tacos, whatever, so that they would be able to pay,” said Septien.

Now, several dioceses rely on the school of ministry’s continuing education program. The Dallas Diocese pays a portion of the tuition for some of the students. 

Septien gives thanks to the Virgin Mary for her role in advancing the program to this point.

“It’s her program. It’s not our program. It’s her program, and she will get whoever needs to be there,” said Septien. Septien went on to explain that for this reason, the Virgin Mary is the symbol of the program.

According to Septien, the Spanish program is now well known throughout the metroplex, but not throughout the student body.

Septien encourages students to get involved in the school of ministry through the Dallas Ministry Conference. 

Assistant Director and UD graduate Lauren Passalugo’s parents attended the English portion of the program. Though she was not involved in the conference as an undergraduate, Passalugo encourages undergraduates to attend the Ministry Conference in October.


Dear Crusaders, your fellow students at The University News know how curious you all are, and we definitely know how busy life is, so we’ve started a new project, Curious Crusader, to dig into matters that concern you the most and then we produce a curiosity-satisfying article! Curious Crusader is modeled after the Dallas Morning News’ Curious Texas. As student-journalists we will do our best to answer your questions, so please send them to CuriousCrusaderUD@gmail.com.

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