El Seminario Episcopal Anglicano de El Salvador graduated its first class of four students on May 28, 2021. Established in 2017 to serve the needs of the Episcopal Diocese of El Salvador, six students were initially admitted to the program, which commenced in January of that year. Classes were conducted in person, as well as online since some of the faculty taught remotely from Central America and the United States. When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in El Salvador in 2020, the classes were offered online only via ZOOM.
The program of studies was very demanding. Compounding the complexity of the learning experience was the fact that the students were working full time. The students also were requested to share their new knowledge with the communities they were assigned to serve, thereby integrating theory and praxis, as a way of preparing them for ministry.
The students encountered numerous difficulties. Faced with their particular economic situations and the high academic demand of their studies, two of them opted to drop out of the program. For the four students who completed the program, the Seminary offered them a unique educational opportunity at an affordable cost. Without this opportunity being made available, these students could not have afforded a theological education.
One student, Vilma Landaverde, offered a very moving and compelling story about her desire to study. She said that she could not take advantage of an earlier education opportunity many years ago when a different program was offered because she lacked a high school diploma. Because she only had a sixth-grade education at that time, she did not qualify for that program. As an adult and raising a family, she continued to study and completed her high school education a few years ago. When the Seminary of El Salvador offered theological education as part of the program of formation for the priesthood in 2017, she was ready to launch herself into a four-year program that culminated with her graduation.
Ms. Landaverde's experience is what the Brazilian Educator and Philosopher, Paulo Freire, would call a liberating education. This is the type of education that gives voice to the voiceless of this world.
The Seminary of El Salvador was able to offer this theological educational opportunity with the help of the faculty who donated their time, and the small donations that were received for this noble mission of forming future leaders of the Episcopal Anglican Church in El Salvador. The model of theological education that the Seminary has developed is affordable, and it could serve as an example of a creative learning experience for other dioceses that wish to form their future church leaders.
The Rev. Dr. Miguel A. Hernandez is the priest-in-charge of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in West Orange, NJ. He has been teaching at El Seminario Episcopal Anglicano de El Salvador since the Seminary started offering classes in 2017.