Dillon Cott, a Wichita seminarian who will be in his second year of theology this fall, is one of the dozen students immersed in Spanish for a couple of months. (Advance photos)

Seminarians immersed en español
Seminarians from four regional dioceses have joined seminarians from the Diocese of Wichita in an intensive Spanish course offered this summer through Newman University.
The 12 men from the dioceses of Wichita, Salina, Tulsa, Colorado Springs, and Springfield-Cape Giradeau cracked open their “libros” Monday, June 4, and will continue their immersion in Spanish until the end of July.
Sonja Bontrager, assistant professor of Spanish at Newman, said the university was asked by the diocese to design an intensive program that would allow certain seminarians to develop their language skills.
The students have been divided into four levels of Spanish that will merge into three levels as the students progress, she said. Bishop Carl A. Kemme and Father David Lies, vicar general for the diocese, are auditing the course as time allows.
The immersion begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 1:30 p.m., with traditional classes in the morning. At noon, all students gather for an umbrella course called Spanish in Community for 90 minutes. “That course involves lunch, but we also bring in ‘acompañantes,’ (companions), or conversation assistants, from the community, Bontrager said.
“Two are bilingual staff members at Newman University and are able to lead conversation at tables and small groups. When they finish lunch, they’re able to leave the dining area and use the grounds to practice conversation.”
Bontrager said Newman was honored to be invited to help the seminarians.
“It’s wonderful that they’re responding to the need of the community this way. We’re very happy to welcome the seminarians and I can’t express how grateful I am to the ASCs (the Adorers of the Blood of Christ) for opening up their center for us. We’re enjoying outstanding hospitality and support.”
The classes are taught in rooms near the chapel of the motherhouse of the Adorers, just south of Newman University.
“Being here allows us to have the academic program completely contained and makes it easier for faculty and acompañantes to work as a team. It also allows us easy access to the grounds and dining facilities, which are important parts of our Spanish in Community conversation course. We’re able to have a mid-morning break with refreshments, and the dining services go all summer, making the integrated conversation course go more smoothly.”
Their immersion doesn’t end after class, though. In the evening the seminarian Spanish students minister – and hone their language skills – at Hispanic parishes in Wichita. They eat with a Spanish-speaking family weekly and on Fridays a guest speaker talks about aspects of Hispanic ministry.
Father Chad Arnold, director of Vocations, said the course is as close to an immersion in Spanish as they can get in Wichita.
“It has been very edifying to see how the men have taken to their studies as well as how much they have enjoyed engaging with the Hispanic culture.”

Listening to Spanish instructor W. Michael Barton, are, from left, Wichita seminarians Jon Tolberd, Andrew Meng, and Dillon Cott; and Nick Zummo of the Diocese Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri.