CATHOLIC VALUES COLUMNIST
“Gaming is like a gateway: a gateway east to west and west to east,” said Bobette Huzovic, co-director of the Language and Catechetical Institute (LCI). Franciscan University’s study abroad program is unique in many ways, especially in its community structure.
The Kartause, home to the study abroad program, houses other institutions as well. One such institution is the sister program to Franciscan University: LCI. “Fr. Michael Scanlan’s will was to evangelize the people of Eastern Europe,” said Huzovic. “He talks about Gaming being the beachhead of the New Evangelization. That’s what LCI is; that’s a direct response.”
LCI is a two semester program for Eastern European Catholics from former communist countries to come and be formed as dynamic Catholics to go back to their own countries to evangelize. “Formation is the goal of LCI, and it happens in the English language so that they also have concrete tools to make their life easier,” said Huzovic.
Huzovic explained that communism’s goal was to crush the Church, and though it never succeeded, it “left a huge mark on the Church in Eastern Europe.” LCI began in the spring of 1992, after communism fell, and since then it has served almost 500 graduates from 30 countries. This semester, there are 11 traditional LCI students from Slovakia, Belarus, Turkmenistan, Hungary, Albania, Azerbaijan, Russia and China.
In the ideal situation, the bishop of an area knows the students and sends them to the program, knowing that they are being formed for the good of the Church back home. Now, some students have come who are children or acquaintances of former graduates.
LCI has continued to expand over the years based on a growing call from bishops and alumni for more support in evangelization. One program that has come from LCI is the Saints Cyril and Methodius Center for Evangelization (CMC), which trains Americans to be missionaries in the East because, as Huzovic explained, right now there are no long term Catholic missionaries in Eastern Europe. Missionaries through CMC become integrated in the cultures and traditions of the Byzantine Rite, and they learn how to teach English as a foreign language.
Another project of LCI is the Ukrainian Missionary Formation, which allows Byzantine priests to learn English so they can be missionaries for the Byzantine Church in America. These are just a few of LCI’s projects. “LCI is the center,” said Huzovic, “the live force from which the other projects come.”
Although each LCI student comes to Gaming for a deeper formation in faith, they each come from a different place with different needs and will go back to a different place. “I think what makes LCI special is it’s our mission to form people – the whole person – one-on-one,” said Huzovic. “It’s touching people where they are and leading them and helping them to grow in their Christian faith.”
Each LCI student takes English every class day, and the length of the class varies by the person’s level of English. Then they have specialized English classes that help with reading and writing, drama, pronunciation and other individualized needs. For example, one year there was a handful of students sent to bring back the concept of the pro-life movement, so they spent a great deal of time on social issues and pro-life vocabulary.
Along with the English classes, LCI students also have theology and catechism classes. When the students reach a certain level of English, they take Franciscan University classes based on interest and need.
The most important aspect of LCI is the threefold community. The first kind of community is the tight-knit LCI community because it is important that “they really feel the love of God in the community, so that they can have a real sense of the Church,” said Huzovic.
“For me, it’s like a family which we are growing together in our faith and living together, eating together, traveling together,” said LCI student Aysel Quluzade.
The students also have community with the Franciscan students that they build in the Mensa, the dorms and on pilgrimage.
The third kind of community is with the Kartause community at large, where the LCI students have the witness of the teachers, staff and families.
“This is all very important in the holistic formation of the person, that we don’t ever want just a narrow program of evangelization but that the evangelization happens organically and integrally with the whole person so that they can really go back nourished, strengthened, formed and really be a light,” said Huzovic.
The benefits flow both ways, as LCI is also an example for the Franciscan students. “They go back with a richer experience of the Church, more even than what Gaming itself could offer,” said Huzovic.
“They’re a great group of people,” said junior Emily Flood, who is working with LCI students in a drama English class. “They’re all really smart, really funny, diverse, obviously, and it’s just fun working with them on their different levels.”