Candler School of Theology will collectively commemorate National Hispanic Heritage Month for the first time this fall, with multiple in-person and online events running from September 15 through October 20. Taking the theme Nuestra Herencia (“Our Heritage”), the month of lectures, conversations and worship services not only will reflect upon and celebrate the legacy and contributions of Hispanic cultures, but will signal the beginning of a larger sustained effort for Candler to engage more intentionally with Hispanic/Latinx communities.

Associate Dean and Professor in the Practice of Leadership Joanne Solis-Walker, a key organizer of this year’s events, says the name Nuestra Herencia encapsulates the message that those of Hispanic and Latinx descent at Candler—students, faculty and staff—aim to celebrate.

“We are people from different countries who have embraced our roots, traditions and the distinctives of our diverse communities, and we desire to share our heritage with the world,” she says.

Nuestra Herencia conveys this message of inheritance, which acknowledges what we received from others, including our familias. In our theological setting, it is a tribute to the Hispanic and Latinx scholars who paved the way for us to make accessible the opportunities we at Candler seek to provide to our ecclesial communities. Herencia also honors and validates the lucha. It testifies to how we’ve pressed into the struggles to reclaim our identities and spaces within the broader community. Nuestra Herencia points to this historical time at Candler that we will trace as part of our roots and our story.”

The Hispanic/Latinx population is among the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the United States, and increased by 31 percent in the metro Atlanta area in the last decade, according to the 2020 U.S. Census. But that growth has not been reflected in the makeup of Candler’s student body. Assisted by recent “Pathways for Tomorrow” grants from Lilly Endowment Inc., which are designed to increase access to educational opportunities for pastoral leaders, Candler has taken steps to address this gap, conducting consultations with leaders from various faith traditions and multiple ethnic groups, including Hispanic/Latinx. Solis-Walker says Candler approached this work with “a listening posture” to get a sense of what these communities need and how Candler might meet those needs.

That transformational work will continue long after Hispanic Heritage Month ends, as new opportunities at Candler take shape to serve the diverse communities around us, beginning with Hispanic/Latinx communities.

Since celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month is new at Candler, Solis-Walker finds it helpful to explain that the commemoration’s unique timing, running from mid-September to mid-October, is intentional. The reason? September 15 marks the start of a string of independence anniversaries of several Latin American countries, while October 12 is observed as Día de la Raza or “Day of the Race,” which honors Latin America’s Hispanic and indigenous heritage. Candler’s commemoration will carry on past the official end date of October 15 to include the Aquinas Center of Theology’s events honoring the late artist John August Swanson, whose work was greatly influenced by his mother’s Mexican heritage.

Hispanic Heritage Month at Candler

September 15: “Nuestra Herencia” Chapel Service
11:05 a.m. • Cannon Chapel 
Distinguished guest preacher: scholar, theologian, and author Justo L. González

September 22: Chapel Service
11:05 a.m. • Cannon Chapel 
Distinguished guest preacher: Daisy L. Machado, executive director of Hispanic Summer Program, and former professor of church history at Union Theological Seminary

September 29: Panel Discussion: “Latinx Theologies, our Arte and Ritmos Latinos”
7:00 p.m. • Online 
Candler’s Hispanic and Latinx faculty will discuss the intersectionality of Latinx theologies, art, and rhythms. The virtual gathering will feature music, songs, and Christian artists representing different genres within Hispanic and Latinx culture and conversations about how this has influenced Hispanic and Latinx church and theology.

October 3–4: Conference: “Exploring the Intersection of Misión Integral and Christian Community Development and the Philosophies of Dr. John M. Perkins and Dr. René Padilla”
Padilla and Perkins each founded a distinct theo-praxis in Latin America and the U.S. that focuses on social, economic, political, ecological, and spiritual restoration for the poor. Speakers will facilitate dialogues exploring the intersection between the theological contributions of misión integral through the lens of René Padilla and the John Perkins philosophy of community development. Hosted by Candler School of Theology, The Candler Foundry, World Outspoken, and the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA).

October 19: Major Catholic Speaker Lecture: “Journey into the Mysterious Unity of Things with the Art of John August Swanson”
7:00 p.m. • Cannon Chapel 
Candler’s Aquinas Center of Theology, in partnership with Commonweal Magazine, will welcome Cecilia González-Andrieu, professor of theology and theological aesthetics at Loyola Marymount University, to present this year’s Major Catholic Speaker Lecture on the work of the late artist John August Swanson. Candler is home to the largest public display of Swanson’s art.

October 20: Chapel Service
11:05 a.m., Cannon Chapel 
Distinguished guest preacher: Cecilia González-Andrieu

October 20: Panel Discussion: “The Art of John August Swanson”  
12:00 p.m. • Pitts Theology Library, Room 360 
Panelists: Cecilia González-Andrieu, Theologian-in-Residence Don Saliers, Assistant Professor of Theology and Culture Antonio Alonso, and Head of Special Collections Brandon Wason.
After the panel, guests may take self-guided tours of highlights of Candler’s Swanson Collection.