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By Father Mark C. Arnzen, Pastor of Saint Lawrence the Martyr Parish

Dual Language Immersion from a Pastoral Perspective


As a pastor, why do you support implementing the Dual Language Immersion (DLI) program at St. Lawrence Elementary and Middle School?

For me, DLI is a way of education that intentionally looks outward and into the communities we serve as Catholic Schools. 

Can you describe a highlight from DLI training at Loyola Marymount University you attended over the summer?

One highlight was how the teaching of our faith becomes richer and more inclusive by placing it in the context of both languages and two distinct cultural settings. Secondly, another highlight was speaking of the honest challenges awaiting us when we returned to implement this program at Saint Lawrence the Martyr. Along with sharing our realistic challenges, all the educators and pastors who were present also encouraged each other and gave us hope. Those already using DLI in their schools gave us great pointers on overcoming the inevitable bumps in the road.

How does DLI inspire you from the perspective of our Catholic faith and as a pastor? 

I am inspired by how DLI looks forward to the future of our Church and educational systems because, demographically, we are more diverse and mainly a bilingual Church in America. As a former Catholic school teacher, I firmly believe that Catholic schools can and do open the hearts of families in and to the diverse cultural communities we live in. 

"But more importantly, for me, [DLI] is fulfilling the mission of Catholic schools to reach out to those often left behind."

We are an open door to finding God's fingerprints in cultures around us. DLI is a method that signals to many families that we must look beyond our immediate community and invite the greater world into conversations of faith. In my experience as a teacher and now pastor of a parish with a school, Catholic education already accomplishes this in an amazing way, and DLI only enhances that awareness.

What excites you about the upcoming implementation of DLI personally and pastorally? 

I am most excited by the discussions and conversations with parents, parishioners, and others held to discuss our hopes for DLI and what the method promises for the future of our school, as well as for the greater Diocese of San Jose. I was pleased with how many parishioners have stepped forward in support of this new way of being a school. We are building on the legacy of Catholic education at St. Lawrence the Martyr in opening our doors to families and students who may not have considered Catholic education before through bi-lingual education. I am excited because I believe this increases the viability of Catholic education in the future.

What challenges you about the upcoming implementation of DLI, personally and pastorally?

It is a new methodology, and so it is natural for parishioners, alumni, and others to wonder why this and why now. There are also the financial implications of starting something new and the need for greater resources to help families fulfill their dreams of Catholic education for their children.

Why should Catholic schools consider the DLI?

When you look at the data, DLI is a quantifiably successful method for children and families alike, both academically and socially. But more importantly, for me, it is fulfilling the mission of Catholic schools to reach out to those often left behind. This is the most critical aspect of our Faith anyway, whether it is a parish or a school or charity, because all those things are, in short, ministries through which we look beyond ourselves. And as I noted above, it helps us, as a school, to be more intentional in celebrating the richness of the cultural and spiritual blessings of the universal Church.

Father Mark Side View Headshot

Father Mark Arnzen is the pastor of Saint Lawrence the Martyr Parish in Santa Clara. He is the fourth of nine children. He was born and raised on a farm outside of Greencreek, Idaho. A graduate of Saint Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, he was ordained to the priesthood in 2005. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and playing golf badly.

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