By Florida Catholic-Miami
The Southeast Pastoral Institute has appointed Olga Lucia Villar as its new executive director, the first laywoman to take that leadership position.
Ms. Villar had been acting director and had previously served as SEPI’s director of formation and programs.
SEPI is the educational branch of the U.S. bishops’ Southeast Regional Office for Hispanic Ministry, and serves 30 dioceses in the southeastern United States, including the Diocese of Knoxville.
The central office for SEPI is located in the Archdiocese of Miami.
The executive director is appointed by the member bishops of SEPI. Ms. Villar was proposed by the executive committee of the board—Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans, Archbishop Thomas Rodi of Mobile, and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville—at its semi-annual board meeting on Nov. 11, and was subsequently confirmed by the member bishops.
Ms. Villar was first associated with SEPI as a teenager involved in Pastoral Juvenil (youth ministry). Since then, she has lived a life of commitment to ministry, earning both a master’s degree and a doctorate in Hispanic Ministry.
She has taught courses at SEPI for 22 years and served as director of Hispanic Ministry in the Archdiocese of Mobile, Ala., leading the diocese in the process of the V Encuentro with great commitment and passion. She was part of the Southeast Regional leadership team for the V Encuentro and currently teaches in SEPI’s master’s program in Hispanic Pastoral Ministry and its School of Ministries.
She has led SEPI’s Pastoral Accompaniment Program for Hispanic families in the Diocese of Jackson, Miss., in partnership with the Catholic Extension Society as well as the pilot program for the permanent diaconate in the Diocese of Biloxi, Miss.
During the past year, she has served as director of Formation and Programs at SEPI as well as acting director. She is credited with having good working relationships with the dioceses that participate in SEPI as well as the national organizations of Hispanic ministry.
In her role as director of Formation and Programs and later as acting director, Ms. Villar was intimately involved in the development of a strategic plan that will continue to advance the mission of SEPI in alignment with the needs of Hispanic ministry in the 30 dioceses served by SEPI.