Volume 32 No. 2 | Winter 2022 6 Society Matters Language the key to unlocking culture for new missionary It’s a long way from Mexico to Switzerland – especially when you go via Australia – but Simon Dominguez Prospero is settling into his first missionary assignment in the SVD European Central Province by working hard to speak the language and get to know the people and their culture. Simon, aged 37, was born and raised in Veracruz State in Mexico and was the eighth of nine children in his family. He joined the Divine Word Missionaries in 2003 and began his religious formation in Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico, completing three years of Philosophy studies, followed by his Novitiate from 2008 to 2010 and two years of Theology. After that, he moved to the United States and studied English at Divine Word College in Iowa. “My life took a different turn when I was approved to go to the Australia Province in 2013 for the Overseas Training Program (OTP),” he said. “I did my OTP from 2013 to 2015 and then decided to continue my theological formation in Australia. I was accepted to study at Yarra Theological Union in Melbourne, and completed my formal qualifications in 2018.” Simon took his final vows in Melbourne in March 2019 and was ordained to the Diaconate the following day. Later that year, in November, he was ordained to the priesthood and was assigned to the European Central Province and specifically to the Steinhausen community in Switzerland, arriving in September 2020. “Two weeks later, I started German language studies,” he said. “It’s an important prerequisite for ministry in this part of Europe. “For a whole year, from October 2020 to October 2021, I was busy with an intensive German course. “I’ve also been busy doing pastoral experience in the parish of St Matthias in Steinhausen, which finished at the end of April. “I am now embarking on an advanced level German course and will hopefully obtain the German Language Proficiency Certificate in order to start work in the parish.” Simon said an interesting feature of the St Matthias parish is that it is an ecumenical parish, with the Reformed Church and the Catholic Church working together. “My work there was focused on liturgy, attending parish meetings and visiting the school for religion class,” he said. “On of the challenges for me was to learn the language, because I believe that by learning the language, I will begin to understand the culture of the people and communicate more freely with them. “At the moment, even with my beginner German, I have been able to communicate with the people around me, in the SVD community where I live, in the parish, and in community groups. “I have felt welcomed, accompanied and supported.” Simon said that in addition to his experience in the parish, he has also been helping English-speaking communities, particularly the Filipino community and sometimes the Hispanic community.