SAN ANTONIO (CNS) — A group of 38 religious sisters from Latin America just completed a weeklong training program at the Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio to prepare them for five years of ministry in mission dioceses of the United States.

They are participating in the U.S.-Latin American Sisters Exchange Program sponsored by Chicago-based Catholic Extension and made possible through a $3 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. In San Antonio, their training was through the college’s international Sisters’ Intercultural Studies program.

“For many years, we have seen the prophetic witness of women religious in the poorest areas of our country,” Father Jack Wall, president of Catholic Extension, said in a statement.

“These are women who are so motivated by a profound sense of mission and a calling to serve the Latino communities that they asked to work (with) on the margins where they can make a significant impact,” he said. “This program uniquely expands opportunities for religious women to share their teaching and evangelizing charisms in communities with great needs.”

The “cohort” of sisters — from 10 Latin American congregations — is the second such group to be trained through the exchange program. They receive pastoral leadership training and gain ministry skills to help them “build up and strengthen the faith of the people they serve.”

According to Catholic Extension, the first cohort completed five years in the program in May and “impacted thousands of communities across the United States before returning to their home countries.”

In the mission dioceses where they are assigned, the sisters lead migrant ministries, teach religious education, care for people in their homes, offer sacramental preparation and pastoral care, promote vocations among young people, help increase Mass attendance at their parishes, and help form new leaders to carry out these activities.

“We call it an exchange because the sisters that come here are building much-needed ministries, but they’re also training leaders so that it becomes sustainable after they leave,” said Erika Cedrone, senior director of mission at Catholic Extension.

“When they return to their home congregations, they have education and experiences that will help them grow their churches in Latin America,” she said.

The women religious in the first cohort returned home largely fluent in English and with bachelor’s or master’s degrees from Boston College, as well as leadership and pastoral experience.

Catholic Extension raises and distributes funds to support U.S. mission dioceses, many of which are rural, cover a large geographic area, and have limited personnel and pastoral resources. It has been supporting the work and ministries of these mission dioceses since its founding in 1905.