Juan Rizo shakes hands with Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares after receiving his diploma from the Kino Institute May 31 at St. Mary’s Basilica.

It’s no accident that, before receiving their certificates, the 59 local Catholics who graduated from the Kino Institute joined Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo Nevares for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Prayer and the sacraments are an integral part of the education offered at the Kino Institute. So is service.

“You have been armed to be servants to God and His people,” Bishop Nevares said in his May 31 homily on the Feast of the Annunciation.

“We see the first servant of the Lord in our Blessed Mother,” he said. “She, while bearing the Son of God, wanted to serve… Mary became a servant of the Lord because she had a personal encounter with God.”

The bishop called on Kino graduates to go forth, “full of joy, like Mary,” and share what they’d learned with others.

Daniel Christensen, a graduate of the English-language program, found Kino spiritually fulfilling and is getting involved with adoration at his home parish, All Saints in Mesa.

His classmate John Deg, director of married life ministry at Corpus Christi Parish, hopes to apply many aspects of the Kino program at work. He noted, in particular, his understanding of Salvation history and the Theology of the Body.

“It was a fabulous two years of growing in my faith,” he said.

For Rita Laguna, who directs the religious education program at St. Theresa Parish, Kino solidified her knowledge, “filling in missing pieces.”

“It was hard work, but I enjoyed it,” she said.

Juan Rizo, a parishioner at Blessed Sacrament in Tolleson and a graduate from the Spanish-language program, said it was the first time he’d graduated from anything.

“At times I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish this,” he said. “What I have in my heart is that I couldn’t have done this were it not the path God had chosen.”

He vowed to share all that he learned with others.