VLCFF works with CREDI to promote integral human development

Inter alia, the Catholic Commission for Social Justice (CCSJ) and the Catholic Religious Education Development Institute (CREDI) are concerned to promote integral human development.

Pope Benedict XVI states in his latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, Charity in Truth, that the essential quality of "authentic" development is that it must be "integral, that is, it has to promote the good of every man and of the whole man" every dimension of the person. He says that "The vocation to progress drives us to "do more, know more and have more in order to be more'" Development needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer"Development requires attention to the spiritual life""

Our vocation to be Catholic requires us to develop our knowledge about the Church's teaching. Ongoing faith formation requires us to foster learning for life in our Archdiocese. If we are to "know more" we must respond to the challenge outlined by His Grace, Archbishop Edward J. Gilbert, in his 3rd leaflet which was circulated in Catholic News last week: "Called to be Catholic: Rediscovering the Vocation" (adapted from his Column published in the Catholic News 29 March 2009).

His Grace asks: "How can the Church help people who have been confirmed live their confirmation, i.e. manifest that they have accepted a strengthening of the Spirit, and take up their responsibility to spread and defend the faith as true witnesses of Christ?"

He lists certain action that is required. This includes: "Personal study and reflection on the Faith." The New Evangelisation requires that we develop our knowledge of our Faith. It is for this reason that CCSJ and CREDI have partnered with the University of Dayton, USA, to run an online course that will help the faithful to develop a spirituality of Justice. One of the positive aspects of modern technology is that the computer can be used to create virtual learning communities.

The Social Justice Online Course, which was advertised in the Catholic News, will be run by the University of Dayton and will be facilitated by CREDI. The Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation (VLCFF), part of the University of Dayton, is "a growing initiative to offer adult religious education and faith formation anytime and anywhere via the internet. The goal is to support the church's professional ministry of religious education and faith formation in cyberspace. The VLCFF is coordinated and sponsored by the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives (IPI) at the University of Dayton - a Catholic Marianist Institution."

VLCFF's mission is "to mobilize the resources of the University of Dayton for partnerships with the Church that create and implement innovative pastoral initiatives designed to meet the needs of the Church and to articulate faith within the context of contemporary culture."

The program series currently comprises 11 modules grouped into levels: Basic, Intermediate and Advanced. Each module is about 5 weeks long. To complete the program, one must start at the Basic Level and work through to the Advanced Level. Each course is worth 2.5 CEUs (Continuing Education Units) which are based on the International Academic Standards for Continuing Education - 10-12 hours per CEU. Students will be engaged in approximately 25 hours [5 hours per week] with the course material and interacting with the online students and facilitator during the course.

Themes covered on the course are as follows: Conscience, Introduction to Practical Morality, Catholic School Teaching, Marianist Studies: Social Justice, Advanced Catholic Social Teaching, History of Catholic Social Action, Parish and Social Action, Poverty in the US and Around the World, Scripture and Justice, Spirituality and Inclusive Faith Communities.

The cost of each module is TT$260, and modules will require access to books. At the end of the series, successful participants will be awarded a Certificate by the University of Dayton and the Archdiocese of Port of Spain [CREDI].

Twenty persons have signed up for the first online module: Conscience 12 women and 8 men from across the Archdiocese. They have had their online orientation via SKYPE with the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives/University of Dayton (IPI/UD).

We wish to thank our Vicars and priests for assisting us in recruiting candidates, as well as IPI/UD for assisting us in reaching this important milestone. We will continue running such courses to develop the knowledge of the faithful in our parishes so that they can spread and defend our faith and promote God's kingdom of love, truth, justice, peace and freedom.

Module 1, which focuses on Conscience, commenced on 12 July 2009. Our Catechism tells us that "A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful"The word of God is a light for our path." (see: Catechism, 1776 1802).

We wish our 20 students every success. We hope that they will share with others the knowledge gained from participating in the course and that this knowledge will assist them in their faith journey.