E- Catechesis In the Diocese of Orange

Orange County Catholic

August 2010


Anne Lanphar and her husband first signed up for online faith formation classes in response to Bishop Tod Brown's pastoral letter, "Learning, Loving and Living Your Faith,"¯ which asked parishioners to commit to ongoing formation. But the couple did so with less than total enthusiasm.

"I will quite honestly admit,"¯ says Lanphar with a laugh, "we really thought we should be exempt because we know so much."¯

            An attorney who has edited the newspaper of Orange County's St. Thomas More Society for the past 14 years, Lanphar was already well-educated in matters of the Church; she also had a grave aversion to the classroom, having gone directly from college to law school in the CPA review class. So it was with some reluctance that she enrolled in an online class offered through the University of Dayton.

            It was not long before her reluctance turned to relish.

            "Not only did I learn a ton"”the classes were excellent, the books were excellent"”but the online classes let me have my own time,"¯ she says.

            "I did it initially because of obedience as a Catholic, but it was extremely wise. I couldn't have been more wrong with what I had assumed"”and more delighted."¯

            The classes have attracted parishioners from across the diocese seeking catechist and master catechist certification, as well as those simply interested in learning more about their faith. Each class is five weeks long; a new cycle of classes starts every two months. Though cost for the classes is usually $100 each, thanks to the partnership forged with the Diocese of Orange, local parishioners pay just $40 per class. (The University of Dayton recently announced an Online Certificate in Catechesis as well.)

            The University of Dayton doesn't use a live chatroom where students communicate in real time, but relies on message boards; students, who come from across the country, can post whenever they like (though they're required to post a minimum of three times each week).

            "It surprised me how much happens in the message boards,"¯ says Chris Sherrick, a parishioner at Holy Family Cathedral in Orange. "As we respond to each others' insights and struggles, we help teach each other, reflect how to apply the material to our lives, and develop a sense of community. They are the heart of the class."¯

            Sherrick is not pursuing a certificate at this time (he enrolled in online classes because he wanted to learn more about his faith). The online format hade it simple for him to include that desired education in his already busy schedule; "I could do the work late at night, early morning, and/or during my lunch break, etc.,"¯ he explains.

            Joanne Less, a parishioner at St. John Neumann Church in Irvine, first enrolled in an online class in an effort to earn her Basic Catechist certification; the online option was perfect for her, as her full-time job would make it difficult for her to attend classes offered during the Institute for Pastoral Ministry's Summer Institute. "This kind of class is very convenient because I can work it around my other commitments,"¯ she says. "Because I do work full-time, I tend to do the class work on the weekends and then post to the discussion boards during the week."¯

            Students agree that, no matter what one's background"”whether a cradle Catholic, a graduate of Catholic School, or a recent convert to the Catholic faith"”there is much to be learned from these classes.

            "Its like this treasure chest,"¯ says Lanphar. "If you just take the stuff off the top"”that's childhood; then you go deeper down, and I thought I had"”but there's a ton more [to learn]. And that's from a lawyer thinking she knew it all."¯