Virtually Removing the Obstacles to Adult Religious Education

Laura Keener, Assistant Editor, Messenger

The world is being reshaped by technology. Not only are computers transforming the way we live and work, they enable many adults to pursue lifelong learning to keep pace with the rapidly changing workplace. Adults are responding to these changes by self-directed learning, on-the-job training, and enrolling in continuing education courses in large numbers.

"Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us"
A Pastoral Plan for Adult Faith Formation in the United States
November 17, 1999
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

After putting in eight hours at work, running children to and from the many functions they're involved with, and taking care of the house and yard, many adults feel there is no time left for anything especially adult religious education. But the Diocese of Covington in partnership with the University of Dayton is virtually removing the excuses.

The Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation is organized and operated by the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives of the University of Dayton. Eighteen dioceses offer internet courses to teachers, catechists and other adults who are interested in learning more about their faith.

"We're never really finished learning," said Benedictine Sister Stella Gough, associate director for catechetical services for the Diocese of Covington.

Sister Stella said there are many reasons she is thrilled with the program the variety of courses, one-on-one attention, the affordability and especially the flexibility.

"You're in a time frame but it's very flexible. You don't have to travel to a campus on a specified day at a specified time. You simply sign on from home or work at a time that meets your schedule," said Sister Stella.

Students work one-on-one with their online facilitator. Facilitators generally answer student questions via return e-mail within 72 hours. She said that in some crisis situations classes may even be postponed for some future date at no financial loss to the student. With virtual adult religious education programs there is no minimum number of students required classes are not cancelled due to lack of participation, she said.

But don't be fooled by the flexibility; the courses are challenging, said Sister Stella.

"It's not an easy course. You need to be in touch with the facilitator two or three times per week. I really suggest that courses be taken one at a time. And if you're not a self-starter this may not be helpful, because it does require discipline," said Sister Stella.

To get started, Sister Stella recommends the course "Images of Jesus, A Study of Christology," facilitated by Bishop Anthony Bosco, Diocese of Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

"The bishop is very good and I think people don't mind talking about Jesus," she said.

Currently there are 11 courses available. Each course runs for a five week cycle. There are six cycles a year. The next cycle is April 20 May 24. Cost for a course is $40 for members of partner dioceses like the Diocese of Covington. Course hours accumulated can be applied to certification a requirement for all catechists in the Diocese of Covington.

For more information on the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation call Sister Stella Gough at (859) 283-6249.