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Celebrating Catholic faith online

The University of Dayton’s (USA) online Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation (VLCFF) programme is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2020.

The university has provided 20 years of online e-courses for adult faith formation, catechists, Catholic teachers and permanent deacon formation to people within the Archdiocese of Port of Spain, the Caribbean and across the globe.

“The VLCFF created a new paradigm for online learning within and for the Catholic Church,” said Archbishop Jason Gordon. “The VLCFF is a community engaging, working together, creating a wonderful online experience.”

Archbishop Gordon added, “I’ve participated in a course just to see how it works and these (VLCFF) courses have created a better way of learning using online technology.”

The VLCFF courses integrate interactive discussion boards so participants can share their living faith and knowledge experiences while communicating with one another. Courses can be completed in three or five weeks.

“Since participating in the VLCFF courses, my faith has been significantly enriched,” says Nigel Thomas. “The courses foster deep reflection and thought.”

The VLCFF has served the Archdiocese of Port of Spain and the dioceses associated with the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) for several years now.

A significant number of Trinbagonians have participated in the AEC’s Pastoral Letter on Communications: New Way of Being Church in a Digital Milieu’s e-seminar that is currently available throughout the Caribbean via the VLCFF.

“This was my first online course. I was anxious at first not knowing what to expect,” said Jose Gomes. “The weekly study chart was a tremendous tool in helping to plan and the facilitators worked well with us.”

“The insights I have gleaned from the courses, have inspired me to find ways to disseminate this great treasure trove of knowledge to the Catholic community,” said Hilary Bengochea.

With more than 100+ e-course subjects, in English, Spanish and Arabic, there is a course that will relate to your particular faith interests and fit into your busy lifestyle.

“I was grateful for the structure of the classes, which facilitated my own schedule, yet still kept the group on track,” said Simone Pasmore, Diocese of Bridgetown. “The content of ‘Bible Basics’ was very comprehensive, and I certainly would say it was worth the investment.”

E-courses in scripture, catechesis, Catholic education, leadership/ministry formation, social justice, vocation and more are available.

“I remember,” Archbishop Gordon recalled, “one year (1996), Sr Angela Ann started talking about online learning. She described what she was thinking about and she created a new paradigm for online learning with these faith formation courses. This is phenomenal work that somebody needs to document because it has had an impact not just in Trinidad and Tobago, in Barbados, in St Vincent, and other dioceses throughout our region, as well as in many parts of the world.”

Now serving more than 88 dioceses around the world including the AEC, Latin America, Africa, Australia, and Canada, the VLCFF set a new enrolment record of serving more than 6,500 students in 2019.

Archbishop Gordon says Sr Angela Ann Zukowski MHSH, D Min, has been coming to Trinidad for more than 25 years now, beginning with helping with the Archdiocesan Communications Plan (1993). Part of that plan was the creation of the Caribbean School for Catholic Communications, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in August 2019.

In speaking of Sr Angela Ann’s enthusiasm, particularly for the Caribbean, the Archbishop stated: “Sr Angela Ann is effervescent. She is a woman of incredible hope. She believes in possibility. If you see three ways of doing something, Sister will find ten. If you find something to be impossible, she will find that it is possible and find a path to it. She is unstoppable.”

Perhaps that is why the VLCFF online programme has lasted for 20 years and is still going strong today (VLCFF.UDayton.edu)

Since the dioceses of the AEC received a VLCFF Diocesan Partnership across the board, all people are able to take advantage of a special discounted registration fee for all e-courses (five  weeks) and e-seminars (three weeks).

That alone is worth celebrating after 20 years.

VLCFF online courses start January 12, 2020. Register at VLCFF.UDayton.edu)