WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Sandra Talarico is pleased with the first year of the Certificate in Catholic Studies program
Newman Theological College's year-long Certificate in Catholic Studies program, an online program that offers students the basics of the faith, was so successful it will be expanded in the fall.
"It's expanding in that we will offer it again this fall but in addition we will offer Year 2," announced program director Sandra Talarico.
"We want to encourage as many people to study as possible. It's something that you can do from your home at your convenience.
"We know the archdiocese is quite large and it's hard for people to come in to the college or anywhere to study."
Certificate in Catholic Studies: Foundations in Faith Year 2 will start next September and will be offered to students who completed the first year. Newman is also planning to offer an online certificate in youth ministry beginning next September.
Forty-six of 48 students who began the six-course certificate program in September 2011 completed it and many of them are expected to register for Year 2. "So it was very successful," Talarico said. "I'm very satisfied."
The program, formally called Foundations in Faith Year 1, provides students with an opportunity to study and learn about the rich tradition of the Catholic faith through courses such as Introduction to Catholicism, Catechesis, Scripture, Jesus Christ, Prayer and the Sacraments.
It started as a response to Archbishop Richard Smith's 2011 letter on the pastoral priorities of the Archdiocese of Edmonton. The letter cited faith formation as one of three priorities.
"The Certificate in Catholic Studies was a response to that request from the archbishop," Talarico said.
"So we met and devised a plan with the assistance of Dayton Online University to offer this six-course program. Two of the courses that were offered this past year were directly through Newman and four were offered through Dayton."
Beginning this September, the first year program will be offered entirely through Newman.
Students from across Alberta, as well as two from Vancouver, have been taking the program. "For the most part people have carried through. It's been work but people are happy because for them it has been their first experience with any kind of theology."
Talarico said the courses in Year 1 are basic but those who complete all six courses will be granted three undergraduate transfer credits to pursue higher theological education.
"The courses are not academic but they introduce people to perhaps documents or books or resources that they haven't had much exposure to," she said.
"Like in the course that I taught, Intro to Catechesis, I used documents like the Catechism and the General Directory for Catechesis and I was surprised at how many weren't aware that the General Directory for Catechesis even existed."
Each lesson incorporates some reading and a reflection paper and participation in discussion, Talarico said. "So we are trying to say that the courses are five hours a week of time, which would include reading."
Foundations in Faith Year 2 offer students who completed the first year the opportunity to expand and deepen their knowledge of the Catholic faith.
It's also made up of six courses and it is estimated that each course will take 25 hours of a student's time over a five-week period. The courses for Year 2 include Introduction to Christian Morality, Old Testament, Introduction to New Testament and Church History.
Both Newman and Dayton will offer these courses. The cost of the program is $595 for each year, including registration and books.
David Gordon, a retired computer analyst and member of Assumption Parish, said this is the first chance he has had to take some courses in Catholicism since he became Catholic in 2001.
Gordon likes the fact the courses are offered online because he spends the winter in Phoenix, Ariz., and doesn't have to worry about attending classes. "I just take my computer down south and continue with classes."
The courses, he said, are very basic. "They give you enough information so you can understand what's going on and the reason why it is going on. It feels like Catholicism 101 to me."
"It's complicated theology made simple. It's been really helpful."
Gordon is so pleased that he is taking Year 2.