God is trying really hard to get rid of all of the excuses we make for not getting to know him more deeply. The Catholic Church is in a golden age of learning. There are so many great teachers producing programs that not only teach doctrine and theology, but help us to live our relationship with God better. More and more parishes are taking advantage of these resources to encourage Catholic adults to become lifelong learners of the faith.
But it can still be hard for us to commit ourselves to attending a parish program. For one thing, schedules make it difficult to commit to a time. Not only do we have the time commitment of the program itself, many of the programs also require homework. Finally, travel can also get difficult during our Wisconsin winters.
Some people are able to make this kind of commitment. But others just can’t do it, as much as they’d like to grow in their faith.
Enter online Catholic programs.
As I said, God is trying really hard to get rid of all our excuses. Online programs allow you to access the learning and to the homework on your own time. They completely remove the need for travel. Online programs truly make ongoing faith formation available to everybody. Here are some of the best programs available.
Catholic Distance University
Catholic Distance University is primarily a degree program for those looking for an undergraduate or graduate degree in theology. Research in distance education demonstrates that interactive group classes offer the optimal learning environment. Unique to CDU is their courseroom design, which encourages interaction with the professor and other students.
The course material is all on-demand, meaning you can access them whenever you want. The course discussions in the courserooms are a-synchronous (again, meaning you can participate whenever you want to). However, each course does require a term paper and/or a proctored final exam.
Catholic Distance University also offers non-credit online courses that provide adult education in basic catechetics, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Constitutions of Vatican II, the history of the Catholic Church in America, and Church teachings on Catholic morality, and Mary’s role in the Church. These courses are prepared in the independent study format. Each course contains 3-6 lessons with open book, automated assessments. They don’t require a term paper, but they do require a one page reflection paper or a final exam. You can easily complete each course within two months.
CatechismClass.com offers text-based catechetical lessons for RCIA, religious education (for youth) and for ongoing adult faith formation. These programs collate the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Baltimore Catechism, and the Compendium to the Catechism on each topic. They also offer reflections written by the staff teachers, prayer and reflections, and teachings on the liturgical year.
My Catholic Faith Delivered
My Catholic Faith Delivered offers online learning strictly for ongoing faith formation. It offers a blended learning experience with live events and on-demand learning. Like Catholic Distance University, My Catholic Faith Delivered takes advantage of the power of group learning and discussion.
My Catholic Faith Delivered is really intended for parishes and other Catholic groups to offer online education to their members. But individuals can also enroll in their courses for independent study. Their video-based courses are taught by high-caliber instructors, including the Didache Series, Mike Scherschligt’s Foundations Series and Father Mitch Pacwa’s Living Catholic Series.
From the Abbey
From the Abbey fills an important niche in Catholic adult faith formation. While the other programs focus on learning the faith, From the Abbey focuses on practical strategies for living the faith. The programs are all on-demand video courses that offer practical strategies based on the Catholic spiritual tradition (the teachings of Saint Francis de Sales, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Benedict, and Saint Therese of Lisieux).
Besides the focus on practical strategies, the other thing that makes From the Abbey unique is the personal help you receive on carrying out your spiritual plan. You have the ability to submit most of the assignments for feedback and also to attend open office hours where you can get your questions answered or get help when you get stuck.
Full disclosure: From the Abbey is run by Jeff Arrowood, the author of this article.
Online programs offer the perfect opportunity for busy Catholic adults to grow in their faith. Learn on your own time. Get support and help from teachers and other learners. Access some of the best Catholic programs available.
Most of these programs have free trials available. But be prepared to support these programs by purchasing courses. By purchasing courses (online or offline), we assure that Catholic teachers and content providers are able to continue producing high-quality programs for us. But most importantly, studies have shown that people who get programs for free don’t commit to them. Paying for a program puts some “skin in the game,” encouraging you to commit to the program and to make the changes necessary to make real spiritual progress.
So what’s keeping you from deepening your relationship with God? He’s trying really hard to remove your excuses. Why not take Him up on His offer and get started with an online program today?
By Jeff Arrowood