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    The Diocese of Camden has entered into a partnership agreement with the University of Dayton for parishioners throughout the diocese to participate in an online academic experience both for catechesis formation and adult faith formation.

    In signing this agreement, Bishop Joseph A. Galante noted, "This is a continuation of our effort to have better trained and spiritually formed ministry personnel available at the local parish level in response to our Baptismal calling. By participating in this program, catechists will be better educated to teach the faith to our parishioners from early childhood to our adult and senior populations."

    There are a number of benefits that will accrue to students who take advantage of this program. Most significant for those involved with religious education is the ability to obtain all levels of catechesis certification without having to leave their home.

    Sister Kathleen Burton, SSJ, incoming director of the Office of Religious Education/Faith Formation and facilitator for the University of Dayton, stated, "One of the major barriers for our catechists in continuing their formation as religious educators is the time commitment required to complete their catechist certification.

    "While many individuals have the ability to dedicate several hours per week for in-classroom catechetical teaching, their personal schedules do not allow for additional time away from the home for their own personal faith formation," she said. "The University of Dayton on-line program directly addresses this concern by allowing participants to complete their studies in the comfort of their homes."

    Another plus of this program is the tuition rate. For each five-week course being offered, the tuition fee has been reduced from $90 to $40. Also, because students involved in ministry likely will be enrolled in the diocese's Lay Ministry Formation Program, these students will receive one-third tuition assistance from the diocese and their parishes, respectively.

    Individuals wishing to pursue a diocesan certificate in catechesis from the University of Dayton will be required to complete three levels of instruction comprised of 13, five-week, online courses and then participate in a practicum experience. A non-partnering student enrolled in such a University of Dayton program would pay $1,260. However, because of the diocesan partnership and students' participation in the Lay Ministry Formation Program, diocesan students' tuition responsibility will be $174 for the entire certificate program, an 86 percent reduction in tuition fees.

    The University of Dayton online certificate in catechesis will be offered in Spanish starting in January 2010.

    Catechists will now have three formal ways to pursue their diocesan religious education certificate: College of St. Elizabeth, Georgian Court University or University of Dayton. Courses taken under diocesan guidelines prior to the above programs are counted until full certification is gained.

    Sister Roseann Quinn, SSJ, delegate for Lifelong Formation, is excited about another major opportunity the University of Dayton online program brings to the diocese. "While it is true this program offers catechists the ability to receive a certificate in catechesis, what is also important is the opportunity for all parishioners throughout the diocese not involved with ministry to further their own faith formation by engaging in these online courses in the convenient setting of their homes," noted Sister Roseann.

    There are a variety of online courses offered throughout the year by the University of Dayton for anyone interested in furthering their understanding of faith and/or theology. Log onto http://vlc.udayton.edu and go to the "Courses" link to access the courses and dates of availability. Online registration for the October cycle of courses starts on Sept. 1.

    This initiative is one component of the diocese's "Lay Ministry Formation Program" (LMFP) which was announced last fall. The LMFP program offers college and university degree and certificate courses for parish leaders and staff in the diocese who serve in various pastoral ministries, including religious education, youth and young adult ministry, campus ministry, adult faith formation, Hispanic and Black Catholic ministry, parish life, family life, ministry to seniors, and liturgy. Programs also are offered for lay persons involved in pastoral administration, Catholic schools and parish business management.

    In addition to the University of Dayton certificate program, the diocese is working in partnership with the College of St. Elizabeth (Morristown, N.J.), Georgian Court University (Lakewood, N.J.), the Center for Ministry Development (Naugatuck, Conn.), the Northeast Hispanic Catholic Center and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (Philadelphia, Pa.).
    More than 260 South Jersey Catholics will be enrolled in the Lay Ministry Formation Program this fall.

    The diocese also has arranged with the participating colleges and institutions for the courses to be offered at satellite locations within the diocese. The courses are being offered at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Absecon (satellite campus for Georgian Court) and the St. Pius X Spiritual Life Center (satellite campus for Georgian Court, College of St. Elizabeth and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary) and John Paul II Retreat Center, Vineland (satellite campus for the Center for Ministry Development and College of St. Elizabeth) and the Romero Center, Camden (satellite campus for College of St. Elizabeth and Center for Ministry Development) and St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral, Camden, Immaculate Conception, Bridgeton and Our Lady Star of the Sea, Atlantic City (all satellite campuses for the Northeast Hispanic Catholic Center).

    For more information, course descriptions and a catalogue regarding the Lay Ministry Formation Program, see http://lmfp.camdendiocese.org or contact Kevin Connor, director of Lay Ministry Formation at 856-583-6122; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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