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Catholic Distance Learning Programs and Religious Instruction

written by: Sylvia Cochran•edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 6/30/2011

Catholic online education is attempting to close the gap between faith-based higher learning and the shortage of young men who profess the faith -- and the call -- to enter the lifetime ministry. Yet did you know that laypersons may also benefit from a Catholic education?

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    Fulfilling Two Needs

    Online Catholic classes fill two needs:

    1. Professions of faith and professions to the call for either the priesthood or a cloistered life are greatly reduced within the Catholic faith. The good works done by priests, monks, and nuns now falls on the shoulders of laypersons. This requires Catholics of a variety of walks of life, with families and without, employed and unemployed, to step up to the plate. Distance education makes it possible for the church to train up laypersons interested in doing the kind of work that was in the past reserved for those in the priesthood, without requiring lengthy enrollment at Catholic seminaries.
    2. Dioceses no longer have to cut public outreach and catechetical teaching programs. Allocating teaching responsibilities to the laity makes it possible to actually increase these programs without requiring an increase in ministry staff and therefore expenditure.
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    Coursework Culminating in a Bachelor Degree

    Degree seeking students desiring to earn a Bachelor of Arts in theology may apply to the Catholic Distance University, a school nationally accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council and regionally recognized by the State Council of Higher Education of Virginia. The school is open to undergraduates who have already earned 90 credits toward a bachelor degree.

    Once enrolled, students will earn an additional 36 credits specifically in Christian theology and Catholic tradition and scripture. Since the classes run asynchronously, they are open to the student at any time. This makes this online learning venue perfect for applicants who prize a faith based education, while at the same time fulfilling responsibilities to their jobs and families. As of 2011, tuition cost is $258 per undergraduate credit hour.

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    Advanced Religious Instruction

    The Catholic Distance University also offers a Master of Art in theology that may have as its focus Catholic culture, sacred scriptures, ecclesial service, or philosophy. In 2011, the cost is $400 per credit hour.

    In the alternative, the National Catholic Education Association offers information on a number of online classes from various institutions of higher learning that may be taken either for personal growth, for credit toward a Master of Divinity program, or as electives for a bachelor degree. These classes are generally two credits and may offer exegetical studies of the book of Revelation or a study of Islam against a Catholic backdrop of tradition.

    If, in the course of your studies, you believe that you might like to check into getting a seminary education, pursue a Master of Divinity online. It may provide the perfect springboard for your future religious education.

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    Non Degree Students

    Catholic Distance University offers a Catechetical Diploma that requires 36 credits. It ensures that laypersons from all walks of life are trained to become catechism teachers both within a Catholic congregation and without. In 2011, the cost per credit hour is $258. This diploma is perfect for laypeople who believe to be called to teach the catechism on a volunteer basis within their church families or for remuneration outside it.

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    • Catholic Distance University at June 11, 2011)
    • National Catholic Education Association at June 11, 2011)