There is a new opportunity in the Diocese of Orlando for Catholics to learn and grow in their faith. Select online courses offered through the University of Dayton’s Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation (VLCFF) program are now being offered in an “unplugged” or face-to-face format.
The VLCFF program, made possible through a partnership between the diocese and the University of Dayton, offers a series of online, college-level, faith formation courses for those seeking to grow in their faith and/or ministries. Guided by a facilitator, students are expected to successfully complete a series of readings, homework assignments and quizzes, and participate in online discussion groups during the five-week course. Classmates are from throughout the world.
The new unplugged format follows the same guidelines, except students meet weekly at a host parish. St. John Neumann and Church of the Resurrection parishes in Lakeland, Good Shepherd Parish in Orlando and Church of the Nativity Parish in Longwood hosted the inaugural classes — Survey of Catholic Doctrine for English-speaking students and Fundamentos a la Fe for Spanish-speaking.
“This is a huge open door for a whole realm of opportunities for our diocese,” said Dennis Johnson, Jr., secretary for evangelization and family life for the Diocese of Orlando. “And the best part is that there are English and Spanish courses. If we want to build a program in other languages, we have that ability. This is a game changer in terms of ministry formation.”
Nancy Skinner of Nativity Parish was among 60 participants in the pilot program. She said the face-to-face format appealed to her, especially since the topic involved Scripture study.
“For me, having the face-to-face interaction, especially in when it comes to Scripture studies, helps me grow,” she said. “When you are involved in a discussion about Scripture, having a study group, where you can bounce ideas off each other in real time makes the experience more personal.”
“I loved the new format,” Skinner continued. “I loved how it drew people to talk about their faith. I went home after every class feeling filled.”
Diocesan leaders also noted the positive impact the unplugged format had on the various faith communities. Tómas Evans, director of Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Orlando, said the Hispanic community was open to giving the new program a try.
“In some ways, it was a big challenge for the community because the university environment is different from what the Hispanic community is accustomed with faith formation instruction,” he said. “Those who participated in the pilot took the challenge and completed the courses successfully. They are happy and are ready to continue their formation.”
“This is another opportunity to do formation,” said Mike Becker, manager of Catechist Formation. “Anyone can take these classes. Our goal is to offer another opportunity for people to grow in their faith.”
Registration is underway for Cycle 5 of VLCFF. Classes run July 19-Aug. 22. In addition to the wide variety of online classes, the diocese will offer Introduction to Scripture at Nativity Parish;St. Peter School, Deland (Tuesday evenings);St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Apopka (Monday evenings); and St. Augustine Parish, Casselberry; as well as Introducción a la Biblia Seminarat St. John Neumann Parish and St. Augustine Parish.Deadline to register is July 15 for online classes and July 13 for face-to-face. For more information, visit www.orlandodiocese.org/udayton.