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Catechetical program a COVID blessing

By 
  • October 23, 2021

Dr. Christine Schintgen credits divine providence for the introduction of the new two-year online Catechetical Certificate program for mature students at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College.

Schintgen, interim president and associate professor of literature of the Catholic liberal arts college in Barry’s Bay, Ont., said the necessary shift to online studies caused by COVID-19 actually opened educational doors to offer access to distance learners.

“In talking to students throughout the (last) school year once courses went online, we saw a pattern in our distance students tending to be interested in our theology courses, especially our Christian Doctrine course, which is an intensive exploration of the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” she said.

The Christian Doctrine course is the bedrock of the new certificate program as it accounts for six of its 24 credits. Completion of four other three-credit theology classes are required to complete the journey: Introduction to the Bible, Introduction to Biblical Literature, Magisterial Thought and Introduction to Moral Theology.

Students can explore beyond the theology stream to earn the last six credits. They can choose their two electives from the fields of history, language, literature, music and philosophy. 

Interestingly, in May, around the same time Our Lady Seat of Wisdom (SWC) was formulating this new online class, Pope Francis made his public call for a renewal of Catholic catechetical formation by establishing a new “catechist” lay ministry.

“From the beginning, the Christian community was characterized by many different forms of ministry carried out by men and women who, obedient to the working of the Holy Spirit, devoted their lives to the building up of the Church,” wrote the Pope in his May 10 apostolic letter Antiquum Ministerium.

Empowering the next wave of dynamic lay people is one of the goals for this two-year certificate program. Its webpage states that “SWC hopes to extend its spiritual, moral and intellectual formation not only to our undergraduates, but to mature students as well, with the purpose of creating a vibrant culture of life and Truth.”

Schintgen beamed about one of the program’s mature students, Pavlina Sudrich, whose passion was fervent in her application.

“She wrote to us saying ‘the news that such a thing as a catechetical certificate program exists, and that it exists in Canada — and online — lights my heart on fire.’ ”

Sudrich, a freelance professional with previous experience as a CBC journalist, a Cross-Country Canada ski coach and a ministerial advisor in the Office of the Premier, shared her thoughts on her first few weeks in the program with The Catholic Register via e-mail.

The 35-year-old product of Whitehorse, Yukon, wrote that “it must have been God’s plan for me to become a Catholic because it certainly wasn’t mine. Five years ago, I experienced a very unexpected, profound calling to the Catholic Church.”

Noting that there are not many faith education opportunities for an adult in her 30s in Yukon, being told about the catechetical certificate program by the women of the Madonna House Apostolate in Whitehorse was a blessing for Sudrich, who received bursary support.

“I had been waiting for an opportunity to pursue my curiosity about Catholic theology formally for years. Ultimately, I was interested in taking this program to deepen my understanding of, and relationship with, my faith. It is my hope that it will serve to strengthen me living as an authentic Christian in my community and help me and transmit the love of Christ to those around me,” she said.

Thus far, the experience has lived up to its promise for Sudrich. She said she has “been touched by the care and intimacy of the program” as the small class sizes bring a union of people from different ages, places and backgrounds. She also appreciates that the readings “are a well-curated list in equal parts challenging and illuminating.”

The biggest highlight?

“Best of all, perhaps, are the questions about our faith that this program evokes, and the ability to voice them aloud and generate informed discussion amongst likewise passionate minds.”

Sudrich and her peers are guaranteed the opportunity to complete their two-year experience in 2022-23. Schintgen and faculty will make a determination at the end of this semester if they will open the door for a new crop of students next autumn.

See seatofwisdom.ca/catechetical-certificate/ to learn more.

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