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Institute for Pastoral Initiatives News

UD's Catholic Intellectual Life

By Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski

As I reflected in between the award ceremony, the mass and the conference, I could not stop reading Abraham's Heschel's book, Man's Quest for God, it is captivating.  More later.

The day passed quickly. Following Mass, we all had to exit the room because in one hour, yes one hour, they needed to turn the space around for the banquet, complete with tables, chairs and place settings. Now that had to be some kind of task for seating 500 people! 

Our UD contingent of President Eric Spina, Paul Benson, Bro. Ray Fitz, Fr. Jim Fitz and Bill Fischer navigated through the crowded maze.  We found a few chairs way down the hall so we could sit and enjoy each other's company. 

Soon chimes fluttered through the air calling us into the banquet room.

I sat quietly, still amazed I'm being recognized by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities for this award for outstanding contributions to Catholic intellectual life.  At one level of my life, I can fully appreciate the breadth and depth of the role we (IPI) have had in advancing Catholic Education and Catechesis into the future with online learning.

Decades ago we began with cable TV, radio, satellite communication. Many Catholic educators and ministers have no memory of what the pioneering days embraced. Those were exciting days. 

"I'm honored to be with Sister Angela Ann in D.C.," said President Eric Spina. "What a selfless, motivated, and inspiring leader!"

For me, this is an opportunity for my religious community as well to be recognized along with our IPI Team.  Two members of Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart arrived for the mass and celebration. Sr. Judith Waldt came from Florida and Sr. Elizabeth Langmead from Baltimore. It meant a lot to me to have the community present.

During the night, congratulations and well wishes abounded, with a number of folks in attendance coming up and telling me they (their Catholic Institution) have followed us (the Institute) over the years and we helped them get started with their online learning for religious education and faith formation. The VLCFF.UDAYTON.EDU has been a prophetic pastoral e-leader in the field.

Hundreds of followers on our social media accounts expressed their thoughts as well.

"Thank you, Sister, for your dedicated heart and creative mind," wrote Sr. Maria Lai from Los Angeles. 

Thus, what I have always intuited is confirmed. Various Catholic entities are watching how our Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation (VLCFF) is evolving from year to year. The Institute is called to be on the cutting edge all the time, moving quickly with new ideas, not standing still , engaged with constant research, carefully listening and in dialogue with dioceses around the world and enhancing all that we are about.  

Our VLCFF is not simply offering a program, we are offering a collaborative model for what it means to be Church in a digital milieu. We need to find new ways for being Church in a collaborative way.

The Institute for Pastoral Initiatives knows this is high priority.  

I rejoice our team is making a difference for the advancement of our ministry around the world.  We are building bridges of faith formation, a sense of 'being Church' within the beauty and richness of a diverse Catholic Community around the world. 

Now back to my book... “Religion is what man does with the presence of God. And the Spirit of God is present whenever we are willing to accept it. True God is hiding his face in our time, but he is hiding because we are evading him.”  (Abraham Heschel) 

The Monika K. Hellwig Award is named for the late, internationally known Georgetown University theologian and former nun who served as ACCU president and executive director from 1996 to 2005.

The Institutes Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation, serves 80 Arch(dioceses) across the globe and in January had its highest enrollment in 19 years with more than 1,200 adult learners registering for online courses for the 3-week and 5-week cycle in January. The next cycle starts March 10.  UD faculty/staff and alumni are welcome to join!

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And the Award Goes to...

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