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Institute for Pastoral Initiatives News

A Beautiful Experience. A Beautiful Place

By John LeComte

21-year old Melvin Romero arrived in Dayton from his native El Salvador, his very first visit to the U.S.

"Yes, I was a little nervous," he told me, speaking perfect English.  

IPI's distance learning platform, the VLCFF (Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation) and Saint Michael's Church, Fort Loramie, brought Melvin to the Buckeye state. 

Deacon Paul Timmerman has been part of the church group visiting sister city San Cristobal in El Salvador. 

"We take for granted that everybody has a Bible, or a computer.  When I look at my faith and think, wow, maybe somebody never had the opportunity to read the scriptures, only hear the words, this was a surprise for me." 

So through this partnership, the parishes have united, and the VLCFF joined in by teaching people in El Salvador via online courses at Currenty, a few dozen adults in San Cristobal are enrolled in the Adult Catechist Certification, the first ever for this parish.

Melvin's face beaming with excitement, he wants to spread the word of the VLCFF.  I could tell he was so excited to tell me about his online story, and very proud that he could do so in English,

"The VLCFF is helping me to form the basis of my faith," he said.  "It's a beautiful experience."

"I'm learning the Bible, Christology, and we can share with people in our community.  I would like to share my stories and knowledge with people from other countries too.  That's my ambition."

And what are Melvin's thoughts about his first trip to America, and the University of Dayton?

"I really love Dayton, and the university. It's a beautiful place."

If you would like to assist with scholarships for adult learners in El Salvador or other countries partnering with the VLCFF, please contact Sister Angela Ann Zukowski (Azukowski1@udayton.eduMelvin Romero is currently coordinator of a youth group in San Cristobal church and also helping to develop a libraryThe VLCFF distance learning program (  offers over 100 course subjects in English,Spanish, and now in Arabic, with 5-week e-courses or 3-week e-seminars.  Check out the course list.   HR covers the cost of courses for university faculty/staff and alumni can pay the reduced rate of $50 for a 5-week course.  Contact our office at 1-888-300-8436.

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