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Institute for Pastoral Initiatives News

Celebrating 20 years of Online Faith Formation

By Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski

You could say it all started in 1971, when I began my ministry with cable television from the cornfields of Northern Ohio.

Soon, I landed at the University of Dayton as director of the Office for Moral and Religious Education followed by being the founding director of the Center for Religious Telecommunications.

It was the university administration that encouraged applying my pastoral communication skills for advancing UD’s Catholic, Marianist outreach via telecommunications. In early 1980’s, UD offered to become the primary regional distributor of Catholic satellite programs produced by the Catholic Telecommunications Network of America (CTNA)

In order to receive programs from CTNA, our office needed a satellite dish and equipment for copying and distributing Catholic programming to cable Stations around the region.

“I remember walking on campus one day, all of a sudden I saw a big satellite dish on campus,” said Brother Raymond Fitz, who was president of UD at the time.

Installing the 5-meter satellite dish was not a simple task at the university C Lot.  Doing so also stirred a lot of emotions on campus.

Sometimes  we literally bicycled the downloaded video cassette (program) to cable stations in the region.

In 1995, Bro. Fitz encouraged me to begin researching and piloting online distance learning courses. (the center was renamed Institute for Pastoral Initiatives)

I remember when we posed using the Internet for adult faith formation during a regional catechetical conference in the mid 1990’s.  I observed people shaking their heads in doubt or disagreement. After the presentation, several people approached me saying:

“Sister, this is never going to happen."

"The Internet is a passing fad."

"The best way to reach people is in and through our parishes one on one.”

Jane Pierron,’86,’88, and David Riley,’09, were working for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s Religious Education Office at the time, and offered to assist in designing the first online course, Introduction to Scripture.

“People quickly found out they could sit in their pajamas at ten o’clock at night and learn about their faith,” said Pierron.  “It was convenient and participants connected with others all over the world.”

We began with two e-courses and six dioceses willing to pioneer with us.  By 2000, six regional dioceses decided our online initiative just might have a future so they invested in the online program.

Thus, the Virtual Learning Community for Faith - was launched into the future.  Never even thinking though that it would become the premier international online Catholic education initiative with dioceses around the world. (including Saudi Arabia, Australia, Africa, Canada, Latin America)

Year by year new e-courses and e-seminars were designed in collaboration with our expanding VLCFF Diocesan Partners. Soon the VLCFF became available in Spanish (2016) and in Arabic (2019)

Over 58,000 Catholic adults from various parts of the world have completed VLCFF e-courses in three languages.  88 VLCFF Diocesan Partners, 137 e-courses available and 200 facilitators (instructors) demonstrate not only the confidence placed in our VLCFF programming but its value within the Catholic Church today.

The VLCFF has been the model of persistence, perseverance, and patience as we celebrate our twentieth year. (2000-2020)

If you have not registered for an e-course, try us out during our 20th Anniversary Year, University of Dayton Alumni and people in partnering dioceses pay only $10 a week for a 5-week course ($50) and $40 for a 3-week e-seminar.  Simply go to , create a profile (click log in, create a profile) and then register for a course. 


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