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Institute for Pastoral Initiatives News

A priest, a hoops ticket and UD memories

By John LeComte

What is VLCFF online?

I've been promoting and searching for UD alums who have discovered our online courses and can answer that question.

Jim Bartol, ‘77, has completed ten courses from his home in Minnesota.

“The courses are not just for church people or those working in faith formation in parishes,” said Bartol, ’77, Electrical Engineering.  “I think the  should be highlighted prominently in alumni communications.”

But with all the buzz regarding the incredible success of the men’s and women’s basketball teams, I had to ask Jim if he happened to be a hoops fan.

That’s when he emailed me the ticket stub to the '74 Notre Dame/UD men’s game.

“I was freshman when Notre Dame was ranked #2 and won twelve straight games. A group of us waited in line at the fieldhouse 24 hours before the game to get front row tickets. After we won, there was an all night celebration!”

Dayton, coached by the legendary Don Donoher, upset the Irish 97-82 on March 4, 1974.   For those trivia buffs, Digger Phelps coached the Irish (with players John Shumate and Adrian Dantley)  while some of the names on UD’s team (Donald Smith, Mike Sylvester, Johnny Davis, Allen Elijah)

Jim continued to reminisce about UD, this time the reason why he's now taking online courses.

“Freshman year theology I had a Dutch priest, Father Frost.  (his actual name was Fr. William Vrasdonk. But he told us he used Frost so it was easier for Americans to pronounce)   Fr. Frost would walk the aisles in the classroom while teaching with this gaze, and every so often he would abruptly stop, turn, and -in a moment of terror for one of us- ask a question”

“It was a new way of theology for me.  Part of his genius was using in-class discussion to encourage us to learn from ourselves and each other.”

"This is also one of the key principles of learning through the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation (VLCFF) ”

Living in Mahtomedi, Minnesota and retired after 30 years at 3M company in St. Paul,  Bartol began his online faith journey with us four years ago.

“I’ve taken ten VLCFF courses.  Old Testament, Conscience, Introduction to Practical Morality for example, provided me with a deeper and more complete appreciation of scripture, Christian moral teaching and real world experience,” said Bartol.  

“VLCFF courses provide challenging learning opportunities in a wide variety of areas, guided by capable and engaging course facilitators (instructors)”

“Engaging with other students from a wide variety of backgrounds across the globe adds invaluable perspective to the learning experience.”

So back to hoops.  Jim says his senior year roommate, Al Fraga (pictured) is twisting his arm to attend the men’s A-10 tourney in Brooklyn. 

“Could be just like our UD days!” says Bartol.

UD alumni pay only $10 week for a 5-week course ($50) or $40 for a 3-week seminar. Courses are held year-round with start dates listed here: March 1, April 19, May 24, July 12, August 30, and October 18.   Go to  and click calendar to see the course catalog each cycle.


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