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Institute for Pastoral Initiatives News

Lessons Learned from COVID-19

By Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH,D.Min

Anticipation. With each virtual class, I felt something deep within me.

About 10-minutes prior to the start time of class, I would log into the Zoom video conferencing and wait.

Sometimes I would just stare at my computer screen, waiting for my students to pop on.

Then, a jingle sound. Then another jingle. One by one students joined our virtual classroom. The chatter began as they connected to our meeting from their laptop or phone. We would engage in a few pre-class debriefings, then engage in conversations about the real topic.


How’s everybody doing?

How are your families?

Rattled. Flustered. Disconcerted. Shaken. Unnerved. Confused.

The list of adjectives is endless.

These virtual classes brought students right into my home. This felt personal. We began with a daily prayer.

I found it both exciting and challenging to explore alternative methodologies, to stimulate, animate and challenge my students virtually.

I invited special guests to join us. Like Sean Patrick Lovett, who worked for 43 years with Vatican Radio/media and Dr. Liz Lev, who offered virtual tours through the Vatican Museum.

While some faculty likely scurried to rethink how to teach virtually, or to adapt the content of their curriculum, I, at least, have been quietly teaching virtually for over 35 years, and using Zoom for the last 5 years or so. 

My vast online teaching experience led to the creation of the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation, an online platform providing e-courses such as Bible Basics, Emotional Intelligence & Faith Formation, and Marianist Studies. We piloted our first online course in 1999 and now offer more than 130 course subjects for adult students around the world.

As I wrapped up this undergraduate virtual course (Vocation and Arts) I looked out my sliding glass door from high atop the tenth floor of my apartment building in downtown Dayton.

This time, I didn't notice the amazing view. I just stared at the skyline, reflected, and prayed.

These UD students (Chaminade Scholars) were supposed to travel to Assisi and Rome for two weeks in May, their final spiritual, intellectual and cultural capstone pilgrimage as part of this course.

Unfortunately, they will not walk through the sacred Hermitage near Assisi or smell the fine Italian cuisine, or join the Papal audience in Vatican City.

And no virtual setting can replace this annual experience of a lifetime. offers online faith formation courses year-round for UD alumni and participants around the globe. Next start dates: May 24, July 12, August 30, and October 18.  Cost is only $10 week for a 5-week course ($50) or $40 for a 3-week seminar.  Go to  and click calendar to see the course list.


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