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Institute for Pastoral Initiatives News

2020: A year to remember

By John LeComte

2020 will forever be remembered for the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For the VLCFF (Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation) it was supposed to be a joyous year filled with many events and ceremonies to celebrate 20 years of online learning.

But on March 13, our celebratory plans came to a halt. 

A short time later, UD employees would be laid off.  Hundreds of others furloughed, including many from our team.

We turned to Blessed William Joseph Chaminade who once said,

“It seems to me that we must not become discouraged if we encounter some obstacle in the way of necessary change. Never has change been done and never will it be done without difficulty. With patience we will come to the end of all.”


“Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.”  (author unknown)

With only a few staffers, our short-handed team continued to move forward scheduling year-round online classes. Since our facilitators are freelancers from around the world (instructors of the classes who facilitate the learning) our online program could continue to serve our global audience without much interruption.

In response to the coronavirus, quickly rolled out a free, three-week class called "Hope in Times of Crisis".  Completed by more than 300 people during the pandemic, it was the second-most-popular course in 2020. 

“COVID-19 was a major reason why I decided to take a VLCFF online course,"  Stacie Covington ’14, ’16 told us in April.   

“In fact, once the pandemic was in full swing, taking time each day to focus on the course was actually a reprieve for me.

Each month, more registrations poured in.

Fast forward to December.

In 2020 the VLCFF actually set a record for total enrollment with more than 7,500 registering to grow in faith.  

Enrollment in our Spanish classes also hit record highs. In 2012, 400 people had registered for courses in Spanish.  We are well over 1,000 per year now.  We also continue to offer classes in Arabic.

In fact, Dubai and Abu Dhabi topped the list of cities with the most participants in 2020.  New York City, Houston, and Cincinnati rounded out the top five.

“There are many people who have often pondered engaging in ongoing education or faith formation, but indicated they did not have the time, said Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH, D.Min, director of the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives. 

“The fact that people are confined to their homes with a new perspective of engagement and activities with their life has opened new portals.”

Perhaps the pandemic prompted a spike in virtual learning, and our VLCFF online courses were critical to focus on faith.

“With a successful online model already in place, Sister Angela and her team were poised to reach even more ministers and parish leaders with faith formation classes,” said Eric Spina, president of UD.

As remote learning becomes more commonplace, the VLCFF plans to continue enhancing its e-learning program to forge new partnerships and attract new students.

“We will discover new online learning styles, methodologies, and creative learning in the immediate future, Sister Angela said.

“We have only begun the journey into the 21st century.

Wishing you and your loved ones a safe and healthy 2021.

UD's Institute for Pastoral Initiatives mobilizes university resources and partners with dioceses around the world to provide courses and pastoral needs that fit within the context of contemporary culture. Since its inception, the VLCFF online program has hosted more than 7,200 classes for nearly 60,000 participants.

HR covers the cost of online classes for fac/staff. UD alumni pay a reduced rate of just $10 week for a 5-week course ($50) or $40 for a 3-week seminar.  See the full course catalog and learn how to register today!

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