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Institute for Pastoral Initiatives News

Advancing your Faith during COVID

By John LeComte

COVID-19 has impacted millions of people around the world. 

Like many people, Erla Burnside navigated her emotions following the news that her sister’s family tested positive for the coronavirus. 

Amid the stress and anxiety, there was also the disappointment of not being able to visit her sister or nephew for weeks.  Luckily, everybody is healthy now.

The pandemic offered Erla more time to devote to online classes to deepen her faith through -The Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation (VLCFF) 

“I have learned to be open to what other people discover in their faith journey as it may take root in your own life," said Burnside.

In December, Erla joined about thirty global participants in a new course titled, Advent: A Holy Waiting.  The online retreat took place during the 4-week Advent season, filled with music, readings, meditation and reflection.

"The Holy Advent retreat was so enjoyable, meditative and instructional," Burnside said. “As a music lover, I was pleasantly surprised about the musical component.” 

Erla has also completed a class on Mary with the VLCFF.

“Being a Protestant and now working at a Catholic, Marianist university, I wanted to increase my knowledge of Mary, so I could learn from her life story and the example of her faith-filled life for all Christians,” said Burnside.

“I realize the skills I use in the VLCFF online class transfer to my own professional development.”

As a member of the university advancement division, Erla works with a team to increase private support, alumni engagement, and develop strategies for growth.  This includes allowing students to receive a full education for a successful career as well as a successful life.

“So many students need financial assistance so our work is ongoing and important for the benefit of the students and the university,” said Burnside.

“UD has a supportive environment where each of us contributes to the goal for the common good.” 

Another goal for Erla, advancing her own faith in 2021.

“For me, there’s always something new to discover in each e-course."

“I have already signed up!”

There are seven cycles (semesters) year-round with start dates:  Jan.3, Feb.21, April 11, May 16, July 4, August 22, and Oct. 10.

UD Human Resources covers the cost for faculty & staff.  UD alumni pay the reduced fee of $40 for a 3-week e-seminar and $50 for a 5-week e-course. You can learn more about VLCFF online classes at

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