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Institute for Pastoral Initiatives News

Saturday class a lesson in Faith

Alyssa Barnes, ’24, travels nearly 2,200 miles from her home in Los Angeles to study at the University of Dayton.  

“I knew I wanted to teach high school religion and none of the schools in Southern California reflected this in their education programs,” Barnes said. “UD also allows for studies in secondary Catholic religion education while also obtaining a license in another subject.”

One of the inspirational classes at the university is called the Forum for Young Catechetical Leaders,  which is held on Saturday mornings during the semester.

“The Forum positions our UD students to be well prepared for being hired in Catholic schools, in diverse ministry positions, or, simply preparing students for living and sharing their faith in their future careers,” said Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, D. Min.,MHSH, who teaches the class and is the Director of the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives. “The Forum motivates our students to become outstanding communicators of our rich Catholic traditions.”

For over 22 years, University of Dayton Forum students have been preparing to become Catholic religious educators (catechists) through the Saturday class and praxis experience, committed to witnessing, communicating and sharing their faith in Catholic schools and parishes across the United States.  

Elena Niese, ’22, says the forum allows students to explore what it means to be a Catholic educator no matter the discipline. 

“Engaging in conversation with like-minded, Christ-centered educators empowered me to live my faith in the classroom in a way that I would not have otherwise,” Niese said. “Any student called to the vocation of Catholic education should enroll in the Forum because it forms you to bring the Catholic faith to your classroom.” 

Zukowski says many of the Forum graduates currently serve as Diocesan Directors of Faith Formation, Youth Ministers, Catholic School Religion Teachers, volunteer Parish Catechists and diverse forms of new emerging ministries in the Catholic Church.

“This is an opportunity for students to prepare for their calling,” Zukowski said.

Also to help students discover and deepen their faith, even if class is on a Saturday.

The Forum is a collaborative program between the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives, the Center for Catholic Education  and the Department of Religious Studies. Those interested in the program should contact Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski at 

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