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Institute for Pastoral Initiatives News

All in the Family

By Patricia McNerney Kelleher, Ph.D. ‘00

I am writing this story about my experiences as a University of Dayton Ph.D. student, adjunct faculty member (now retired) and adult student with the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation (VLCFF), as well as an alumna, mother and grandmother.

First, the family legacy. The Kelleher generational pipeline to UD began in 1972 from Hudson, Mass. Our oldest son Jim ’77 learned about UD at a local college fair. His brother John ’77 also attended UD, as did his sisters, Mary ’81, Sarah ’82 and Grace ‘87. Shortly after, two son-in-laws, George Smith ’79 and Ken Heigel’ 87, joined the family. Years later, six grandchildren and two grandchildren-in-laws followed in the Flyers footsteps to campus.

After retiring from a 23-year career in public education, our pastor called me saying he needed a guidance counselor at the Catholic high school in the parish. That led to principalships and other careers in Catholic education. I began attending classes in Catholic education and leadership at local Catholic colleges. During the summer, I traveled to UD for their courses in Catholic education which culminated in a Ph.D. degree from the University of Dayton in Educational Leadership in Catholic Schools in 2000.

While pursuing my Ph.D., I worked for Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH, D.Min., the director of the Institute of Pastoral Initiatives (IPI) and VLCFF. Thus, I was introduced to this wonderful online program, which reaches out to all people and encourages lifelong learning. I was able to become engaged in these VLCFF courses and maintain my other responsibilities. Most of my experience with VLCFF has been as an adult student but I have facilitated some classes.

Why continue with the VLCFF online program as I walk into the senior years of my life? Going to the computer each morning, I look forward to see what my classmates may have commented on my entry into the lesson. Through the variety of topics offered through VLCFF I am able to learn about different cultures which enriches my understanding of being Catholic in a multicultural world. Because these courses are online courses, I can work on them at time that fits my schedule and still meet the requirements. 

VLCFF enables me to learn the depths of my Catholic faith so that I can converse in a kind and understanding manner with people who do not have similar concepts. The Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation remains a plus in my life.

I have reached out to those alumni in my “club” encouraging them to spend their retirement days sharpening their brain and keeping their fingers nimble and encourage you to do the same.

Three- or five-week VLCFF classes are available starting on these dates: Feb. 27, April 17, May 22, July 10, July 28 and Aug. 16. Check the course list.

Pat Kelleher '00 currently resides in Virginia. Her grandchildren include: Jake Kelleher ’04, Ryan Kelleher ’08, Douglas Smith ’08, Geoffrey Smith ’14, Ben Heigel ’14 and Molly Heigel Adams ’17. The two grandchildren-in-law are Laura Carmack Heigel ’14 and Scott Adams ’17. There is a scholarship at UD for a female engineering student in memory of the late Grace Kelleher Heigel ’87, started by her husband Ken Heigel ‘87 in 2001, The Grace Kelleher Memorial Scholarship.

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