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Institute for Pastoral Initiatives News

Future Catholic Educators

A synodal Church “journeys together.” 

Three UD students from various parts of the U.S. have journeyed together as they prepare for teaching and ministry within the Catholic Church following graduation, or sometimes during the academic year. 

Alyssa Barnes, ‘24 (Los Angeles), Katie Crump, ‘25 (Brunswick, Ohio) and Michelle Puente, ‘25 (Cheyenne, Wyo.) are learning more about their faith through a class called The Forum for Young Catechetical Leaders. (FYCL)    

The Forum, as students affectionately call it, has shaped the lives of students in positive ways for 20 years. The class prepares them for a career within the Catholic Church, to work as Catholic School teachers and parish catechetical leaders.

“The Forum has really taught me the value of being invested in education and community,” Crump said. “This class has been an amazing learning experience for me. I have learned so much about the Catholic faith as well as my personal faith life.”

The Forum requires participating in four semester, one-credit courses over five weeks. Students can receive Religion (REL) or mini-course credit. Topics covered during the one-credit courses include new catechetical methodology, vocation of the catechist, faith & human development, evangelization, liturgy, spirituality and emerging Church issues.  

“Inclusivity in the Church is so important so everyone has a voice and can contribute to the community," Puente said. “I understand now it’s not about teaching in one way, but rather teaching so everyone can understand and learn best.”  

For Alyssa Barnes, one benefit is being comfortable asking the right questions while discussing important issues. 

“With each course having an overarching theme, I have grown in my confidence to create meaningful lesson plans," Barnes said. “I feel like I am much better prepared than I was before the course.”

The topic of a Synodal Church was this semester’s overarching theme. According to Pope Francis, a Synodal Church is “not a fortress but a tent capable of enlarging its space, giving access to all.” It is a Church with open doors, opens to one another, to others and to the whole world as the universal sacrament of communion and salvation. The Synod on Synodality is a three-year process of listening and dialogue for moving the Catholic Church forward. It concludes in 2024.

“Learning about Synodality and other topics within the Church allows me to help break them down in ways that young children can understand,” Puente said. “Everyone is at a different stage in their faith journey and we need guidance in different ways. As a catechist, it is my job to make sure everyone around me feels and knows the presence of God.”

These three students have grown in a community with a vested interest in education for themselves and for others. Now is a time to be open to new ideas, and new ways of doing things, and understanding change can help us grow in faith. 

“I have learned that I am more passionate about my faith than I thought was possible,” Puente said.

Crump agreed and added, “The Forum has helped me to deepen my understanding of Catholicism and how to work for the common good.”

Katie Crump, ‘25, is a Religious Studies major, with a Sustainability minor. Katie says her career goals include working in some capacity within the Catholic Church. 

Michelle Puente, ‘25 is an Elementary (PK-5) Education major with a Catholic Education Certificate. She hopes to teach in a Catholic school or at a local parish as a catechist.

Alyssa Barnes, ‘24, is a Secondary Catholic Education major with an English Concentration and a Theology minor.  Alyssa’s plan is to teach high school religion and English.

The Forum program is coordinated by Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH, D. Min, Director of the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives and Professor in the Department of Religious Studies.

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