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Faith flourishes

Faith flourishes

Thomas M. Columbus March 12, 2020

Sister Angela Ann Zukowski ’74 was sent in 1971 by her order, the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart, to Dayton to offer catechetical adult faith formation in parishes and Catholic schools. She thought her stay would be for a year. But the journey took her also to the University of Dayton.

She’s still at Dayton, and she’s still doing adult faith formation.

An 1980s television studioAmong the purposes of the University of Dayton are “fostering the Marianist charism of education and formation in faith.” Fifty years ago, UD and the Society of Mary took steps formalizing that commitment to faith; one led to the establishment of the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives, which Zukowski directs as well as serving as professor of religious studies. Among the institute’s initiatives is the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation, which in 2000 began, in cooperation with Catholic dioceses, offering online courses.

In 1970, the Marianist Foundation had established the Center for Christian Renewal at UD. “Initially, the Marianists gave grants for specific projects,” Zukowski said. Under the leadership of Brother Raymond L. Fitz, S.M. ’64, later president of UD, the Center for Christian Renewal gave continuity to these efforts, Zukowski said, by creating a number of mission-related offices — for responsible development, social justice, and outreach to the local community and the Church.

Sister Angela Ann in a broadcast studio, 1980sThese missions continue today, as Zukowski and other faculty members and administrators of programs directly dealing with the Church meet regularly with Father James Fitz, S.M. ’68, vice president for mission and rector.

They discuss what Brother Fitz saw a half century ago as the purposes of the then fledgling Center for Christian Renewal — service and dialogue.

Those purposes are as alive today as they were in 1978 when Brother Fitz wrote about “programs that give an active, critical and healing presence of the Catholic Christian tradition within the struggles and searchings of the Church in the modern world.”

He wrote also of the University listening and learning from other communities within the Church and then bringing “the resources of a reflected Christian tradition and of contemporary knowledge to the struggles of the Church and the world.”

In their words

Why they chose VLCFF

Perviz De Souza“For us who live in an Islamic country, knowledge of the faith is critical to understanding and dealing with other religions. The gradual process of learning about the faith has not just helped me to grow spiritually but has increased my thirst for understanding Christianity and encouraging others to do the same.”
—Perviz De Souza, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Ignatius Mvula \“The role of being a facilitator for VLCFF allows me to see students growing in their faith and becoming Christians well informed in faith. It is a very humbling experience to lead them in a faith journey. I will always keep trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit.”
—Ignatius Mvula, Karonga, Malawi

Gabrielle Fernando-Garnier“Because I live in the sister isle of Tobago, it’s not as easy for me to participate in programmes on Trinidad. Online study is the best solution for me. VLCFF is a great mechanism for changing lives by deepening spirituality and helping people move closer to our God-given purpose.”
—Gabrielle Fernando-Garnier, Mount Pleasant, Tobago

Clara Luz Ramírez de Mancía“In May 2018, I took my first course, Introduction to the Catholic Faith. VLCFF always gives wonderful and clear information. I have deepened my knowledge and, within the parish, I have put into practice what I have learned and share my new knowledge with the people of my community.”
—Clara Luz Ramírez de Mancía, San Cristobal, Cuscatlán, El Salvador

20 years of virtual faith formation

7,225 courses taught in

3 languages completed by

59,088 students in

77 countries in partnership with

88 dioceses and the University of Dayton Alumni Association

University President Eric F. Spina honors Sister Angela's work