The Year of Faith has encouraged a broad acceptance of new types of evangelization. These include the utilization of various new media and technologies to facilitate communication. Specifically, the expanded diffusion of the faith in the world is encouraged via a plethora of new communication tools. It is precisely the broad universal dimension of these media that allow for a greater dissemination of teachings of the Church to the world. This is mindful of the words of Jesus: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matt 28: 19).
In the field of university and college education, most educational institutions have adopted the practice of distance education for courses and some for entire programs. Distance education (DE) is not a new concept but has been employed by various institutions for centuries. DE often employs the latest media technologies available for the greatest interaction with materials and people from a distance. However, in the last few years this field has expanded in a profound way. This expansion is partially due to the plethora of new media and technological tools now available.
The ultimate end of a university education is fulfilled with the new technologies as in face to face institutions. This goal was described by Pope John Paul II in Ex Corde Ecclesiae:
By vocation, the Universitas magistrorum et scholarium is dedicated to research, to teaching and to the education of students who freely associate with their teachers in a common love of knowledge. With every other University it shares that gaudium de veritate, so precious to Saint Augustine, which is that joy of searching for, discovering and communicating truth in every field of knowledge. A Catholic University’s privileged task is “to unite existentially by intellectual effort two orders of reality that too frequently tend to be placed in opposition as though they were antithetical: the search for truth, and the certainty of already knowing the fount of truth.” [i]
In his Motu Proprio for the Year of Faith Pope Benedict XVI states, “It is in this sense that that the Year of Faith will have to see a concerted effort to rediscover and study the fundamental content of the faith” [ii]. The Pontiff has often encouraged the use of new media: “Without fear we must set sail on the digital sea facing into the deep with the same passion that has governed the ship of the Church for two thousand years. Rather than for, albeit necessary, technical resources, we want to qualify ourselves by living in the digital world with a believer’s heart, helping to give a soul to the Internet’s incessant flow of communication” [iii].
There are numerous universities that provide distance education to enumerate them all is beyond this article. However, outlined below are the three popular institutions that provide the best possible education through DE, including “Catholic Distance University,” “Benedictine University,” and “Holy Apostles College and Seminary.”
Catholic Distance University
History: CDU was founded in 1983 as the first catechetical institute in the United States to award the Catechetical Diploma and teach the Catholic faith to adults using distance education. 2008 marked CDU’s 25th year as a Catholic institution of higher learning.
Location: The school’s academic and administrative offices are located in Hamilton, Virginia, about 50 miles west of Washington, D.C. CDU students are located in all 50 states and over 60 countries.
Mission: Using distance education, Catholic Distance University educates learners worldwide in theology, the liberal arts, and faith development for the growth of faith and the New Evangelization in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Accreditation: CDU is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), an accrediting agency fully recognized and approved by the US Department of Education, and is certified as a degree granting institution by the State Council of Higher Education of Virginia (SCHEV). The university’s catechetical programs are approved by the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy. The USCCB lists CDU as an approved Catholic college and university offering distance education. The university is a Title IV school recognized by the US Department of Education.
- Master of Arts in Theology (39 credits) with concentrations in Ecclesial Service, Sacred Scripture, Philosophy/Theology, and Catholic Culture
- Bachelor of Arts in Theology completion program (36 credits earned at CDU combined with 90 general electives earned at any accredited college or university)
- Catechetical Diploma (36 credits)
- Graduate and undergraduate level courses for students not seeking to earn a degree
The Catechetical Office of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy: Approved by the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy as a Catechetical Institute, CDU is authorized to award the Catechetical Diploma—a valuable teaching credential in the Church. CDU was the first Catechetical Institute in the United States to award the Catechetical Diploma and teach the Faith to adults using distance education.
Holy Apostles College and Seminary
History: For over a half a century, Holy Apostles has trained and formed seminarians, priests, religious brothers and sisters, and the lay faithful from the baccalaureate to post-graduate levels. For the entire history of Holy Apostles stretching back to 1956, an ordained Catholic priest has served as the President-Rector. The current President-Rector is the Very Rev. Douglas L. Mosey, C.S.B, a member of the Congregation of Saint Basil. He is the seventh President-Rector and has served in this capacity since 1996.
Mission: Holy Apostles stands on the two-millennium tradition of the Catholic Church, fostering a love and understanding of the Magisterium and ecclesiology of Christ’s Church. Holy Apostle’s commitment to fostering a strong sense of Catholic identity is recognized in the second edition of The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College as a Recommend Catholic College.
Accreditation: All degree programs are accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
- Holy Apostles College and Seminary has been accredited for over three decades. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges is the oldest regional accrediting agency in the United States, evaluating more than 250 degree-granting colleges, universities and other institutions in the six-state region. In 2006 Holy Apostles was re-accredited by NEASC for the maximum of 10 years.
- Accreditation means that our programs, operations, finances and objectives have undergone a thorough peer review and been found to meet or exceed the minimum standards set for academic institutions. All degrees offered by the school, from the on-campus A.A. in Religious Studies to the distance learning graduate degrees are accredited.
Academic programs: Take advantage of Holy Apostles’ tri-semester calendar, studying in any or all of the three annual 16-week semesters for accelerated program completion.
- Work on your studies at any time, day or night. Access the online portions of your classes at any time to complete your assignments, participate in class discussions, and communicate with your professors.
- Take up to six years. You may choose to complete your M.A. within two years or stretch it out over six years. Such flexibility lets life’s priorities stay priorities.
- Receive instruction that respects academic integrity and the Truth as interpreted by the Magisterium. These are of the utmost importance in the efforts of Holy Apostles to form the servants of God. While the pursuit of knowledge exposes the student to varied ideas and thoughts, the properly formed student will also possess the ability to discern the truth or falsities contained therein.
- Become an integrated student. Our distance learning programs attract priests and vowed religious from across North America, in addition to lay students. Many courses thus integrate lay, religious, and ordained faithful distance students—enhancing the learning and spiritual formation of everyone.
For more information, go to holyapostles.edu. Contact: write to 33 Prospect Hill Road Cromwell, CT 06416-2027.
History: Founded in 1887, Benedictine University is dedicated to the education of undergraduate and graduate students from diverse ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds. As an academic community committed to liberal arts and professional education distinguished and guided by our Roman Catholic tradition and Benedictine heritage, we prepare our students for a lifetime as active, informed and responsible citizens and leaders in the world community.
Accreditation: Benedictine University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).
Graduate degree programs:
- Master of Business Administration (MBA)
- MBA in Accounting
- MBA in Entrepreneurship & Managing Innovation
- MBA in Finance
- MBA in Marketing
- MBA in International Business
- MBA in Health Care Administration
- MBA in Internet Marketing
- Master of Science (MS) in Leadership
- Master of Science (MS) in Management and Organizational Behavior
- Master of Public Health (MPH)
- Master of Science (MS) in Nutrition and Wellness
- Master of Education (M.Ed) in Reading and Literacy
- Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
- Dual MBA/MPH
- Dual MPH/MS in Management and Organizational Behavior
- Accelerated MBA
- Dual Concentration MBA
Online doctoral degree programs:
- Disaster Management Certificate
- Health Policy and Management
- Health Education and Promotion
- Internet Marketing Certificate
These institutions are accredited and therefore are recognized by other universities and companies. They serve several thousand students. Students are required to purchase texts which provide the content. Examinations are mailed or emailed to the students and must be completed via a proctor. There are optional synchronous and synchronous courses available. These include online asynchronous forums for students, parents and teachers to communicate. Email and phone access is provided to the student.
There are great advantages to the methods used by these institutions. They are flexible to the students’ needs as schedules are flexible. Interaction with students, peers, and instructors can be large or small. Thus, the instruction is learner centered and caters to the financial and instructional needs of the student. The media involved is can be low cost. The problems that occur with low Internet speeds are avoided if the student desires to use post instead. Students from these institutions have graduated to numerous universities and have often found employment. Many parents and students praise these methods of instruction.
Degrees via distance education provide great advantages to the student in terms of cost. This makes these institutions more affordable than some traditional face to face universities. It is possible for students to remain at home or work while taking these courses. As a former distance education student I have found that the methods utilized for education at a distance to be at times superior to face-to-face learning.
To end this brief introduction to distance education let us pray the prayer of the Year of Faith:
O God, who in the power of the Holy Spirit
have sent your Word to announce good news to the poor,
grant that, with eyes ﬁxed upon him,
we may ever live in sincere charity,
made heralds and witnesses of his Gospel in all the world.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. [iv]
Miriam Westen, BA, M.Ed., is a music teacher and a Choir director/organist. She has studied with Franciscan University of Steubenville, Catholic Distance University, Athabasca University, and University of Toronto. She has published numerous articles and is the Editor of the daily Catholic News World on the site jesuscaritasest.org, which is read in over 200 countries. She can be contacted at [email protected].