Have you ever wanted to learn more about theology and the Catholic faith, become a certified catechist for your parish or find out what’s included in the Diocese of Rochester’s audio/visual library?
If so, you’re in luck. You can do all these things and more by simply accessing the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis’ Online Learning Center.
"Evangelization and Catechesis has committed to making things accessible and available to everyone in the Diocese of Rochester," said Jonathan Schott, diocesan coordinator of adult, catechist and family formation. "It’s really trying to catch up with the reality of the digital world."
The center may be accessed either from Evangelization and Catechesis’ page on the diocesan website, www.dor.org, or by going directly to http://ec.dor.org, and is a virtual treasure trove of information and resources, he said. The center includes a number of free resources, including a variety of video and slideshow presentations on such ministerial and theological topics as adolescent catechesis, the newly translated third edition of the Roman Missal and ways to be a family-friendly Catholic community. The center also provides a link to the online catalog for the diocesan audio/visual library. The catalog may be searched for free, and staff members and volunteers within subscribing parishes and institutions may borrow items from the library, which is located at the diocesan Pastoral Center in Gates.
Among the content that may be accessed by registering and paying a small fee are:
* foundational-level catechist-certification courses
* master-level catechist-certification courses
* video tools for adolescent catechesis
* the diocese’s online pre-Cana program for engaged couples
* training programs for parish marriage-preparation teams
* a Creating a Safe Environment retraining program for parish and diocesan staff and volunteers
* a virtual office full of curriculum and ministerial documents for catechetical leaders, youth ministers and campus-ministry leaders
The virtual office is one of the newest additions to the center, Schott said, noting that he and other Evangelization and Catechesis staffers have been working tirelessly over the past few months to create and upload content to the center. The virtual office provides quick and easy access to documents parish staff use on a near-daily basis, including diocesan sacramental guidelines and curriculums for adolescent and young-adolescent catechesis.
"In this virtual office is essentially that bookshelf here," Schott said, gesturing to a bookcase behind him that was jam-packed with books and binders. "They can go to it and access the document they need."
One of the exciting things about the virtual office, Schott added, is that its documents on the screen look exactly the same as the hard copies of the same documents. If Schott is on the phone with someone with a question about the diocesan sacramental guidelines, for example, he can open his hard copy of the guidelines to the appropriate page and tell the person on the phone to click through to that same page in the online document. They’ll be looking at identical pages, he said.
Users can zoom in on particular portions of pages and print specific sections as well, he added. The documents in the virtual office also are searchable, so if someone enters the word "confirmation" into the search field in the sacramental guidelines document, Schott said, they’ll be able to see every place in that document where the word confirmation is mentioned.
"It’s beneficial to the people of the diocese. It’s about making it accessible, engaging people," Schott said.
The online catechist-certification courses are another great way of engaging people, he added. It took his office a year to put the online courses together, but the result was a very user-friendly resource that will allow participants to complete the course from the convenience of their own homes, perhaps even on their smartphones.
"This puts them through the whole lesson, and then they get homework and take a quiz," Schott said.
Parishes may still hold catechist-certification workshops, but the online option frees parishes from the responsibility of planning a workshop, hiring and paying a guest speaker, and coordinating the logistics.
"It streamlines the process, making catechist formation easier for the catechetical leader to organize and more accessible for everyone," he said.
The online course does remove the group aspect of catechist formation, but some parishes have found ways to combat that, he added. These parishes encourage their catechists to complete their training online, then gather the catechists together afterwards so they can discuss what they learned and any questions they had.
Schott believes the Online Learning Center has enough diverse and beneficial content that everyone can find something interesting on the site.
"We have so much out there," Schott said. "We’re on the forefront of the technological wave. We’re trying to do the best we can."