Ann Argetsinger is a self-described "enthusiastic graduate" of St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry. Surely a dose of enthusiasm helped when facing commutes from Ithaca to Rochester, as was the case with Argetsinger before she earned her master’s degree in 2006.
"It’s a long night, especially when you work all day," Argetsinger said, noting that Ellen Keough, a 2005 St. Bernard’s graduate, drove nearly three hours each way between Tioga County and Rochester. Both women now serve as pastoral associates for Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes.
Argetsinger acknowledged that many folks are unable or unwilling to make this level of sacrifice — and that means fewer potential servants for the church. However, this dilemma has been largely erased through a recently begun teleconferencing initiative at St. Margaret Mary Church in Apalachin.
Located in the church’s educational wing, the St. Bernard’s facility was launched with a Jan. 24 ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring Father George Heyman, St. Bernard’s director of continuing education. This marks the third remote teleconferencing site to open in the diocese. The others are at St. Mary of the Lake Church in Watkins Glen and St. Alphonsus Church in Auburn, which have operated since 2004 and 2005, respectively.
Classes are aired at the same times professors conduct them at the St. Bernard’s campus in Pittsford, a suburb of Rochester. This technology allows an instructor to address a live classroom of students, while also seeing and interacting with people at any of the remote locations. Setup of the Apalachin site involved acquisition of a large-screen television and special camera, with the $5,000 expense being covered by an anonymous donor.
St. Margaret Mary, one of six churches in the Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes, is located in the southeast corner of the Rochester Diocese. Argetsinger, who is coordinating implementation of the new St. Bernard’s site, said she hopes the facility will draw students from the neighboring Syracuse and Scranton dioceses as well as our own.
"Having it close by, it may encourage other people to take a class or possibly get into ministry," she said.
Students in teleconferencing classes can cut down not only on travel time, but also fuel usage. Argetsinger observed that St. Margaret Mary is already being used for a graduate class by Mike Donovan, who is in the final year of St. Bernard’s diaconal program and has significantly reduced his gasoline expenses.
Those taking St. Bernard’s courses via video can include men in deacon formation, graduate students, people seeking certification and those who simply want to take a course or two for personal enrichment. In addition to credit and noncredit courses, the Apalachin location can offer programs of interest to the general community such as a guest speaker from St. Bernard’s or the diocese’s Pastoral Center.
Any St. Bernard’s class offered via teleconferencing is accessible at the remote sites in Apalachin, Watkins Glen and Auburn. Argetsinger noted that openings for the spring 2008 semester are available in such areas as the Old Testament; the Catechism of the Catholic Church; sacramental theology; and spirituality and personality. She said that several local staff members are excited about taking such courses and that she expects the list to grow by the fall.
"St. Bernard’s was a life-changing experience for me, and to be part of bringing St. Bernard’s classes to this area of the diocese is thrilling," Argetsinger stated.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Further information regarding registration for St. Bernard classes may be found by visiting St. Bernard’s Web site.. Specific questions on programs and certification status may be directed to Father George Heyman at email@example.com or Ann Argetsinger at 607-687-1068.