by Kara Hansen
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Catholics in the archdiocese can now get a world-class catechetical education without ever having to leave Kansas.
The archdiocese is entering into partnership with the Maryvale Institute of Birmingham, England, to provide long-distance learning degrees in catechesis to lay, working adults.
“Maryvale is orthodox and faithful to the church, but they have a unique method that allows people who otherwise could not go back to school the chance to take up serious study,” said Matt Karr, archdiocesan consultant for evangelization and catechesis.
That method involves assigned reading and work on assignment modules from home, complete with step by step directions. Four Saturdays a year, students will come together at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kan., for in-person instruction, including one day of retreat.
“Going to class even once a week would be difficult for many, especially when they have already committed one night a week to teaching RCIA or a School of Religion class,” said Karr. “Four days a year is much more manageable for people who have families and work to balance as well.”
The agreement was made official in September 2007, and the program’s first students in the archdiocese are set to begin coursework this coming January.
“I was very impressed with their instructors and course offerings for lay, working adults, both on the graduate and undergraduate levels,” said Karr. “Maryvale trains catechists all around the world, and they do that really well.”
There are two tracks available to adults participating in the program. The first culminates in a certificate in catechesis, a program which Karr said is for anyone interested or involved in handing down the Catholic faith.
“This is for people who help with RCIA, School of Religion at their parish, adult faith formation or preparation for sacraments. It’s for parents and grandparents who want to better learn how to hand on the faith to their families,” he said. “Anyone who wants to learn about what the church teaches for the sake of learning would be a good fit for this.”
If all goes as planned, students beginning the catechesis certificate program in January 2009 will complete it in December 2010.
The other option leads to a master of arts in catechesis, offered by the Maryvale Institute in conjunction with the Open University in England. The program is longer and more rigorous than the certificate program and targeted to religious educators and master catechists, said Karr.
The master’s program requires a commitment of three full weekends a year, the first of which will be held at the Open University in Birmingham, England. Students entering the program in January 2009 would be on target to finish it in December 2011.
“That type of educational format allows people the chance to form deep connections and community with their group of fellow students,” said Karr. “Both programs combine distance learning and coming together to form relationships in a unique way.”
Karr said the cost of the master’s program at Maryvale is only one-third to one-half the cost of comparable catechesis programs in the United States.
For more information about the Maryvale catechesis certificate or master’s program, call Stacy Niedbalski at (913) 647-0352.
To date, there are 30 applicants signed up for the certificate program and 15 for the master’s program. Karr also said there has been interest from out-of-state applicants, who could travel to Kansas City the three times a year required to meet the on-site requirements of the program. Space is still available, but the deadline to apply for the master’s program is Dec. 1; Jan. 1 is the deadline for the certificate program.
Father Anthony Putti, pastor of St. Gregory Parish in Marysville and St. Malachy Parish in Beattie, is hoping to enroll four of his parishioners in the Maryvale program after hearing Karr speak about what it had to offer.
“I think people can come back with this education and be very instrumental in evangelization and in reaching out to fallen-away Catholics,” said Father Putti. “I think it will be very fruitful.”