Program encourages faith formation amongst Latinos
Selena Ponio | Monday, March 16, 2015
The Institute for Church Life (ICL) at the University of Notre Dame has launched Camino, an online faith formation program for Latino Catholics.
Camino Program Director Esther Terry has developed Camino from its early stages, she said.
“The program has been in the works for a long time and the pilot phase started in 2012,” Terry said. “The pilot phase started with just one course that was adapted from a course that we have in English.”
According to its website, Camino is an online program of Catholic theology courses designed by University professors and leaders in Latino ministry. A facilitator, who must have a master’s degree in theology, instructs the course, which can last anywhere from four to seven weeks.
Camino stems from Notre Dame’s Satellite Theological Education Program (STEP), a program developed in the early 1990s that aimed to provide high quality theology courses at affordable prices.
“For a long time people had been taking these courses in English, and they had been receiving requests for courses in Spanish,” Terry said.
On Camino’s website, Notre Dame professor of theology Fr. Virgil Alizondo said Camino is “a great way to use media and technology to give learning opportunities beyond the University.”
The STEP program worked in collaboration with the SouthEast Pastoral Institute in Miami (SEPI) to develop Camino. Various dioceses are also involved with advertising the program to potential participants.
“The people that take our courses are typically catechists, readers [and] serve in the music ministry,” Terry said. “[They] usually have some position in their parish and they want to have ongoing faith formation.”
Terry said the program prides itself in the flexibility and accessibility of its courses. She said many of Camino’s participants live in rural areas or other places where learning resources in their native language are limited.
“I think the flexibility of hours for taking an online course and the quality of what we are able to deliver in places where it would be very difficult for them to have this formation experience makes [this program] very important,” Terry said.
Terry said she enjoys contributing to Camino.
“It’s been so exciting to see people engage Scripture and engage the Catechism and see the sense of wonder and excitement that they have and how dignified they feel to be taking an online course with Notre Dame,” Terry said.
Terry said her hope for Camino and other theological programs like it is that the intellectual resources at Notre Dame and other partners and affiliates are made available to an even more diverse group of people.
“We want to share those resources with people in the pews, your average Catholics, and help them to see the beauty and the joy of our Catholic faith so that they can share that with others,” Terry said.