The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Accrediting agency has approved Christendom College’s proposal to offer its Master of Arts in Theological Studies degree in an online format for distance students.
“This approval was received with great joy,” Graduate School Dean Dr. Kristin Burns says. “It will certainly expand the graduate theology program and further its mission to ‘restore all things in Christ.'”
Students unable to come to Virginia can now study through Christendom and earn the master’s degree to further their academic careers or to prepare for Catholic ministry. Before the approval, the Graduate School was permitted to offer only a limited number of its courses online, and students were restricted to earning no more than 49% of the credits for the masters degree via the online format.
Several students enrolled anyway, hoping that the approval would come as they progressed with their studies. One of these was Rita Sherepa, a Wisconsin mother who hopes to get back into youth ministry or even teach at a local college now that her children are grown. She learned about Christendom’s program from her diocesan catechetics director.
“I specifically asked for online distance learning that was solidly Catholic,” she says. “I felt like Christendom was more willing to work with me, even though I didn’t have a BA in theology.”
While the whole program will soon be online, many of the online students still hope to take courses on campus at least for one semester or a summer, in order to experience the fellowship with other students and professors that is such a defining characteristic of Christendom.
Charles Fraune, a middle school religion teacher in North Carolina, is planning to attend the 2011 Summer Program. He started taking online courses they were first offered in 2009.
“Once I realized I was going to leave [the seminary], I started looking for online programs to finish my education,” Fraune says. “Very quickly I discovered Christendomâ€”one of the seminarians pointed it out. I also heard of the reputation they had of being very orthodox and very established.”
Since starting the program, Fraune was very impressed with how accessible the school feels even through email and phone calls. “I feel like I can get to people very quickly,” he says.
Fraune will likely be Christendom’s first online graduate, since he transferred with credits from the seminary. He hopes to pursue further theological studies and become a college professor.
Christendom’s online MA program differs from those offered by most other Catholic colleges in several respects. While the online programs of many schools are in pastoral ministry, Christendom’s online curriculum stresses theology, especially systematic and moral theology, even for those students interested in careers in catechetics and other ministries. Secondly, Christendom’s online courses are the same courses, with the same professors, as the classroom versions of the courses. In fact, the lectures are videos recorded during actual classes in most cases. Thirdly, the small size of the graduate school enables even distance students to get personal attention from faculty and staff.
“Students have mentioned that they chose Christendom over other online MA programs because of the responsiveness and attention they received from us when they were inquiring and applying, and we strive to continue that practice all through the program,” Burns says.
Christendom’s reputation for orthodoxy and its emphasis on the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas has also set it apart and attracted students.
At present, eleven courses have been made available online, and the remaining four courses for the MA with a concentration in catechetics will be available online by the spring of 2012. Plans are underway to add three more courses, hopefully by the fall of 2012, which would enable online students to earn the MA with a concentration in systematic theology.
For more information on Christendom’s online graduate theology program, please visit http://graduate.christendom.edu/, or call 703-658-4304.