The Deacon's Bench

Increasingly, churches and universities are using 21st century technology to spread the first century gospel. The latest trend: online bible study. The Dallas Morning News reports:

When Catherine Kuehler of Dallas moved to Australia this summer, she didn’t want to give up the Bible study class that the University of Dallas taught at her parish.

She is now completing her course online, discussing Scripture and her faith with other students and chatting with her professor via the Internet.

Cecilia Rangel of Addison struggled with the Catholic faith in which she was baptized in her native Mexico, not knowing much about the Bible and not feeling spiritually connected since moving to the U.S. Now she meets weekly with other Spanish-speaking Catholics at Mary Immaculate Catholic Church in Farmers Branch for study and discussion as part of the class.

The University of Dallas School of Ministry has expanded the Catholic Biblical School it started at such parish sites throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area five years ago by adding the online version and site classes in Spanish, too.

“We have opened the doors of our school to the entire world,” said Dr. Brian Schmisek, director of the ministry school.

This is the second year for online Bible studies in English and for parish site-based Bible studies in Spanish.

The expansion is in response to a tremendous growth in the number of people, mostly Catholics, interested in learning about the Bible, says Andrew Hill, assistant director of the School of Ministry.

The four-year course, which costs $465 (plus books), explores every book of the Bible from academic and spiritual perspectives. It had 650 students enrolled last year, compared with 70 when it began five years ago.

Students come from a wide range of backgrounds, Catholic and non-Catholic, including professionals, parish leaders and stay-at-home moms. Many become inspired and set up a class or teach and serve in some other way in their own parish, Mr. Hill said.

The popularity of the classes also reflects a renewed interest in the Bible for the Catholic Church, which has always recognized Scripture as its foundation but more traditionally focused on rituals and magisterium, officials say.

Since Vatican II, the Catholic Church has tried to make Scripture more available for study, and the university is responding to a call from the Dallas Diocese to reach out to more Catholics by teaching the Bible, says Gene Giuliano, an instructor with the Catholic Biblical School.

The piece goes on to explain how the course works, and what it entails. Can online prayer services be far behind?

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