Technology Keeps Diaconate Formation, Lay Ecclesial Ministry Classes Alive


By Tony DeGol

As candidates for the Permanent Diaconate study Church history and homiletics, they are also getting a crash course in technology.

Like most others in our world these days, students in Adult Enrichment and Lay Ecclesial Ministry classes in the diocese are not gathering as groups because of the coronavirus. 

In an effort to keep deacon candidates and others on track with their formation and studies, Deacon Michael Russo, Director of the Permanent Diaconate and the Office of Adult Enrichment and Lay Ecclesial Ministry, is taking advantage of Zoom video conferencing to keep some of the classes going.

Dan Heiser, a candidate for the Permanent Diaconate, introduced Deacon Russo to the technology and assisted him in the first trial run.

“The Patrology (Church fathers) class in the diaconate program went off without a hitch,” Deacon Russo said. “Our Lay Ecclesial Ministry class Christian Prayer and Spirituality is in the scheduling process, and I hope to have that class up and running this week.”

Heiser, a member of Saint Joseph Parish in Renovo, is a sixth grade teacher and uses Zoom routinely through his school district. 

“It’s like a full, interactive class,” he explained. “I’m thankful we can keep a couple classes going.”

Catholic schools in the diocese have been using Zoom and other technology to continue educating students while Pennsylvania schools are closed. Some college campus ministry programs are also using similar technology to reach students who are also not meeting for classes these days.

Even priests are live streaming Masses and posting video reflections for their faithful.

Clearly, technology is playing a key role as the Church strives to keep people connected during these unprecedented times.  

“It’s inspiring to me to see other people go outside of their comfort zone to make sure the faith community gets what it needs,” Heiser observed.

Deacon Russo, who is always looking for ways to enhance faith formation classes and attract new participants, thinks Zoom will continue to be beneficial in the future.

“We will now add Zoom classes to our regular schedule whenever the need arises and participants have the necessary computer capability for the program, and most do,” he said.

[Photo: A Zoom class with Deacon Michael Russo, bottom; Brian and Bonnie Yurkey, members of Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Philipsburg, upper left; and Dan and Alison Heiser, upper right.]