BLOOMFIELD – For nearly 20 years, the Catholic Biblical School has been making a deep impression on Catholics striving for a better understanding of Scripture. Now, in addition to gaining a stronger faith foundation, CBS students can also earn as many as 18 college credits by completing the intensive, four-year course of study.
“The [St. Thomas] Seminary for-credit option is an expansion of the original design of the program,” said Barbara Jean Daly Horell, faculty chair of biblical studies in the Archdiocese of Hartford’s Office of Religious Education and Evangelization (OREE), which sponsors the program. “We were provisionally licensed in 2010. We started getting credit through the seminary in the fall of 2010.”
In her remarks at the graduation of 25 students in June, Mrs. Horell said, “For the first time in our history, men and women will receive a new certificate which bears academic credit: the St. Thomas Seminary Certificate in Biblical Studies. As the class of 2014 began their studies four years ago, the Catholic Biblical School had just become accredited by the state of Connecticut.”
That accreditation gave the school a green light to begin to award college credit. This year’s graduates racked up a total of 140 credits, she said, and six of them earned the St. Thomas Certificate in Biblical Studies. They are Louis Daniels, Susan Davis, Evelyn Garrow, Kimberly Petrillo, Patricia Pritchard and Deacon William Sayles.
Mrs. Horel said that several others accumulated from four to 14 credits along the way to their Advanced Certificates in Biblical Studies.
The CBS course, which covers every book in the Bible, is the second course of study at St. Thomas Seminary to be offered for credit. The other is the diaconate program, which awards a Certificate in Religious Studies.
“The for-credit program holds students to be more accountable,” Mrs. Horell said. “All of our graduates have a level of seriousness that has been recognized for 20 years, almost. But those students who do it for credit usually have a specific goal for which academic stability or an academic foundation is more necessary.”
Ms. Petrillo, a parish nurse at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Waterbury, is one of this year’s recipients of the 18-credit certificate.
“I wanted it for credit because I was in that mode,” she said. “There were extra papers. There was a lot more work but it also was another way ... to sort of validate what I’d be able to do with this once I finished,” she said.
She said she plans to find out what other courses of study are available, especially at the graduate level. “My ultimate goal is to go out and take what I’ve learned and teach other people, teach other Catholics to study God’s word, and they will have a relationship with God,” she said.
Patricia Pritchard, another 2014 grad, wrote in an email, “I was participating in the silent auditor program, returning after four years of studies. God’s word is very meaningful to me; receiving credits for this wonderful program was a ‘gift’ given in the end of another four years, which never seemed long at all. I hope to use these credits towards a religious program or degree in the near future.”
Even before college credits were available, graduates pursued other courses of biblical study. “Two of our graduates from the Catholic Biblical School went on to receive a master’s degree in theological studies at Fordham University,” Mrs. Horell said. Marcia Franko is a parish catechetical leader at St. Thomas Parish in Oxford who has gone on to earn a doctorate; and Alexis Cacchia, a youth minister at St. Therese in Woodbury, is now also on the faculty of the Catholic Biblical School.
The CBS program has helped to guide some people toward careers in lay ministry that are not necessarily higher-paying career moves. Barbara Evans, a former director of financial operations for a computer company, took a lower-paying job in a New Jersey parish as a director of religious education after completing the CBS program in 2011. She was featured in the February 2012 issue of U.S. Catholic.
“There are literally hundreds of stories,” Mrs. Horell said. “In our business, it’s much more about forming the person in Christ, to enable them to be a witness in the ministry in the church, and that’s what St. Thomas Seminary’s mission is about. That’s what the Office of Religious Education and Evangelization’s mission is about. We both have the same mission.”
Just how do college credits make a difference in the program?
“By enabling some folks to achieve professional credit, it can be a platform for professional ministry, and that’s what’s different,” she said.
Classes resume September 8.