Pastoral 'Promised Land'

After seven months in temporary quarters, the University of Dayton's Institute for Pastoral Initiatives arrived in the "promised land" - the 1700 South Patterson Building on the University's River Campus.

This month, the Institute hosted a blessing and open house at its new 4,970-square-foot office space, which nearly doubles the space of its former facility in Alumni Hall. The new offices feature glass walls, a production studio and religious artwork given to the Institute by friends from across the globe.

“Now we’re in the promised land,” said Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski, M.H.S.H., the Institute’s director.

Addressing a large audience that included University President Eric F. Spina, Zukowski noted the beauty of the Institute’s new home: “Just walking down the halls is very spiritually energizing. And when snows come and you see the deer in the backyard and cardinals in the trees, it gives you another spiritual sense.”

Established in 1969 as a bridge between the University and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, the Institute’s mission is to mobilize University resources to create and implement innovative pastoral initiatives that will meet the needs of the Catholic Church and articulate faith in the context of contemporary culture.

Through its Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation (VLCFF), an Internet-based initiative launched in 2000, the Institute partners with more than 70 dioceses around the globe to offer online distance learning to support adult faith, lay ecclesial ministry and catechetical formation in the Church. It serves more than 7,000 students in 40 countries, offering courses in English and Spanish.

Zukowski said the expansion of the VLCFF in the Apostolic Vicariates of Northern and Southern Arabia, Caribbean, Australia, Latin America and Canada brings together Catholics from around the world to learn, dialogue and share their faith experiences.

The Institute also offers a two-year program to prepare students to become outstanding catechists or religion teachers, and also serves as a support network and resource to individuals with disabilities and their families by providing DVDs and print resources, consultations and networking opportunities.

In addition, the Institute offers in-service and workshops on Christian mediation in Catholic schools and parishes in Ohio. International pastoral communications planning initiatives connect the Institute with the Antilles Episcopal Conference (Caribbean Bishops) and other dioceses around the world.

In a letter read during the dedication ceremony, Fr. Martin A. Solma ’71, S.M., said the new facility will give the Institute space to further expand its impact.

“Under the capable leadership of Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski, the lady with indefatigable energy and endless ideas, IPI will continue to serve as an icon for the Marianist spirit and mission at the University of Dayton,” said Solma, provincial of the Marianist Province of the United States and vice chair of the University board of trustees.

Solma’s letter was read by Fr. James Fitz, S.M., University vice president for mission and rector, who blessed the Institute's new offices after the ceremony. He also blessed those of University Special Programs and Continuing Education, which moved to adjacent offices to accommodate the Institute and its 10-person staff.

University Provost Paul Benson said Continuing Education and the Institute have similar core missions.

“Both of these offices work on developing broader community partnerships here and elsewhere, and we think the River Campus facility is an ideal location for that work,” Benson said.

The Institute’s new offices will improve collaboration with colleagues, and also provide quiet space when needed, said Dorothy Mensah-Aggrey, IPI curriculum design and adult catechesis specialist.

The new social media studio will be used to produce videos for the Institute’s online courses. It features three small sets, including a podium with a University backdrop; a single host chair; and a two-chair conversation setting.

Previously, staff produced video content at the Ryan C. Harris Learning Teaching Center in the Roesch Library on the main campus.

“The VLCFF was an early adopter of video in e-courses,” said Bob Stewart, senior web developer and database administrator. “The response from our students over the years has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s now imperative that we add video content to most of our classes. To that end, we’ve created our social media studio, where we can quickly create high-quality course material. We’re excited about this new initiative and look forward to building out our course catalog with professional video content.”

In addition to online outreach, the Institute plans to host conferences and other faith-focused programs at River Campus using the building’s large meeting spaces.

“I hope we can bring some of our ethos to the River Campus and, hopefully, that can support, inspire and enhance the Catholic, Marianist presence on River Campus in a very well-articulated and visible manner,” Zukowski said.

The Institute is housed in and supported by the College of Arts and Sciences. It also receives funding from the Marianist Foundation.

The University acquired the 1700 South Patterson Building, formerly NCR Corporation’s world headquarters, in December 2009. It is also home to the University of Dayton Research Institute, University Advancement, Office of Graduate Academic Affairs, MBA program, St. Remy Initiative and Catholic Leadership Institute Project, and provides tenant space for Midmark Corporation.

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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