STEP into online faith formation classes


By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

Since 2018, the Diocese of Davenport and Notre Dame McGrath Institute for Life have partnered to offer online faith formation classes. These courses are for catechists, teachers and lay ministers, men discerning a vocation to the diaconate, volunteers and people wanting to learn more about their faith.

“Those who hold greater responsibility in the life of the Church correspondingly have a greater responsibility toward being informed,” said Trevor Pullinger, diocesan director of faith formation and catechesis coordinator. “That responsibility or call comes directly from God. The recognition that good fruits come by continued formation for the good of a person’s mind, heart, soul and right relationships with others. Remaining stagnant or combative towards continued formation should be a sign of concern.”

STEP offers four certificate tracks: catechesis, doctrine, liturgy and Scripture with core courses for each track and additional electives. Pullinger recommends “Foundations of Catholic Belief” as a good starting point, which also is a requirement to pursue a certificate track. “It’s a good way to discern continuation or which trek to pursue.”


Formal certification may not be a requirement for some paid and volunteer positions in a parish but STEP online training helps people in those positions. STEP “should be a top consideration if you are thinking of or are currently serving the Church,” Pullinger said.

Each course has a cohort or group of students. “You are never by yourself or in a self-study but take a course with others connected online.” Students have opportunities to connect over the course topics with classmates and the professor. STEP intentionally groups students if a sufficient number are from the same region or diocese.

Pullinger said Catholics should ask themselves: “What have I been doing recently to continue my growth into deeper relationship with Jesus and more complete union with the Church he founded? Might he be calling me to something more?”

Cost of each six-week online course is $75 with the 25% diocesan discount. STEP courses are “a good start into contemplating a much wider and deeper pool of formation,” he said.

Kelley Tansey, faith formation coordinator for St. Alphonsus Parish in Mount Pleasant, has taken several courses. “I started out just wanting to learn more for my own benefit as well as being better prepared as a volunteer catechist for high schoolers,” she said.

“When I was hired to work at the parish I continued taking more classes to be better equipped for working in faith formation for all ages,” Tansey said.

Last month, she finished a course on the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and has taken youth courses on ministry, art of catechesis and Christian doctrine for catechists.

The format worked with her schedule and the workload varied by class. “I found it mostly manageable — especially since I was able to do the work on my schedule,” Tansey said. “STEP is such a wonderful opportunity. I don’t have a Catholic college or university near me.  When I realized I wanted to learn more to deepen my understanding of the Catholic faith, STEP was an easy and economical way to do just that.  I also benefited from online discussions with students from all over the country.”

William Gomes, a husband and father of five daughters and member of St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf, is taking STEP courses because he is interested in his faith and would like to eventually teach in religion classes. “I am a planner of sorts. I like to have a plan for my life to know what I need to be doing and what course corrections to make.”

He found the STEP program while searching the diocesan website and has taken three courses and will take another three starting Aug. 28. “I find the class structure a perfect mix. It introduces the student to the topic in a friendly manner and homework was very manageable,” Gomes said.

“Now I am working towards a religious certificate and use what I learn to work with the Knights of Columbus to create a men’s class,” he said. “I would recommend this program to other people.  My wife, who would sit by me in the living room area while I was taking the class, couldn’t help but join in class discussions.”

STEP information
• Classes begin online Aug. 28 for the STEP program.
• Cost is $75 per class with the diocesan discount.
• Suggested first course is Foundations of Catholic Belief.
• Orientation for assistance on the software and course work is available through the Faith Formation office. Email once registered.
• 12 different courses are available this session.
To see the listing, information about each course and to register visit
To learn more about the various certifications visit

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