From left: Dr. Peter Brown, academic dean, and Theodore Musco, secretary of the Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Brooklyn.

The Diocese of Brooklyn serves 1.5 million Catholics in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. Founded in 1853 to meet the needs of millions of recent Irish immigrants, today the diocese is home to a burgeoning, multicultural immigrant community that is largely Hispanic. To hand on the Faith, seven-thousand catechists serve young people in the Diocese’s 186 parishes and 84 Catholic academies/parish schools each week.

“Many of the catechists here in Brooklyn and Queens desire an opportunity to be further formed in the Faith,” says Theodore Musco, Secretary of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese. Yet, the Diocese faces a number of challenges in preparing adults to teach the Faith: time and energy, multiple commitments, lack of knowledge about programs offered to assist in passing on the Faith, lack of knowledge about financial assistance available, and language issues.

In June 2017, the Diocese established the Holy Spirit Institute for Service and Leadership to provide formation and education to those called to serve as missionary disciples. Catholic Distance University is one of the six institutes and universities approved as an educational provider. The Diocese has partnered with CDU since 2010 to provide Continuing Education to its catechists, catechetical leaders, and parish volunteers, so extending the relationship seemed to be a natural fit. “The great successes of the past gave me the confidence to move forward as we created the new Holy Spirit Institute for Service and Leadership,” Theodore says.

“CDU is authentically Catholic and has a mission of Catechetics and Evangelization. It also clearly understands the challenges of a large, urban, multicultural diocese,” Theodore says. “We are making headway in all these areas, thanks to collaborators like CDU,” he adds.

Through the Holy Spirit Institute, CDU offers a non-credit Diocesan Lay Leadership Certificate as well as an undergraduate-level Catechetical Coordinator’s Certificate to prepare lay leaders to serve the diocese. “The [undergraduate] certificate serves those who are already in catechetical leader positions but may not have the proper academic credentials,” Theodore explains. “Our goal is that all 200+ catechetical leaders be properly trained.”

CDU also works with the diocesan permanent deacons.

To better serve the Diocese’s large Spanish-speaking population, its staff is working to convert six foundational courses into Spanish for the non-credit certificate. “We hope to have this finished by the end of 2018,” Theodore says. “They can then be used by anyone at any time.”

Sister Mary Margaret Ann Schlather, CDU’s dean of Continuing Education, was instrumental in arranging the partnership in 2010. “Ted Musco brought such energy to our first meeting, that a partnership with Brooklyn was going to be a win-win situation for Brooklyn’s catechists and CDU’s Continuing Education Program. Starting with a dynamic three-week seminar, our partnership has developed into offering academic level-certificate and degree opportunities for those who want to ‘put out into the deep’ of the Catholic Faith to better serve others,” she says.

Masses are regularly held in 33 different languages across the Diocese, which has 26 ethnic ministries that promote cultural events and provide an opportunity for immigrants to belong to the larger community while preserving and sharing their uniqueness and traditions.

“We’ve come a long way in the last few years thanks to CDU,” Theodore reflects.