Together Formation...Apart

Posted on: October 20, 2020 1:00 pm

Sr. Nicole Varnerin

by Sister Nicole Varnerin

I have just finished my first month of classes at Catholic Theological Union (CTU), and I have already learned a lot. I meet with my professors and classmates each week on Zoom, so in some ways we do build community across the miles. Even though technology can present challenges during discussion, we are able to get to know each other, share our perspectives, and grow as a learning community together.

I am taking Systematic Theology, New Testament, and Moral Theology. In Systematic Theology, we are taking different aspects of the Christian faith, tracing the development of theological arguments, and forming relevant perspectives of these issues for today. My logical brain is loving it!

My professor has done a great job of exposing us to all different kinds of theological perspectives: protestant, classical, feminist, etc. My New Testament class is challenging my perspective of Scripture I am familiar with. We are encouraged to question what we know and use historical context to find our answers.

Moral Theology is my favorite class. Not only do we discuss how to make moral decisions and define moral norms, but we also take some time each class to address issues in our current moral context. We have already touched on racism, Mujerista theology (a Latina theology based in liberation theology), aging, and immigration.

In addition to classes at CTU, I am part of the Together Formation Program sponsored by the Religious Formation Conference. In usual circumstances, we would be living in community together in the residence hall, sharing meals and prayer together, and supporting each other through everyday life. This year we are forming community virtually.

Each week we gather on Zoom with the program director, Maribeth Howell, OP, and engage in a formation activity. Sometimes we have a speaker from the CTU faculty, other times we pray and faith share with each other. In addition, the other two participants and I meet each week to catch up, talk about our classes, and build community. The hope is we will already have formed some community virtually once we all return in person.

Thank you for your prayers and support as I continue my education. While I did not imagine learning in this way, there have been many blessings to online learning. 

Sister Nicole made her first profession of vows as a Sister of Notre Dame in 2018. While she was a novice, she documented her journey in an online blog:

Pauline Baumann
Date: on October 27, 2020

I am so happy that they are challenging you, Sr. Nicole. I remember you fondly from your days down here in Covington. May God continue to bless you...the world is better because you are in it!

Sr. Mary Ann Culpert
Date: on October 27, 2020

Hi Nicole, Sounds like you are having a great experience! A bit different, for sure, but hopefully god none-the-less. We are all fine here in Rome. Regulations are becoming tighter as we have seen an increase in CoVid cases, but the country is trying to prevent another total lockdown. Continue to learn lots and enjoy the experience. Love and prayers, Sr. Mary Ann

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