By Seth Gonzales
On May 18, the University of Dallas School of Ministry saw 105 students graduate from the Catholic Biblical School, a four-year continuing education program designed to enhance its students’ knowledge of the Bible from a Catholic perspective.
The 10-year-old program accommodates more than 700 students in seven different dioceses in the United States and Canada and continues to see rapid growth across the board.
“Our instructors deserve a lot of credit because they are very hard-working and understand that this is not just a job, but a mission,” said Pia Septien, director of the School of Ministry’s Continuing Education programs. “They are very flexible and that is something that I really value, because times change. When we add new classes in new cities, they are always willing to take that responsibility. I am very grateful to the instructors for that.”
In 2007, the Catholic Biblical School expanded, adding online distance learning and Spanish versions of the program. The results have since paid dividends for both students and school.
While it remains a fact that most students in the Catholic Biblical School live in the surrounding Dallas/Fort Worth area, a growing number of them are coming from other dioceses and states. As an example, 17 graduating students hail from the Diocese of Shreveport — the largest number from any diocese outside Dallas and Fort Worth.
In addition, the program now has more native Spanish-speaking students than English-speaking students. Approximately 67 percent of Catholic Biblical School students claim Spanish as their native language.
“The Spanish version has taken off,” said Gene Giuliano, one of the original founders of the Catholic Biblical School (then called the Institute for Religious and Pastoral Studies) and current professor of Sacred Scripture. “People are yearning for this kind of thing and we’re just thrilled to provide this kind of ministry.”
While many of the students are already serving in ministry at their local parishes, Giuliano said most enter the program as a way to enrich their faith, only to graduate with a thirst for more.
For Michael Himel, a member of those graduates from Shreveport, this was particularly true.
“I think the genuine perspective that brought all these people together was that we were seeking to find more than we knew,” said Himel. “We became very humbled by how much we thought we knew and how much we really didn’t know. Having completed the program, that sense of seeking has been amplified more than anything else.”
Despite an unpredictable work schedule as a Thoracic and Adult Cardiac surgeon, Dr. Steven Scott finished the four-year program from his home in Richmond, Va. and was among this year’s graduates. Scott said the Catholic Biblical School intensified his understanding of the faith and allows him to minister to others through his work.
“Although it was difficult at times, with the required readings, the online discussion, and the weekly questions, I persevered and completed the four-year program,” said Scott. “I have to say that it is an accomplishment of which I am the proudest, ranking with medical school and publishing scientific papers. Not only have I read the whole Bible, but I have gained an understanding of it that I would have never achieved on my own.”