According to the most recent statistics on Catholic education from the National Catholic Education Association, fewer than 50% of Catholic grade school graduates go to Catholic high school or college. This means most Catholics end their formal faith education in eighth grade! Fortunately, there are a lot of great ways to study theology as an adult—even after our days in the classroom have ended.
The benefits of a Catholic education
The benefits of a formal Catholic education are easy to list. As a student in a Catholic school, you are part of a community that shares a core set of beliefs. You encounter all of your subjects in a faith-filled environment. You receive formation to help you grow into the young person God intends you to be. Yet, for most Catholics (even those who benefit from a quality Catholic education early in life), faith formation concludes with graduation.
Studying theology as a working adult
Thanks to the hard work of dioceses, parishes, institutions and startups, we don’t need to go far to find great resources for bolstering our understanding of the faith. I have listed below a few places to look if you’re interested in studying theology as a working adult. For the options that look like things to do on your own, consider inviting a friend or two to join you on the journey. Having a partner tends to keep us more focused, helps us process information through dialogue and, of course, makes the experience that much more enjoyable.
Books are an amazing resource that we often overlook in the digital age. Classics like the The Confessions by St. Augustine or The Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales put us in touch with the spiritual masters themselves. Fiction too can be a powerful resource that allows us to “put flesh” on various themes in our faith. Finally, don’t overlook the work of popular Catholic writers, like Peter Kreeft or Scott Hahn. If you’re overwhelmed by all the possibilities, decide on what kind of book you’re looking for and then ask your friends and family or pastor for recommendations. You can also check out our list of 19 Catholic books for 2019.
Many dioceses have great radio stations that broadcast both nationally syndicated and local radio programs. Our local station Redeemer Radio is always sharing quality programming. The great thing about radio is that you can listen to it while you’re doing other activities. If giving up your favorite music station sounds daunting, don’t worry! You don’t have to listen to Catholic radio all the time for it to be valuable. Consider listening to Catholic radio just one day per week, and you will still reap the benefits.
Blogs and podcasts
You can find really good information and inspiration on Catholic blogs, YouTube channels and podcasts as well. Two in particular come to mind that are really well-known for being digestible and practical: Bishop Robert Barron over at Word on Fire or and Fr. Mike Schmitz at Ascension Presents.
Don’t overlook the resources in your parish either. Often, there are Bible studies, reading groups or other intentional faith communities at our parishes that we don’t even know about. Ask your pastor and fellow parishioners what kind of groups are available. If there aren’t any, consider starting one. The benefit of starting a group is that you get to determine the focus. Whether you’re interested in a bi-weekly discussion group on the writings of St. Thérèse or a monthly Catholic book club, odds are good that other people are too.
For a more formal approach, various institutes and schools around the country offer online theology courses meant especially for working professionals. For example, the University of Notre Dame offers online theology courses in English and in Spanish. These courses are designed by university professors and are a low-cost way to get access to some really great resources. In some cases, the work you do can even be applied towards earning professional certificates in a particular field.
These are just a few ways to deepen your knowledge of the faith as a working adult. If you have other suggestions, please share them below.