Free Online course Being Offered by Sacred Heart Major Seminary


If you are looking to grow in your faith and discover the true beauty of the Catholicism during this Lenten season, you might want to sign up for a free online course being offered by Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

The free course, called “Beauty of Belief,” is a series of six weekly lectures, each 20 to 30 minutes long, delivered by highly respected members of the SHMS faculty. The course starts on March 11 and runs through Easter Sunday, April 21.

The titles of the six weekly lectures are:

  • Beauty of Truth, by Dr. Ralph Martin
  • Beauty of Scripture, by Dr. Mary Healy
  • Beauty of Church, by Dr. Robert Fastiggi
  • Beauty of Virtue, by Dr. Janet Smith
  • Beauty of Spirituality, by Dr. Patricia Cooney-Hathaway
  • Beauty of Hope, by Fr. Pieter VanRooyen

The course is a non-credit course that allows people to work at their own pace. Classes will include some recommended readings, and there will also be a self-test quiz to see what participants remember from the videos.  The course also includes a discussion board to allow participants to share with each other any insights they’ve learned.

World Class Instruction

According to Dr. Matthew Gerlach, Dean of the Institute for Lay Ministry at Sacred Heart, the series is “a shallow entry into the basics of Catholic theology.” The goal, he said, is to reach the average layperson who might not otherwise have access to the world-class instruction the seminary offers.

“Lay people have complex lives,” Dr. Gerlach said. “We need to accommodate that complexity. Some people feel daunted by college classes. This is non-intimidating.”

Dr. Gresham, who has 15 years of experience in online teaching, taught for several years at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis and served as academic dean there. At Sacred Heart he supports other faculty with developing and teaching online courses.

“It’s for the everyday Catholic,” added Ryan Cahill, director of admissions at Sacred Heart, who’s working to market the course, and edit the videos. “It’s for those in the pews looking to grow and nourish their faith.”

The free course allows the public to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge and experience of Sacred Heart’s professors, but it also allows the seminary to expand its educational reach.  “The Beauty of Belief” is not going to be a one-time opportunity, either.

“It’s our first of many,” Dr. Gresham said. “We’re going to offer other online courses.”

“It’s a kind of entrée,” added Dr. Gerlach. “It’s a doorway into further opportunities we’re developing.”

Dr. Gerlach added the seminary thinks there are many Catholics who will find the course appealing, and might even find enough to change their own faith lives.

Designed to Inspire

While the course was designed to support Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron’s charge for greater lay participation in the work of evangelization throughout the Archdiocese of Detroit, the course content was designed to inspire.

“It’s for the layperson who may be intrigued to learn more. Someone who might not know where to go next,” says Gerlach. “Maybe it’ll give people in health care something to think about. Maybe, people in business. We want to inspire.”

While the course is the first “massive open online course” offered by Sacred Heart, organizers have been encouraged by the interest so far. By the end of February, 900 people were already pre-registered, according to Cahill.

“We’re really excited. We have enrollees from all over the state, the country, and even from Italy, Croatia, South America, China and the Philippines,” Cahill said. “It’s really gone viral. It’s taken off on social media.”

Anyone interested in registering for the course can do so by clicking this link to the enrollment page of the seminary’s website:

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