A Daily Dish of Soul Food


A Daily Dish of Soul Food

Some people might say that "religious education is food for the soul." Thanks to a new service for their
rapidly expanding user base, 4marks is hoping to serve a daily dish of faithful soul food.

“Education
really enabled us to build off the synergy of our existing website and
users, 4marks co-owner Jason LaFosse said. “This isn’t the 1930s
or 40s anymore, we are a society moving at a different pace where
flexibilty rules the day. Few people would have even dreamed of working
from home 50 or even 20 years ago now it is pretty common. Online
education helps meet a new need that’s emerged
in modern society.”

The education program is
done online, something that parents with busy schedules can appreciate
for the flexibility it offers them. The program can be for either an
individual or for a family. Yet it steers clear of many of the pitfalls
that can come with online education—namely social isolation and living
in a virtual reality–and the unique structure of the entire 4marks’
system is the reason.

A member who signs up
for a 4marks’ class isn’t just e-mailed lessons and questions, and then
left on an island. The program integrates members into an online
community. You’re given an account and access to the social networking
tools to share ideas, articles, even photos with other members. When
you sign up for a class, you can see which other members are taking the
class with you—and network with them if you wish. One of 4marks’
properties are message forums, and with certain education packages a
member can gain access to them. Here they can meet up with other
members in an online community atmosphere and discuss virtually any
topic under the sun—education, parenting, the state of the culture,
even the latest movie. And when you’re taking the class you enrolled
for, 4marks’ delivers the most pertinent forum threads right to your
main page.

All of this makes it possible for
a member to utilize the Internet in a healthy way. “We can’t run away
from technology, LaFosse said. “The Church has always used technology
and never condemned it. When the printing press was invented, it was
Bibles that were the first to roll off it. What if the Church had
walked away from technology then, where would we be? Where would we be if
Mother Angelica had walked away from the rise of television? Since the
Internet exists, it’s the responsibility of Catholics to use it in the
right way and to disseminate good materials.”

4marks offers a variety of courses,
many of them related to sacramental preparation. If you’re getting
ready to be confirmed, or if your children are approaching First Holy
Communion, there’s a class here. There’s a class on courtship &
marriage. The course material is comprehensive. While multiple-choice
Q&A’s are a part of it, the class goes well beyond simply getting
people to memorize information. There’s pastoral guidance and wisdom
contained within each course helping a member to glean insight on how
to apply what they’ve learned.

Another part
of the education service is the Daily Catechism Program. As the name implies, a member
who enrolls is this program gets a new lesson each and every weekday.
The program is tied to the Church’s liturgical calendar, so each week’s
lessons draw their inspiration from the Sunday Mass readings. The
student will get lessons with a different theme each day. There’s a
chance to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, right along with the clergy,
passages from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and links to
relevant articles. For example, when the course cited the passages of
the CCC that defined the nature of the priesthood, they also included a
link to an article geared for the common man. This sort of balance ensures the
student is immersed in authoritative material, but then not left alone
when it comes to explaining difficult issues or concepts.

When one steps back and asks the
question of what place this sort of online education is leading the
Church, some intriguing possibilities develop. 4marks opens the door
and welcomes priests and qualified laypeople to submit their own
courses to the curriculum. They can even keep the course restricted to
members they designate. What this amounts to in the real world is that
a priest who wants to run a Bible study for his parishioners can write
the course, put it on 4marks and have his parishioners enroll. A
director of religious education who encounters a situation that
requires flexibility—let’s say a child is sick for a month and unable
to come to CCD. They can enroll at 4marks and prevent themselves from
falling behind in their classmates. Or let’s say there’s a need to save
money on textbook purchases. Now a DRE (Director of Religous Education) can put their program on 4marks,
have the kids enroll and move them forward with a plan that’s low-cost
and efficient.

The program is something
originally designed by CatechismClass.com, who has entered into a
partnership with 4marks in order to broaden the reach of the materials,
and to give their existing members access to the 4marks community.
“Users of CatechismClass.com were already experiencing one of the most
complete and comprehensive catechetical programs
available on the market, said CatechismClass.com founder Shannon
Jones. “Now they'll be able to experience it in a first class
online enviroment.  4marks is providing a vehicle for catechesis
that is unparalleled in
the Catholic marketplace.”

Nothing is ever going to
take away from the value of real-world education, done in the flesh.
Indeed, 4marks does not make that its stated goal and the very way the
program is structured points the member to something more then online
isolation. The 4marks program is a way to supplement what people are
already doing in their local parish or diocese, and to give new
flexibility to priests and DREs in structuring their programs. There’s
a lot of reason for hope on today’s landscape in the Church. “(We) are
on the cutting edge of one of the larger explosions in Catholic
education that has ever occurred…parents, godparents and educators can
now rely on the help of technology with their obligation and
responsiblity to educate themselves
and their children in the Faith in a very simple, easy to access,
easy to utilize, daily lesson program."

To preview the new 4marks education service go to http://www.4marks.com/education  





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