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Discovering Meaning and Mastering Theology from Home

Jenny AndersonAs a communications graduate Jenny Anderson never realised her interest in Catholic liturgy would lead her back to tertiary studies, or that technology would facilitate her learning, from her own home. The spark that ignited her love of liturgy she says began in the early days of her marriage when her husband Brett would go off to Mass.

 “I wasn’t a Catholic and Brett would go off to Mass and I became very curious about what it was he was leaving me for,” Jenny says. Becoming a Catholic herself and then later a mother only heightened her curiosity about the liturgical traditions and practice of Catholicism.

“I found myself wanting to know what cradle Catholics already knew,” she says, “To help my children to know their faith and to discover for myself the meaning of what I was experiencing.”

Exploring her desire to participate further in the life of the Church, Jenny looked for places where she could learn more. Tertiary study was an option. And yet the time in lecture theatres, separated from her four young children, seemed to make this idea impractical.

She says things coalesced when she found The Broken Bay Institute (BBI), the quality Catholic theological provider. Choosing BBI, a leading exponent of distance and online learning, meant Jenny could access online modules from home. The coursework also offered the flexibility of time-management. Jenny could schedule her studies into her busy domestic life and never have to leave her home in the Canberra suburb of Tuggeranong.

Whatever reservations she felt about online learning were quickly dispelled when she engaged in the coursework and realised at BBI she had ready access and feedback from her tutors. Subjects she studied included Jesus the Christ, Leadership for Mission, Advanced Sacramental Theology- a Living Tradition, and Advanced Liturgy, theory and practice. Jenny completed almost all of her studies online.

“It was a model of learning I could fit into my life,” Jenny says. “The teaching was excellent and I interacted with other students in online discussions so I didn’t feel isolated in my work. It was collegial sharing of knowledge.”

Jenny’s commencement with BBI in 2009 coincided with the Catholic Institute’s historic partnering with The University of Newcastle (UoN), one of Australia’s largest tertiary research centres. The coursework Jenny completed at BBI was credited by UoN and BBI courses were integrated into the University’s Faculty of Education and Arts curriculum. Jenny was able to convert her theological studies thus far into a postgraduate degree.

With husband Brett watching, in April Jenny was conferred in her Masters of Theology, with a Distinction in Liturgy. At the graduation ceremony held at UoN’s Callaghan Campus she joined with hundreds of education and arts graduates in dressing in traditional black academic cap and gown to receive her degree. Afterwards, with her testamur in hand, Jenny could truly say, “My graduation day is also my first day on the uni campus.”

Jenny expects to be able to use her liturgical knowledge among the parishes of the Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese. This is timely as the English language liturgy now being introduced into the Catholic Church is the subject of much conjecture and discussion among worshippers at this moment.

Being the first revision of the liturgy in 40 years, for many practising Catholics it is a major adjustment. Phrases heart-felt and learned as a child must be learned anew. Even that touchstone of faith, The Nicene Creed sees “One in being with the Father” become “Consubstantial with the Father”.

“Yes, the changes are unsettling for many, there’s always resistance to change and yet I think the new revision was necessary,” Jenny says.

“’Consubstantial’ isn’t a word used in everyday English because in everyday life we don’t explain our relationship with The Trinity. We are grappling with the divine and the mystery of God, so using a specific term to express this idea is a very worthwhile attainment in English.”

Being years in preparation, Jenny believes the liturgical revisions need settling in time. “The translation has a lot of richness that needs to be explored. The job for the people on the ground is to unpack what they have received and help people appreciate the gift that it truly is.”

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