The Alphonsian Academy and didactics
during the covid-19 pandemic
At the beginning of last February, when the pandemic was beginning to loom on the horizon, as the Alphonsian Academy, we tried to predict the possible scenarios by equipping ourselves in time with the most suitable technological resources, to ensure that our students would be accompanied in the study of moral theology online, to enable them to carry out theological research.
We must not forget that the Academy in Rome represents a microcosmos of the universal church. We have more than 250 students from 59 different nations.
When the lockdown was triggered in Italy on March 5, as the Academy we had already prepared the sanitary regulations for students, teachers, and collaborators, because we had equipped ourselves, ahead of time, with protocols and hygienic material to fight the pandemic.
At the same time the Alphonsian Academy being the part of Pontifical Universities, therefore not being able to enjoy the telematic license (i.e. to offer online lessons), with a handful of professors, anticipating the times, has however set up a virtual platform to continue teaching. The choice of the telematic platform made in advance proved to be a winning move. In fact, in the time in which the national authorities have decreed the suspension of all activities, even didactic ones, we took advantage of it to form virtual classes and give the first training to teachers to make the most of the potential of this new tool. When the permission of the Congregation for Catholic Education arrived to resume the lessons, in new ways, we were already ready.
It may sound strange but the most difficult aspect was to make the students understand how to use this type of technology. Faced with a digital generation we thought they were more accustomed to using these tools. Instead, this experience made us understand that many young people use mainly the internet for browsing but are not very familiar with text editors, professional communication, or study and research platforms in general.
The pandemic also marked a new organization of work by some staff members and teachers. Many mistakenly thought they were working from home in “smart working” when they worked in telepresence. The organization of smart working involves different contracts, projects, and procedures that could not be fulfilled in such a short time.
We can proudly say that as the Alphonsian Academy we have faced the challenges posed by the pandemic in a creative and fast way. All this has been confirmed by some data. From the first day after the reopening of the lessons, all the courses and seminars are resumed online with formed classes and didactic material. The second data is given by the number of participants in the courses. In fact, even if some students have returned to their countries of origin, they have regularly been able to attend lessons. We had a participation rate of 98%.
As indicated by the Congregation for Catholic Education, on which the Academy depends, we have prepared the next academic year in attendance. Should the health situation evolve we are ready to offer our formative proposal according to the modalities that the CEC will indicate to all the universities. You can consult the training proposal for next year at the following link.
At this difficult time for the Roman academic institutions, the Holy Father himself, Pope Francis, has expressed his closeness to all the Rectors, Deans, and Directors, encouraging us to go ahead and plan next year classroom-based. He reiterated the centrality of Rome as the only center in the world where the idea of a pontifical university, made up of a meeting between teachers and students, sources and history, takes place in a context of universality. He asked us to continue the cultural formation of young local Churches because only by offering a solid theological formation, the fruit of study and proven structures, is it possible to train priests for the Church that goes forth.
Strongly encouraged by the Holy Father’s encouragement, faithful to the mandate that the universal Church has entrusted to us as the true missionary expression of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, as the Alphonsian Academy we can be proud to have responded with missionary boldness and didactic creativity to the moral theology that is entering into life.
We do not yet know what the pandemic has in store for us for the coming academic year. We are aware that the health challenge, accompanied by a widespread economic crisis that will involve everyone, will pose new moral and structural questions. As the Alphonsian Academy of Redemptorist Missionaries, we are ready to “get our hands dirty” again with the experience we have lived.
Prof. Alfonso V. Amarante, C.Ss.R.
See also: Alphonsian Academy during Covid-19