Student Testimonials

As STEP celebrates 20 years, a few of our participants would like to share how our program has impacted their lives, both personally and professionally.

Additional course feedback can be found here.

"Congratulations on the 20th Anniversary of serving the Church and for helping us grow in our faith; gaining deeper understanding and knowledge.

Gene Osidacz

"Congratulations to STEP for this great milestone. It is easy to see why you have been so successful. I have just completed my course work for a certificate in Church Doctrine.  I was truly amazed at the depth of the course and all that I have learned. This was my plan to study when I retired and this program offered me enough depth, as well as great, stimulating conversation about faith with the facilitators and classmates. My classmates have come from all walks of life, including men in diaconate programs, to learned students of theology, to those who just wanted to learn. I think what gave me the biggest surprise was learning things that I should have known about the Church but never knew or could explain. I feel more confident and challenged to step up in my faith."

Jan Hebert

Six years ago, I noticed an ad in our Catholic newspaper for the STEP courses at Notre Dame.  I thought this might be an opportunity to at least get a certificate from Notre Dame (daughter 2006 grad).  With a degree in English, the “Bible Literary Forms” course seemed a natural start. I found out very quickly that I had a lot to learn. Consequently, I took a second, third, and fourth course. The Indianapolis Archdiocese also offered a Certificate in Lay Ministry upon completion of certain STEP courses. After completing these courses, I did receive the Lay Ministry Certificate from Archbishop (now Cardinal) Tobin. This certificate was instrumental in getting elected twice to our pastoral council.

As I reflect upon the STEP program, I realize that these courses lead to further study and understanding. I often said that one STEP course is like trying to eat one potato chip. Since my completion of courses for Lay Ministry, I have received certificates from the STEP program and the McGrath Institute in Catechesis, Doctrine, History, Liturgy, and Scripture. The Catholic Church has a rich history, rituals, and doctrine that formed over centuries. The STEP courses bring these to life and understanding beyond what one experiences at Mass. Whether as an individual or as a Church leader, STEP involves those who wish to develop their Catholic faith and further service to the Church.

Mike Clouse

"STEP has been such a blessing to me in my faith journey. While my family has been affiliated with Notre Dame since the mid -1930s, I finally took the plunge and took a course in 2018. It was Easter night and while cleaning the house after our young kids had gone to bed, I turned on the TV to find a documentary on the journeys of Saint Paul. I confess I didn't do much cleaning after that. But if the Holy Spirit was sending me a neon flashing sign, I couldn't have missed the message: “SIGN UP NOW!”

The next course offering in Scripture studies was on the Letters of Saint Paul and I began it a few days later.  Since then, the other courses are just so enlightening. The blessings that have come from getting a deeper and better understanding of the Sacred Word have been amazing. I've written an article published in the Church Life Journal, as well as joining the writers for our Diocesan newspaper. I've been able to lead the candidates and catechumens in discussions about the readings during the RCIA dismissal at Mass. And my own understanding of the Gospel message has become even more pronounced in my service on our parish Stewardship Committee. STEP has been a tremendous blessing in my life and the life of the Church. Thanks for all you do!"

Colin May

"Dear STEP and McGrath Institute, 

Congratulations on serving us wonderfully, conveniently the academic enrichment of STEP for soon to be 20 years!  I hope there are many years ahead for participation in this life changing opportunity!  

In 2010, still pretty much a neophyte, (Initiation Sacraments received 2006) my Lay Ecclesial Ministry Cohort group, Diocese of Salt Lake City, began our four year journey with STEP and many Saturday Retreats. We completed about 6 courses each school year with summer class options. Oh how I dreaded the end! I loved every class - still do! The course progression was perfect for my faith development. Classmates, facilitators, and cohorts put up with my annoying questions and pleas for understanding. Thank you. I took full advantage of emails to Facilitators - all were kind and helpful. Thank you, sincerely. I must name Greg Doyle, who always helped in a most timely manner. Thank you, Greg!  

Yes, I’ve continued to enjoy courses and never thought I’d be guiding folks through RCIA or presenting catechesis for Catechist Certification! I owe so much to the Director of Faith Formation, Diocese of Salt Lake City for embracing Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord and STEP in assisting the reality!"

Mrs. Denise Richards, Lay Ecclesial Minister, (2010-2014)
Diocese of Salt Lake City, UT

"Dear STEP,

Firstly, congratulations on achieving this milestone. It is indeed a pleasure to be able to submit a few words capturing a short reflection of my time shared with STEP. I joined your program in October 2014 to pursue the Catholic Doctrine Course and finished the same in April-May, 2016. It was a new learning experience for me in that I presumed that the online methodology would be fraught with difficulties. On the contrary, however; from day one the support offered was first class, not to mention the caliber of facilitators and the opportunity to interact with a wide spectrum of students. I pursued this course with the intention of increasing my knowledge of the faith and also because I was desirous of offering myself as a candidate for the Permanent Diaconate when next the opportunity arose. The course work, discussions boards, and guidance from the facilitators proved invaluable, as I was successful in being accepted into the formation program for Perm. Deacons and I'm just about to finish my first year.

Thanks for the work that you do in this forum, in being able to reach so many students who would not normally have an opportunity to participate in such a flexible program. The work that you do is invaluable in formation of not only the laity, but also for those contemplating a religious calling and those pursuing continuing education."

Andy R. Singh

Congratulations to STEP on its 20th Anniversary.

The STEP program has been a life changing experience for me. As a cradle Catholic who attended parochial schools through the 10th grade, I had a basic understanding of Church doctrine, or so I thought. I had been an altar boy, which included the rote recital of certain liturgical segments of the Latin Mass, and my rudimentary theological guidebook was the Baltimore Catechism. By all accounts, I was a religious youngster. At one time I had seriously thought about becoming a priest. Then along came The Second Vatican Council.

It seemed like everything in the immediate post-Conciliar world was in flux. Like many in my generation, I struggled with my own religious beliefs which led to a lifelong self-study of theology and religion, augmented by a background in related college philosophy courses. However, it never seemed to be enough. Even after becoming a lay minister and catechist dedicated to adult faith formation through my parish’s RCIA program, I sought a more scholarly approach to enhancing my self-studies and catechetical ministry. However, as a busy practicing lawyer, any approach other than online education was out of the question. Then I came across Notre Dame’s Satellite Theological Education Program (STEP). What a God send . . . literally!

I have completed 26 STEP courses in the last 6 years and have obtained three Certificates of Catholic Theology – in scripture, church history, and doctrine. I am 72 years old, still working and teaching, and intend to take more courses in order to complete the STEP certification for liturgy. Frankly, this program is great at any age. Your scholars who write the courses are all recognized experts in their fields of study; the formatting of the courses is friendly and effective, and the other students I have met online and through the chat sessions have been engaged and enthusiastic. It’s been a wonderful intellectual and spiritual voyage, and I don’t plan on disembarking from the ship anytime soon.

Congratulations and blessings to all the staff and class facilitators at STEP, 

Tim Flanigan
Sacramento, California

"I love the STEP classes! Each class I take has drawn me closer to our amazing Catholic faith. It has opened my eyes to new teachings in the church and has most importantly given me confidence to teach this to my students. I love the chat groups for each class. It is so amazing to meet people from all over the country who love their faith as much as I. I love hearing about their parishes and how we are similar as well as differ in some traditions. It helps me to grasp just how universal our church is. Thank you STEP for 20 years of growing our faith!"  

Leslie Jones

"I am a cradle Catholic and after being disillusioned with the Church and exploring other faiths, STEP helped cement me into the Faith that I should have never left as the one true church. With the help of STEP I was ordained on the 15th of December into the Diaconate. I have also attended the Summer conference this past year. I have learned through STEP from not only the instructors but the other students as we come from all over the world and different ministerial backgrounds."

Frank W. Bellino

STEP is so much more than I ever expected. Even though it’s designed to give you an opportunity to get the basics of a subject, there is a surprise waiting for you as you start to surf through the website exploring the additional research options available to you on the subject.  And that is when it happens; it is like going to the Smithsonian for the first time when you realize how little you know, and yet how much they want to teach you if you want to learn. I simply found myself asking, is this for real? Can I really go to that level through this database, and the answer was yes, I could? 

STEP is a portal to the knowledge of the Church. It literally offers you a map with recommended routes to take you further and deeper than you ever imagined. It is beyond me that a program like STEP can even offer this to us and that this level of knowledge could be ours. Let me explain. When I initially started, I honestly never imagined I would end up finishing all five programs. But the reason I did was because these classes allowed me to determine the amount of knowledge I really wanted to learn. It was like having a Notre Dame library card and a curriculum that tells you where to go next in order to go to the next level of knowledge. And every time I went to the next level, I found another level waiting to take me on another adventure within the thousands of years of our history. That is when you will start your journey just as I did. This capability allows you to learn at a graduate level or any level at all; it is your decision.  

Kyle Marx

"We began to use STEP after meeting Tom Cummings (former STEP staff member) at a NADD (National Association of Deacon Directors) Convention. Working with Tom was a very positive experience and using STEP has benefited our Deacon Formation program in the Diocese of Sioux Falls. The courses we have had the candidates use were beneficial not only for the content but for the contacts they made with the other people taking the courses from all over the world. The exposure to others was invaluable in expanding their horizons beyond the local Church. Another aspect that was important was Tom coming to the Diocese and offering programing and his feedback to the candidates on their writing skills. Their writing and thinking skills greatly improved under Tom's critical feedback. STEP has been a valuable tool in our Deacon Formation programing. 

Deacon Roger Heidt,
Diocese of Sioux Falls

"I have enrolled in several STEP courses, and am currently preparing to complete a certificate course in Catechetics. I am especially thankful for the STEP program since it does not only provide wonderful experiences for learning the Catholic Faith, but it also gives us the opportunity to learn from others’ “on the field” experiences as catechists and ministers all around the world: indeed, making possible a rich and sound Catholic formation through the Internet. 

I am very grateful to know about STEP and participate in the courses being offered, and I heartily recommend them to my friends and other persons who are interested not only to learn more and acquire skills, but also to root themselves deeper in the Catholic faith through modern means of communication.

Neil Christian D. Sator
Davao City, Philippines

I took my first STEP course in 2003, though I don’t remember how I learned about STEP.  I thought it would be interesting to take an online course about an aspect of the Catholic faith, especially a course developed by a faculty member in theology at the University of Notre Dame!  I didn’t expect to get hooked, but more than 30 courses and 4 certificates later …. Thank you STEP for continuing to develop more courses, ones that address not only the fundamentals of the faith, but reflect contemporary issues and concerns as well.

The courses and certificates have helped me deepen my faith, think more carefully and deeply about it, and enhance my understanding of it. This is in part because of the design and facilitation of the courses. They are convenient, well-planned, and make sometimes challenging material understandable. The interaction with classmates, Catholic and not, from around the country and the world also adds much to the experience of the courses. I am inspired by the stories people share, the simple desire and curiosity shared by so many to ask and learn about God, Jesus, and the Catholic faith. I have learned much from the backgrounds and stories and insights of such a variety of fellow seekers.

I have become a better RCIA catechist as well because of my STEP experiences.

Happy 20th Anniversary STEP! Thank you to everyone at STEP for this wonderful ministry. I look forward to many more courses (and another certificate one day).

Larry Smyrski

"STEP, congratulations on 20 years! Awesome!

I have been with you for 4 of them. I am so grateful for this program. I originally signed up in February 2016 and have been taking classes ever since. I was hesitant at first because I travel and am working full time with a full leisure schedule also. I actually called to check before enrolling to see if my profile would fit. I was told that there is a lot of flexibility and would still be able to participate even when traveling. Very true and it has worked for me as I have learned so much and feel enriched and blessed. The facilitators have been knowledgeable, helpful, and encouraging. After 22 courses, I have just enrolled in my 23rd, "The Human Animal.” Thank you STEP, Greg Doyle, and all of the participants in making this program successful. I look forward to the next 20 years :-).

Keep up the good work and spreading the good news of the gospel."

Scott Gregory Cook



Want to hear what people shared about their experiences with STEP online courses?

"My faith has been strengthened. The readings, forum questions, and discussions, and the facilitator's timely and insightful comments (which often includes pointers to further recommended readings, media, or materials enhanced my faith and spirituality, which I plan to share with students to enhance their faith formation. Thanks for leading us on this faith enhancement journey."

"I very much appreciated that this course was intellectual and based on the concepts, philosophy, and Scripture-based foundations of the catholic faith. As a lifelong Catholic, I am delighted that I deepened my understanding and gained important new insights into my faith.

"This as an excellent course with many applications to my teaching. I have revised the way I will be presenting the Creation stories and my intro to the Bible. I can't wait to take more Scripture classes. Thank you for offering them to those of us without local access to Catholic Universities."

"This is a VERY well designed course. The material is varied to address different learning styles; visual and auditory. The expectations are very realistic and fit well in the busy schedule of adult students. The materials selected are thought-provoking and extremely conducive to reflection and learning. The facilitator was remarkably knowledgeable, kind, generous, Christ-loving, patient, and promoting of a positive classroom culture. The STEP program is a blessing and a great tool, not only for teachers, and catechists, but also for evangelization of Catholics who enroll! May God bless you all and may all what you do be for His greater glory."

"This was an excellent experience. I came away with new knowledge and printed material that will be helpful as I move forward in my ministry. I would recommend STEP to anyone."