Religious institutes offer wide range of night classes

Monday, August 18th, 2008

As the summer comes to a close and the nights draw in, many turn their minds to night classes.

The choice gets bigger and better every year. The Milltown Institute is one of many colleges which will take part in Which Course Expo 2008 at the RDS, Dublin on 6-7 September ( The aim of the Expo will be to help people choose the best course to enhance their leisure or work.

At the Milltown Institute, students who seek a career in parish, pastoral and related areas such as chaplaincy typically take the Undergraduate BA Degree in Theology (night class) or Higher Diploma in Adult Religious Education.

People in the caring professions such as those working in hospitals, hospices and nursing homes take Milltown’s spirituality course.

Retired people and ‘empty-nesters’ who have reared their family also study at Milltown with a view to working in the local community or parish.

“It is quiet a broad mix right across the spectrum from young professionals to those recently retired or empty nesters,” says Amanda Dillon, Marketing Officer at Milltown.

“The landscape is changing quite dramatically. There aren’t the personnel in the religious orders and parishes that there were previously, and there is still a huge amount of work to be done. More and more people in parishes are being called to come forward and they need to have the right background and skills. Lay people are also getting into the chaplaincy area in schools, hospitals, prisons.”

In total 300-400 people take evening classes and undergraduate degrees at Milltown and that is increasing.

“Contrary to what people think there is a huge amount of interest in spirituality and theology,” says Amanda. 

All across the capital and other towns more scripture, theology, and spiritual night classes are available but for those who cannot get to the city or towns regularly there are also part-time and distance learning courses. 

The Priory Institute, Tallaght, Dublin recently advertised a distance learning theology course, provided in association with the University of Wales. Lampeter. Depending on the number of modules completed the student can gain a Certificate (4 modules), Diploma (further 8 modules) or Degree (full 20 modules) spread over five years.

Students, who study at home, can avail of local centres - Newry, Drogheda, Galway, Cork and Sligo - which have co-ordinators to help them with their studies. They attend two study days every 15 week semester and complete set assignments on each module.

Alpha Connelly, Priory Institute Administrator, explains the advantages of distance learning: “You are not tied to being in a particular college or place to do the course - you can do it anywhere. It is at your own time – you get texts and you study when it suits you be that in the morning, evening or on a Saturday.”

There are over 200 students involved at Priory - some are interested in gaining a qualification to enhance work prospects and others just want to know more about theology. Priory does a variety of adult education classes at weekends or evenings which are predominantly religion-based, but not exclusively.

For the first time ever Priory is offering its distance learning course to international students this year through the Dominican long distance education agency in France.

The bastions of theology throughout Ireland are also opening their doors to both full and part-time lay students. For example, St Patrick’s College Maynooth has mostly lay students and some seminarians taking full-time theology studies and they go on to teach religion in schools. There is also now a part time Higher Diploma in Theological Studies course two evenings per week and on Saturday. A variety of other courses, such as local history and community studies, run in other centres around the country are linked to Maynooth also.