Academic study online is being offered by the Durham-based Ushaw College to men all over the world who want to become permanent deacons in the Catholic Church. This follows a successful pilot course run in the north-east of England over the past year. The new four-year course, which will be run through diocesan directors for the permanent diaconate, will start in September. Monsignor Terry Drainey, college president, said the web-based study was already running with several northern dioceses, including Middlesbrough and Hexham and Newcastle. "This is an on-line course, which is as interactive as a classroom full of students. It isn't `distance learning' which is a one-to-one course, but is extremely interactive," he said. Ushaw is offering six academic modules for the newly-introduced propaedeutic year, the basic foundation year, from September. The modules are in 'human, spiritual, pastoral and doctrinal formation.' Mgr Drainey said the diaconate was a ministry in its own right and "should not be seen or thought of as a second-rate priesthood or a substitute priesthood." The college, which celebrates its 200th anniversary next year, has invested tens of thousands of pounds in IT in the past ten years.
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