Renee Alarcon works as a director of children’s faith formation for Most Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Arlington, Texas. A two-time graduate of CDU, she earned her BA degree in Theology in late 2021 and her AA degree in Liberal Arts in 2019.
Renee and her husband Mark, who is a cantor and youth choir leader, have attended Most Blessed Sacrament Church for 24 years and have three sons. Their youngest, 14-year-old Luke, was diagnosed with Chronic Leukemia a month before her AA graduation in Fall 2019 but was healthy enough to travel to Washington, D.C., to attend. “He is the real reason why I continued to work toward my degrees,” she says. “He has blood cancer that will never go into true remission and faces lifelong treatment; thankfully, the leukemia cells are undetected at this time, and he lives life to the fullest, never shedding a tear or complaining about his medical care.”
Renee was halfway to a nutrition and accounting degree in her 20s at a community college, “but that fizzled out fast when I started focusing more on building a family,” she says. However, she was easily able to transfer the credits toward her degree at CDU.
“The experience at the community college wasn’t successful for me because it always was missing something,” she says. “Now, 20 years later, I know it was my faith. Going to a school centered on the Catholic faith is what made the difference!”
“CDU works for me because of the compassion of the professors and the way the learning platform has been designed,” she says. “The level of commitment from the professors to make the experience interactive has increased with each term.”
Renee carefully researched which online experience would be best for her needs before selecting CDU. “There are so many details that CDU has thought of with the learning experience that others do not even consider,” she says. “The learning module videos from Dr. Brown and Dr. Nuar plus many other professors have been a real treat!” she adds.
Renee was a technology manager for a public elementary school before graduating with her AA degree. For a long time, she had volunteered in her parish as a wedding assistant, catechist, and youth choir leader. “I wanted more than the public sector could offer and really wanted something in my parish or at least my diocese. I knew that I wanted to follow in my mother’s footsteps in Religious Education but wasn’t exactly sure what that would look like,” she says.
Renee’s mom had been a DRE for years when she was a child. “After she passed, I knew I wanted to possibly work as she did for the church. I began a search that led me to only a handful of choices for online learning that offered a truly Catholic experience,” she says.
“I found that CDU had the longest history of distance learning for what I was seeking,” Renee says. “To me, this meant that the university had the best resources to help its students learn while at home, across the country or the world, from the professors. Thankfully, I was right, and when it came to my BA, there was never a question about where I would attend.”
“After going to my graduation, I explored through a lot of prayer and discernment how to use my education to get into a parish and hopefully my parish,” she says. “Of course, 2020 changed all the world with the shutdowns, and I knew from my priest that our Children’s Director had retired and an opportunity was coming in 2021.” Renee had already taken many of her BA classes while in the AA program and was on track to complete the BA in December 2021.
With her AA degree completed, the BA degree imminent, and her volunteer experience, she was offered the position and began work in July 2021. “Seeking out the faith-based career with those not only of my same faith but my same parish helped me as the courses became harder,” she says. She was inspired to bring what she was learning into action through her work.
“My absolute favorite part of my work is that I am bringing families and children to the sacraments!” Renee says. However, this can sometimes be a challenge as well. “Not all of the families are willing to complete the requirements or the time needed to prepare for the sacraments; it takes a village to catechize children, but the same is said for also catechizing the parents/families of those children,” she adds.