Study Guides

Our study guides are designed for self-paced studies or for use in affiliate- or parish-based adult education sessions. Please review the books or DVDs required for each guide, then click the PDF title to open a document. (After opening the document, you may save a copy of the document to your own computer.)

You also may want to download a copy of our Collaborative Study Tips, a one-page summary of tips for leading a successful study session.

Study Guides (alphabetical listing)

Origins of the Church

A summary of the political, social, and religious background from which Jesus and His teachings emerged, and how the early church organized itself and spread Christianity. Based on books by Fr. Frederick J. Cwiekowski and Rabbi Stephen Wylen.

Juxtaposing chapters and sections from both books yields an enlightening summary of what Biblical scholars in the past 50 years have learned from critical analysis and by studying source documents for the Gospels, Epistles, the Acts of the Apostles, and other writings from the first 200 years of Christianity.


Seven discussion sessions, with overviews and questions

Study Suggestion:

Use the study guide and New Testament timeline for the moderated discussion sessions\

Origins of the Church PDF

New Testament Timeline PDF

Origins Appendix PDF

Scripture Surprises PDF

Conscience and Excommunication: A Dilemma

What happens when someone acting according to personal conscience is told to recant that position or face excommunication? The study package, developed in 2008 when Maryknoll priest Roy Bourgeois faced excommunication, includes the VOTF response to the excommunication charge, materials for examining the Church’s teachings about conscience, and brief citations of Canon Law. The package is suitable for use in personal reviews or, even better, as a VOTF-led discussion group at an affiliate or in your parish.

VOTF letter to Papal Nuncio
VOTF press release
Excerpts from the Catholic Catechism
Canon Law briefs
Father Bourgeois letter to Rome
Two other excommunications
Questions for study session

Vatican II and the Laity: DVD Series

Fr. Robert Pelton, peritius on Cardinal Suenen’s team at the Council of Vatican II and Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, has produced a five-DVD series on the Council’s teachings about the laity. Each DVD includes a study booklet prepared by VOTF past Vice-President Sally Vance-Trembath.

To purchase the DVDs, use this order form.

  1. Emergence of the Laity by Dr. Susie Babka emphasizes the Council documents Lumen gentium (The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) and Apostolicam actuositatem (The Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity).
  2. Catholic Social Teaching at Vatican II: Signs of the Times by Dr. Margaret Pfeil focuses on Gaudium et spes (The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World Today) and Dignitatis humanae (The Declaration on ReligiousFreedom).
  3. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Pope John XXIII and Aggiornamento, presented by Dr. David Fagerberg, emphasizesSacrosanctum concilium (The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy).
  4. Understanding of the Holy Spirit at Vatican II by Dr. Sally Vance-Trembath uses the documents Lumen gentium (The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) and Nostra Aetate (The Declaration on the Relations of the Church to Non-Christian Religions) as well as the speeches of Pope John XXIII andPope Paul VI.
  5. Becoming a World Church by Dr. Miguel Diaz utilizes the documentsLumen gentium (The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) and Gaudium et spes(The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World Today).

The Promise of Vatican II

The four-week discussion series uses uses the final chapters of Bernard Prusak’s study, The Church Unfinished, and selected passages from the documents of Vatican II. It has been designed for use in affiliate meetings, home gatherings, or parishes—wherever adult Catholics seek to further their faith and understanding.

Discussion Series: The Promise of Vatican II

Origins of the Eucharist

This 12-page document summarizes how the Shabbat meal, Seder, and traditional prayers from their Jewish faith led to the early Eucharist meals of the disciples, and how that informs our understanding of the Eucharist today.

The Eucharist: Origins in Jewish and Early Christian Practice