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FEATURED SPOTLIGHT

November 26, 2019

CDU Supporters Celebrate 36 Years at Annual Gala

Friends, trustees, faculty, and staff of Catholic Distance University gathered to celebrate 36 Years of serving the New Evangelization at the annual gala on Saturday, November 16th, 2019, at the National Shrine of St. John Paul II in Washington, DC. Award-winning WUSA9 newscaster Andrea Roane served as the master of ceremonies. The event was hosted by Chairman of the Board of Trustees Dr. Charles Wasaff and Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, who serves as vice chairman of the Board and chancellor of the University. The theme of the gala was the dream of Pope Francis for a Church of Missionary Disciples who carry out a new evangelization along “new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.” The evening began with an Academic Convocation Mass to honor the university’s 2019 graduates, who hail from throughout the United States as well as Scotland, Singapore, and Japan. Archbishop Broglio served as the principal celebrant and homilist, and Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, served as principal concelebrant. Degree and certificate graduates attending the Mass included students from Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Maryland, and Virginia. Despite their diverse careers and professional backgrounds, all of the graduates actively lead or participate in ministries in their parishes and are committed to sharing the faith with others. They were warmly welcomed by University President Dr. Marianne Evans Mount. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington and trustee of CDU delivered the invocation. “With the divine assistance of your Son, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the help of Mary our Mother, may this university remain effective and creative in communicating the truth and joy of the Gospel and mind and heart of the Church in a digital world and help others to do the same,” he said. In her remarks, President Dr. Marianne Evans Mount reflected on the characteristics that CDU graduates have in common. “Our graduates are the face of Christ in their varied circumstances of being on mission as disciples who fulfill the command of Christ to make disciples of all nations.” She also reflected on the wide reach of the global university, which has offered degrees for 20 years. “Catholic Distance University exists to communicate the mind and heart of the Church, a very ancient tradition to the children of God today, who dwell in a digital world. Our mission reaches the face and heart of students in all circumstances and places, including the barren walls of a prison cell and war-torn areas of the Middle East that may be home to our Military students,” Dr. Mount said. She added that in the last 19 months, CDU’s incarcerated students in prisons across the country with access to a new digital tablet loaded with CDU’s religious education courses have completed 110,000 courses. “The warmth of the beating heart of Jesus Christ crosses the threshold of CDU’s digital network whose door is always open, welcoming the curious, the searching, the hungry, and the determined believer, who seek the joy of truth in the discipline of study; at our University the human heart encounters the tender, loving, life-giving word of God by tapping an app on a smartphone, a tablet, or a laptop computer,” she added. Dr. Charles Wasaff presented the Queenship of Mary Award to the Diocese of Brooklyn, the fifth largest diocese in the nation, which has partnered with CDU for over 10 years. In attendance from the Diocese were Theodore Musco, a CDU trustee and diocesan secretary for the Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis, Father Joseph Gibino, academic dean of the Diaconate Program, and Janene Iocco, who earned the Certificate for Catholic Educators this year. CDU is the academic partner to the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Holy Spirit Institute for Service and Leadership, providing degree and certificate programs at the noncredit, bachelor’s, and graduate degree levels. Speaking of the flourishing partnership, Theodore Musco said, “It’s now developed into a multilevel program that involves learning not only for catechists and catechetical leaders, but also for those who want a higher education degree or a certificate in religious education or theology. We are very grateful for the opportunities that we’ve had to work with Catholic Distance University.” Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio presented the Founders Award to Apostolic Nuncio Christophe Pierre, who graciously accepted the award. “Founded in 1983 to offer opportunities for education and faith formation to those at the peripheries, today Catholic Distance University stands as a premier institution in offering graduate and undergraduate degrees and certificates in theology and scripture, as well as providing quality formation for catechists and lay leaders in the Church,” Archbishop Pierre said. His address noted the concerns Pope Francis expressed at the Synod on Youth about the effects of living in a highly digitalized culture and its profound impact on ideas of time and space, self-understanding, understanding of others and the world, and our ability to communicate, learn, be informed, and enter into relationships with others. “So often technology, even in education, is used for political activity and economic gain,” Archbishop Pierre said. “As such, there is a temptation to educate for efficiency and productivity, without concern for formation of character.” Yet, formation of character is essential to education and Catholic education in particular. Archbishop Pierre thanked Catholic Distance University for keeping character—and Christ—at the forefront of education. “The essential content of all the education and formation provided by Catholic Distance University is the person of Christ. He changes everything – makes all things new – for our young people, our Church, and our world. I am truly grateful to all at Catholic Distance University who work to make Christ more widely known and loved,” he said. Bishop Paul S. Loverde, bishop emeritus of Arlington and former chairman of the Board, offered the benediction at the end of the evening. In addition to a wonderful meal, fine wine donated by the Napa Institute, and a lively cocktail hour, attendees enjoyed the National Shrine of St. John Paul II’s multimedia exhibit on the life of the sainted late pontiff and a silent auction featuring unique items and trips to exotic locations.
October 17, 2019

Triple Graduate Returns to Teach at CDU

Deacon Frederick Bartels of Glade Park, Colorado, is a homegrown professor. He received his Catechetical Diploma (2014), BA in Theology (2016), and MA in Theology and Educational Ministry (2017) from Catholic Distance University, earning the latter two degrees Summa Cum Laude. In addition to his work as a theology professor, he serves the Diocese of Pueblo as parochial deacon assigned to St. Joseph Church in Grand Junction, Colorado, where he served earlier as director of religious education and director of liturgy. “I’m especially blessed to teach at CDU as a professor of theology, something which is a work of joy,” he says. “The people I’ve interacted with over the years at CDU are people who, at some point in their lives, fell in love with the truth who is Christ himself. That makes all the difference.” He describes CDU as a learning community of faith in truth. When asked what he enjoyed most about his experience as a student, he says, “Confidence in the fact that I was surrounded and supported by faithful people and confidence in the fact that I was receiving an education reaching into eternity. “In a world where it is becoming increasingly difficult to receive an authentic education in theology, CDU is an institution where people learn what is really true as they are formed by divine revelation and guided by instructors who are aware of the importance of the magisterium as its authentic interpreter,” Deacon Bartels says. “There’s no point in attempting to acquire an education in theology from a university that removes itself in some way from the perennial belief and teaching of the Church. That type of “education” isn’t a true education in theology.” Deacon Bartels, who is married and has six children, spent many years in discernment before pursuing the diaconate. “Our Lord Jesus Christ called me to the diaconate in a progressive way over time, kind of like how the people of Israel were prepared by God over the course of centuries for the coming of Christ in history, to use an analogy,” he says. “In Exodus we read about how the people Israel were thick headed, stubborn, and stuck in their old ways. I’m sure God began calling me to the diaconate long before I had even heard of deacons. It took years and years for that message to get through.” One of the first times he thought about what it might be like to be a deacon occurred at Holy Mass. “I found myself listening to the priest and thinking about how I might present a homily on the same topic, about what I might say and what would be important to stress. Although, at first, I didn’t interpret any of that as an actual call to the diaconate, I gradually began to realize with increasing certainty that Jesus was indeed calling me to serve the Church as a permanent deacon,” he says. He put off the idea for about three years, since entering formation would require lots of travel time and a significant financial investment. “As time went on, people began saying things like, ‘You should become a deacon.’ Eventually I got to the point where I felt I needed to say “yes,” and I’m glad I did,” he says. After interviews, psychological testing, and four years of driving to formation classes six hours away, he was ordained in August of 2013. “It’s been a wonderful blessing,” he says, “not all roses, of course, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve Christ and his Church.” Deacon Bartels is also a contributing writer for various online publications, and he was recently featured on a radio show on the importance of truth in our lives and the dangers of relativism, which he defines as denial of certain absolute truths and moral norms that transcend the human person. “Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is known for frequently warning against the dangers of a pervasive influence of relativism in the West, an influence that is in many ways linked to the rapid rise of what he termed a ‘Culture of Death,’” Deacon Bartels says. “In fact, he noted relativism is so widespread that it affects people on a subliminal level. In other words, people often adopt relativism in an almost subconscious way, to varying degrees, without actually being fully aware of how significant its influence is in their lives, attitudes, and behavior.” “Relativism is dangerous because it infects the way people think about important beliefs and moral issues, introducing a kind of virus, if you will, into their moral code and society itself that attacks how people perceive the truth about the way things really are. Relativism is waging a war on truth; the human person is its casualty,” he says. People often ask Deacon Bartels what they can do to counter relativism. “The answer is prayer, the formation of conscience, immersion in the content of the divine faith, participation in the Holy Mass, and frequent reception of the sacraments,” he says. “Learn the faith. Read scripture. Become faith literate. Study theology (which is what CDU is about!). Then, refuse to let lies persist. Speak and live by the truth.” Deacon Bartels feels that the study of theology has changed him. “To be frank, I’m not at all the person I used to be,” he says. “My wife thinks it has something to do with space aliens. All kidding aside, people talk about ‘game-changers.’ The study of theology is on another level altogether. Theology is a divine science because it is an ordered inquiry into divine revelation.” “Although there were many subjects I could choose to learn about—and each is important in its own way—I recognized that theology is the subject above all subjects,” he says. “Taken seriously, the study of theology is a life-shaping and life-transforming process. It’s not simply about learning skills for success in the world, it’s about learning and understanding what God has communicated to his people for the sake of salvation.” “Theology provides answers to the most important human questions, questions that everyone, sooner or later, must answer,” he adds. “Theology is information of heavenly value that helps to point people toward their predestined end in eternal communion with the Tripersonal God.” “Looking back, it’s clear to me that the study of theology at CDU set my life on an entirely new path,” Deacon Bartels says. “It hasn’t been easy. It’s not a path most people choose to take. In fact, there’s no shortage of people who misunderstand the whole point of it. Some even think it’s a ridiculous enterprise. However, the study of theology has, by the grace of God, opened up opportunities in my life to really make a difference in the lives of others by serving Christ.” “If I could do a retake, I wouldn’t change a thing—except maybe listen a little more attentively and start the whole process earlier,” he says.
September 10, 2019

Liturgical Music Composer Returns to CDU to Pursue MA

Todd Christopher Mesler, Jr., (at left) earned his BA in Theology in 2017 and is now working toward his MA (Theology) degree. A published composer of liturgical music, Todd serves as the director of music and youth ministry for Immaculate Conception Parish in Monroe, Missouri. “The study of theology has made all the difference in the world in my career,” Todd says. “As a music director, I am constantly planning and preparing music to go with the readings, interacting with the clergy and laity, and so much more. In my work as a youth minister, I am always on call to answer any and all questions I can about the faith. Both positions call for me to rooted deeply in my faith with the knowledge and understanding to ground me.” “CDU offers a learning experience unlike any other,” Todd says. “The university, while global, still offers a feel of closeness and connectedness to all of the students, faculty, and staff. I leave each class with a good relationship with the teachers and my fellow classmates. The material is amazing, and the learning platform is very user friendly! Every teacher has been extremely helpful, kind, and truly Christ-like. I feel very blessed to be a part of the CDU community and to study here.” “Immaculate Conception Parish is a faith-filled community fervent in prayer and devotion to Our Mother,” Todd says. His typical work day can include playing music and singing at Mass, preparing music for the liturgies, running rehearsals, planning events and meetings, and interacting with a multitude of people involved in the ministry. As youth minister, Todd leads teens in faith formation through Mass, Life Nights, Edge Nights, and service and social activities that are organized by a group of dedicated and faithful adults. “The theology that I’ve learned from CDU so far has made an immense difference,” he says. Todd, who has been composing liturgical music for 12 years, got his start after beginning to play music at Mass. “I began to feel the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to write music for the Church and began writing music for psalm settings to be used at daily Mass, and it grew from there,” he says. Todd found that writing music became part of a special relationship and prayer. “It continually called me to reach beyond myself and deeply study and pray on the words,” he adds. When asked what led him to study theology, Todd says, “I’ve always had a desire to learn about our faith, however it wasn’t until after I read Story of a Soul, the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, that I decided to follow and pursue that calling. St. Therese’s little way truly taught me the importance of giving myself fully to God in all that I do, especially through my music, relationships, schooling, and work.”
WHAT OUR GRADUATES ARE SAYING ABOUT CDU
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As reported in CDU’s 2018 DEAC Annual Report, based on program exit survey data.

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