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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.”
August 6, 2019

CDU Partners with Shepherd University

On July 23rd Catholic Distance University signed a Memorandum of Understanding and an articulation agreement with Shepherd University, a state university in West Virginia. The agreement allows students who earn CDU’s AA degree in the Liberal Arts with a Concentration in Catholic Studies to continue on at Shepherd University to earn a Regents Bachelor of Arts (RBA) degree. The documents were signed by CDU President Dr. Marianne Evans Mount and Shepherd University Provost Dr. Scott Beard. Also in attendance from Shepherd University were Dr. Virginia Hicks, assistant provost for academic community outreach, and Beth Thomas, RBA program coordinator. Shepherd University’s RBA program was designed to help students work around life’s challenges to earn a bachelor’s degree. CDU expects the program to be particularly attractive to Catholic students in West Virginia, who may choose to earn CDU’s online AA degree in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Catholic Studies to save money while living at home and to become better grounded in the faith before heading off to Shepherd University to earn a Bachelor’s degree. At just $305 per credit hour, CDU’s AA degree is an affordable option. “We are excited about the opportunities for our students,” said Dr. Marianne Evans Mount, “and continuing opportunities for our faculty to work together and explore ways of expanding our curriculum. We are thrilled to be working with a state university like Shepherd University.” Dr. Scott Beard said, “We are really appreciative of this opportunity to collaborate with Catholic Distance University and to really have some clear degree pathways for a new population of students. We look forward to future collaborations with Catholic Distance University.”
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