Mary Kate Budd, pictured with her fiancé, Jason, recently completed her AA degree in Liberal Arts while working full-time for the Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan. “CDU gave me a chance that I didn’t think I would have at first–a chance to study theology online in a way that would be easy for me as a working young adult,” she says.
With a passion for youth ministry, Mary Kate looks forward to using her education to share with young people the beauty of having a relationship with Jesus. “I can’t wait to use the tools that I have gained from CDU to accomplish what Christ is calling me to,” she says.
Mary Kate attended Franciscan University at Steubenville at first, where she planned to major in English for a career in education. While she loved the university, it was expensive. To avoid being saddled with student loan debt, she decided not to return following freshman year and switched to a community college near home.
One day her brother suggested that she should look into studying theology. “It was then that a light bulb went on in my head,” she says. “Why in the world had I never considered that before?” Mary Kate found the major to be a perfect fit.
Knowing she would have to pursue her education online because she was working full time, she began researching programs. “Eventually, I stumbled upon Catholic Distance University, read the entire website, and applied that very same night. It was with joy that I found out a few weeks later that I had been accepted and that a lot of my credits had also transferred,” she says.
“I liked how helpful the professors were and how concerned they were for their students,” Mary Kate says. “I also enjoyed the interactions I had with my fellow classmates. Every class started with an introduction, and it was so interesting to read about all the different classmates I had, where they came from, and all the different walks of life they came from as well.”
Kathy Vestermark, her first professor at CDU, was her favorite. She teaches THEO 101 and THEO 102, which cover the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “Professor Vestermark was always ready to help, and studying under her was such a pleasure,” Mary Kate says. “We were truly able to dive into the beauties of theology in those classes, and she did such a wonderful job presenting the Catechism to us.”
Mary Kate grew up in a strong, close-knit, faith-filled Catholic family as the youngest of six children. “Growing up, my mom would take us all to Mass every day and to Perpetual Adoration at least once a week. I grew up learning through the Baltimore Catechism and reading books about the Saints. The Faith was just a part of our daily lives,” she says. As she grew older, the Faith fascinated her, and she wanted to learn more. “My Confirmation in 2007 at the age of 14 was such a joyful moment, and it spurred me on to continue learning,” she says.
“When I came back home from Franciscan, I knew I was going to need to find a community of young Catholics to back me up after losing the community I had while away at college,” Mary Kate says. She joined a Catholic youth group at a local state university as well as a young adult group in her diocese that her sister had founded.
The groups were great for helping her grow in her faith and providing community, but they were small, and it was hard to gain traction and the attention of Catholic young people. Going to Mass on any given Sunday she noticed high attendance among older people but few young people. “This broke my heart, and I knew something needed to change,” she says. “I wanted to show other young Catholics not only how fun our groups were, but how beautiful the Catholic Faith was, and the love that can only come from a relationship that has to constantly be growing with Christ.”
“Through the two young adult groups I met my future husband, Jason,” Mary Kate says. He was in seminary at the time, but in early 2017, he announced that he would no longer be studying for the priesthood. “This sounds funny, but I was a bit disappointed! I thought he would make a great priest,” she says. After a while, they began dating. He proposed to her in the Adoration chapel she had routinely visited as a child. “I, of course, said yes,” she says. Their wedding is scheduled for June, and they look forward to having a family someday.
“After our marriage, I hope to be able to find a job in youth ministry in our area if I can and to keep learning and studying on my own the Catholic Faith. I hope to also enter the BA program at CDU at some point to earn my Bachelor’s degree in theology,” she says.
“But my biggest plan is, and will remain, God willing, that I will be able to help young people come to know, love, and serve God in this life, so to be happy with Him in the next.”