Significant Grant to Fund New CST Educational Program

Catholic Distance University (CDU) was awarded a grant of $879,000 from Lilly Endowment Inc. in support of a significant new educational effort that the university is developing.

Given its mission to educate the Catholic leaders of tomorrow, CDU is designing and launching a first of its kind higher education curriculum in Catholic Social Teaching (CST). The grant will fund a new bilingual English-Spanish AA degree program designed for Hispanic Catholics, who will make up the majority of the population of Catholics in the coming years, and a graduate certificate program. These new, affordable online offerings in CST will provide education to priests, deacons, and lay ecclesial ministers as they seek to serve their faith communities. For this reason, CDU also envisions the programs as a springboard to greater collaboration with Catholic dioceses.

CDU Board Chair Steve Pryor said, “Catholic Social Teaching is that body of teaching addressing human rights and responsibilities in society—beginning with the dignity of the human person and promotion of the family and extending to the global family—flowing from Jesus Christ’s ‘Great Commandment’ to love God, and to love one another as He has loved us.”

While the Catholic Church has a broad and deep teaching regarding social problems, Catholic pastoral leaders feel insufficiently knowledgeable when faced with the very real challenges of immigration, racism, poverty, and family breakdown.

Bishop Robert Barron, a great proponent of CST, according to Mr. Pryor, noted at a recent CDU gala dinner, “It (CST) is essential to the new evangelization and provides a lens through which to view the issues of our time more clearly.”  Continuing in his remarks, the bishop added that Catholic social teaching is “not just for us, it’s for the whole world. We need to propagate it, we need to teach it. We need to announce it from the rooftops.’”

CDU president Dr. Marianne Evans Mount affirms, “The University is well positioned to develop a new innovative CST curriculum to extend our reach to a growing underserved yet vital body of future Church leadership in Hispanic Catholics as well as to ordained and lay ministers.”

According to Dr. Mount, CDU’s new program is designed to do just that, by providing the clergy and laity the wisdom and insights needed to effectively address these issues at their local parish and ministry level.  There is great need in the Hispanic community to develop well-educated leaders for the Church of the 21st century. Understanding this need, CDU’s CST-focused, two-year online AA degree will help Hispanic Catholics achieve post-secondary education and provide a pipeline for future entry into seminaries, lay ecclesial ministries, and further academic study.

Recognizing the impact this new program could have on society both today and long into the future, The Lilly Endowment Pathway for Tomorrow Initiative awarded CDU the grant to fully launch the initiative.  This program from CDU speaks to the heart and focus of Lilly’s Endowment Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative: to prioritize and respond to the most pressing challenges and prepare pastoral leaders for Christian congregations both now and into the future.

Church Ministry Grant to Aid Those Who Serve

You asked, and we listened. Recognizing that many students serve the Church through volunteer or paid ministry work, a new Church Ministry Grant will be offered to help offset the cost of tuition, and it is available to students who have been accepted into an academic program.

Undergraduates who qualify will receive a grant of up to $20 per credit hour, and graduate students will receive up to $30 per credit hour. Visit the Paying for Education website page for full details and to access the application.

 

Winter II Term Features Fascinating Courses

Winter II classes begin on March 14th, and registration is well underway. Be sure to secure your spot in
the class of your choice soon, and add meaning to your Lenten journey through study while earning
credits! Here is a sampling of a few fascinating courses being offered.

SPIR 501 Applied Catholic Spirituality is a practical how-to course that will help you examine the state
of your personal conversion, learn the art of Christian meditation, the skillsets for the
discernment of spirits and the discernment of God’s will, and much more. A surprising
number of professionals who work for the Church do not have a solid prayer life. Don’t
let that be you! Taught by Dr. Carole Brown, who holds a PhD in Systematic Theology
from Milltown Institute, Dublin, Ireland, and serves as director of the Sioux Spiritual
Center, a small Catholic retreat center in the Diocese of Rapid City. As a Catholic lay
woman, Dr. Brown has been involved in various evangelistic ministries throughout the course of her
adult life.

CHIST 224 & 524 Church History II: Renaissance to Modern Church, the second of two survey courses,
will introduce you to the vast panorama of key issues, leaders, topics and patterns
related to Church history throughout the Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, and
into modernity. Taught by Dr. Marie Nuar, who received her STD in Theology from the
Pontifical University of St. Thomas, Rome; her STL in Missiology and MA in Jewish
Studies from the Pontifical Gregorian University; her License in Arabic and Islamic
Studies from the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies; and her MA in Theology from
Franciscan University of Steubenville.

 

BIO 101 General Biology will open your eyes to the wonder inside each of the 37.2 trillion cells of your
body. It will deepen your appreciation for the world around you and equip you to
grapple with the question of evolution from within the theological boundaries set by
the Church. Taught by Dr. Catherine Gara, an educator and writer who holds a PhD in
Biology from The Johns Hopkins University and specializes in “translating” scientific
research into lay language.

 

Inspired by Son, Double Alumna Perseveres

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.

New Continuing Ed Platform Features Updated Courses for Just $89

Our new, mobile-friendly continuing education platform featuring updated courses and certificate programs is open for registration. We’ve slashed the course price nearly in half with a special introductory rate of $89 for students from dioceses that do not currently partner with CDU. Browse the site today, and be sure to bookmark the page for easy access. Follow the “Quick Start Guide” below to set up your account and begin registering!

If You Have Taken CDU Continuing Ed Courses Before:

If you had an account with us on Canvas, click on the Sign In button and click on Forgot Password to reset your password on the new system, and enter the email address you used for Continuing Education courses on Canvas.

After resetting your password, open your profile, click on Settings, verify the information, and save the profile. Then click on the Access Codes tab and enter your Diocesan Access Code (this is the same as the “promo code” you were given by your diocese. We’ve simply changed the name.). This only needs to be done once.  The code is saved to your profile, and when you register for a course, the discount is reflected in the price in your cart.

If You Have NOT Taken a CDU Continuing Ed Course Before:

Click on the Sign Up button, which leads to the registration form, and fill out all required fields. The last field on the form is the Diocesan Access Code, which must be entered if your diocese offers a discount through CDU. If you are unsure whether your diocese participates and has a code, check the list of partner dioceses at https://cdu.edu/group-subsidy/.

Proceed to the course catalog by clicking on Courses, pick a course you want to register for, and proceed to payment.

 

Deacon and DRE Reflects on Spiritual Insight Gained during Graduate Study

Deacon Fernando Enrique Luces (MA in Theology, 2021) is a permanent deacon at St. Rita’s Church in Long Island City, New York. He works as a director of religious education at Our Lady of Light Parish in the St. Albans neighborhood of Queens. Permanent deacons cannot work at the same parish they serve in his diocese.

“My studies have helped me feel more confident with my theological knowledge in general and in facing the challenges I have found in my work as a DRE,” Deacon Luces says. “As a deacon, I have developed a profound spiritual insight that I apply in the Catechesis with the students.”

“The flexible time to study, the classmates of various cultures, and the excellent faculty and staff made it possible for me to achieve my goals,” he adds.

Deacon Luces most enjoys working in the house of the Lord. “It is a blessing for me, because I have the  opportunity to pray daily with God in the tabernacle and ask His advice to work out any difficulties I might have,” he says.

A big challenge in the Diocese of Brooklyn during the pandemic is following the diocesan protocol. All attending Church must wear a face mask, take their temperatures, disinfect their hands, and keep their social distance. At the end of the Mass, the whole Church is clean and disinfected.

Deacon Luces is grateful to his wife, Roxana, for helping him with his diaconate and her support as he completed his theological studies. He likes to read religious books and watch classical religious movies in his free time. “Being grateful for the blessings and gift of God is what is essential and illuminates my service as a DRE and a deacon,” he says.

Reflecting on his undergraduate education, he says it was secular and not as challenging as his theological education. “My educational experience at CDU is incomparable,” he says. “I experienced the presence of God through constant prayer in my studies, who guided me spiritually all along.”

Winter II Term Features New Literature Course

New faculty member Brandon Harvey will teach ENG 111 Introduction to Literature in the Winter II term, which begins March 14th. Students who complete this 8-week course will become familiar with some of the most magnificent works of the great authors of the past and also become comfortable conversing about them to explore the ideas of today.

With the addition of this course, BA degree students can now complete all nine of their required English Language Arts credits at CDU.

ENG 111 is an initial survey of the importance of literature and some of the great works of Imaginative Literature. Professor Harvey will lead students through an examination of texts that provide examples of different literary forms and genres from various time periods to engage the Great Conversation of Western Civilization through such literature but also within the Catholic Tradition. Students will engage these masterpieces through both critical and reflective reading to develop and analyze key ideas.

Brandon Harvey has experience teaching children, teens, college students, and men in formation for the diaconate and has also served as headmaster of a Chesterton Academy. Besides teaching and speaking, he regularly works as a theological/editorial consultant for authors, publishers, screenwriters, producers, and occasionally actors.

Professor Harvey is in the process of completing a doctorate in the Great Books of Western Civilization at Harrison Middleton University in Tempe, Arizona, and has completed post-graduate studies at the Liturgical Institute, Mundelein, Illinois, and the International Marian Research Institute, Marian, Ohio. He earned his MA degree in Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.

Preparing the Incarcerated for Re-Entry

Drawing upon tremendous success in working with local ex-offenders, Gatekeepers—a nonprofit based in Hagerstown, Maryland—is producing a video series that will take their “Business of Living” re-entry program into state and federal prisons.

The 14-part series prepares the incarcerated for reentry into society with step-by-step instruction. This innovative program is being digitally reproduced and distributed by CDU’s digital prison ministry team in partnership with the Order of Malta Federal Association’s prison committee and will be offered online in prisons this Fall.

CDU’s educational outreach to the incarcerated, which began 38 years ago, continues to be strong with the loving support of Marguerite Trainor. Serving prisoners with Catholic courses has a profound impact on lives as exemplified in recent notes from students.

“These few words are to express my thanks for all your work and assistance with my religious education. May God continue to bless you and the ministry… On May 5, 2021, I was officially received into the Order of Preachers… I am expected to make my life promise in about one more year… Becoming a Dominican and working for God has been the best thing that has happened in my life!”—Mr. Harold R., O.P.

“Your institution is the center of my life. You have brought me to a place in my life which I had never envisioned, and for that I am grateful. There won’t be a time in my life in which I will not be learning with you and from you.”—MS

We are grateful to be able to serve the incarcerated Church and for the donations and grant support that enables us to serve the underserved.

New Five-Term Academic Calendar Adopted

Beginning with the 2021-22 academic year, five terms will be offered instead of six, which will allow for more breaks between terms and several recesses throughout the year, including one during Holy Week. This change was made in response to student feedback indicating a desire for final exam periods that do not extend into the next term and greater accommodation for the many students who assist with sacramental and liturgical preparation just before Easter. Now, just one summer term will be offered rather than two.

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