President Honored for Service to the Church and Catholic Higher Education

On September 17th, Dr. Marianne Evans Mount was awarded Christendom College’s St. Catherine of Siena Award for Distinguished Service to the Church and Catholic Higher Education. The award was presented at the college’s 45th anniversary, which featured an academic convocation.

President Mount, who is recognized widely as an innovative leader in the field of education, encouraged students, faculty, and staff to always make Christ present. “Like Jesus Christ, His beloved Son, to be a Christian is to be a teacher. May your knowledge and witness make Christ present wherever you go and wherever you are,” she said in her acceptance remarks.

Also honored at the event were Leonardo Defilippis of Saint Luke Productions, who received the Fra Angelico Award for Excellence in Fine Arts in Service to the Beauty of the Catholic Faith, and Dr. John Bruchalski of Tepeyac OB/GYN, who received the college’s Pro Deo et Patria Award for Service to God and Country.

Mission Scholarship Makes Dream a Reality for DRE in Alaska

Mission scholar Heather Pariera Kimmerling, the Director of Religious Education (DRE) of St. Nicholas Catholic Church in North Pole, Alaska, graduated summa cum laude with an MA degree in Theology in May. Heather has wanted to earn a Theology degree since she began working in ministry. “I felt super unqualified because of the lack of this particular background. It seemed like I was working with people who had at least studied it a bit,” she says.

Heather earned two BAs, in Spanish and International Studies, and an MA in Teaching, at Willamette University. “I would have pursued a Theology degree sooner, but I am still paying off my student loans, and I had no interest in adding to my student debt,” she says. “The Mission scholarship offered to me was the turning point that made this dream a reality.”

“I have been blessed with the spiritual gift of faith, which I believe has allowed me to frequently know things that I have never formally studied,” she adds. “However, my studies at CDU have provided me with information and details that allow me to understand and explain things at a deeper level than I would have been able to otherwise.”

Heather has worked at St. Nicholas parish since 2015, which she describes as “very tight knit, welcoming, and family-friendly.” There are lots of families and children, and with the parish located between an Army and Air Force base, there is lots of parish turnover. “The Holy Spirit is very alive and present within the community,” she says.

Heather and her husband moved to Alaska from Oregon in 2013. “The cold here isn’t as bad as it might seem,” she says. “It’s a dry cold. I will take –20 degrees here any day to 30 degrees in NW Oregon.” Religious education classes are only cancelled if the temperature hits –40 degrees, or if the roads are icy due to freezing rain, she explains.

Yet, life in Alaska does come with challenges. “Educational opportunities in Alaska are severely limited, and those with a Catholic emphasis do not exist within the state. Having the opportunity for quality, Catholic, online education was a godsend,” Heather says, though internet access was a problem initially. When she began her studies, Heather did not have home internet and had to work out of the library or other public spaces with a connection. “Internet access is severely limited in the state; satellite internet is expensive and unreliable as the satellites aren’t this far north,” Heather says.

“When COVID hit and everything shut down, things became a lot more difficult for me because I no longer could go to the library or internet cafes to do schoolwork,” she says. She finally got internet at her home in November of 2020.

“I also experienced a bunch of health issues while pursuing this degree, the result of spiritual warfare,” Heather explains. “CDU was very helpful, understanding, and cooperative through all of it. I am still supremely grateful for all of the staff’s prayers. Nevertheless, despite all of the hardships that I endured, CDU was available to provide me with this great opportunity from which I have emerged successful.”

Like her parents, who taught baptism preparation, sang in choirs, and served as catechists, Heather has always been involved in some form of service to the Church. “During high school, my mom provided music for the Saturday evening Mass, and I sang with her,” she says. While in college, Heather was active in the Newman ministry. Then she taught high school Spanish for two years and worked as a parish secretary at her local church. She was active in a young adult group, helping to coordinate the activities, and she led the youth and young adult choir.

Between college and her return to parish work, Heather faced a few life challenges, including a divorce and a job loss due to downsizing. Her mom invited her to a non-denominational Bible study of Genesis in 2006, and she began attending. In September 2008, her home parish—St. Anthony’s in Forest Grove, Oregon—started advertising for a religious education position that was part Young Adult Ministry and part Pre-K – 6th grade.

“I decided to apply as my job search had yielded a few possibilities that had fallen through,” she says. “To be honest, I was applying predominantly for the Young Adult component and was unsure as to what I would do about the elementary school side. Remember, my teaching degree was for high school, and it’s a completely different approach to teaching.”

At the time, her Bible study was covering the life of Moses. “The pastor called me into his office to tell me that they wanted to interview me but that the position had changed to strictly Pre-K – 6th grade for the Anglo and Hispanic communities upon doing the exit interview with the former employee,” Heather  says. “I was honest with him and said that I would need to think, pray, and reflect on it.”

Reflecting on all of the questions Moses had for God when he told him to go back to Egypt and speak to the Pharaoh about letting his people go, she realized her feelings of “Why me? There’s got to be someone more qualified, and I don’t think I want to do this” were similar to those he had experienced. The phrase “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called” also began populating her thoughts. Feeling called, Heather took the position. She coordinated the Religious Education program for Pre-K through 6th grade students in the Anglo and Hispanic communities until her move to Alaska.

“I started my first day as a DRE firmly believing, as I still do, that had I not been participating in the Bible study, my heart would not have been in the state it needed to be for me to be able to say ‘yes’ to God’s call. For this reason, I am a major proponent of not just reading God’s Word, but actually studying it so that one applies it to his or her own life,” Heather says.

She enjoys sharing her faith with others in her role as a DRE. “The more I have come to learn about the Church, what she teaches, and God’s revelation, the more spectacular and the more in love with the Church I fall,” Heather says. “The interconnectedness of everything to God’s great love and mercy for us is so profound that there is no way anyone can honestly claim that He does not exist.”

Her biggest challenges at work often stem from the lack of formation of the parents. “The world/society we live in has succumbed so whole-heartedly to religious relativism—which I see as a form of the heresy gnosticism—and its effects on the members of the Church, particularly parents,” Heather says. “They don’t realize that relativism allows them to deify themselves because, in being able to say they can choose for themselves what the best way is to worship, God must be wrong, and if He is wrong, then He cannot be God, and they themselves must be, for only gods know all.”

“In working with them during the preparation of their children for First Communion, I strive to help them see the truth of God’s revelation, the importance of the sacraments, the significance of the Mass, and how the Eucharist is the very heart of who we are as Catholics. It always saddens me when the parents clearly just don’t get it,” Heather says. “I pray for them and that their hearts may be unhardened. However, this sadness does find a great deal of comfort in knowing that those I teach in RCIA all choose to become Catholic out of their desire to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.”

“My husband, who is unbaptized, is very proud and supportive of me,” Heather adds. “I am currently praying about how God would like me to use the degree and pursuing a few possibilities. I still like participating in the non-denominational Bible Study—it spiritually feeds me, even though I have to take some things with a few grains of salt, although I took a hiatus while pursuing the degree. I look forward to jumping back in this Fall to share my newly acquired understanding of God’s revelation with our Protestant brothers and sisters.”

Online Continuing Education Apologetics Seminar Offered in October

Registration is now open for The Art of Evangelization through Apologetics, which will be held October  3–24. Participants will learn to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others in a natural and engaging way, as Jesus did, and why being a credible believer is the most effective apologetic tool.

The seminar will be taught by Allan F. Wright, an author, professor, speaker, and Catholic radio show host who has a passion for scripture and the Catholic faith. He will cover current trends in the Church, models for evangelization, parish structures that support effective evangelization, and the role of apologetics in making disciples of all nations.

Professor Wright says, “While articulating the truth of the Gospel, we need the relational tools to start a conversation, build trust, serve, and then propose who Jesus Christ is. To quote St. Bernadette, ‘Our job is to inform, not convince.’”

Taking this seminar fulfills 1 continuing education unit for those who need to earn these units yearly to fulfill requirements.

Tuition is just $99. To register, visit https://www.pathlms.com/cdu/courses/38096.

MA Grad Looks Forward to Sharing the Faith with Others

Dan Soares recently earned his MA degree in Theology and Educational Ministry while working full time as CDU’s IT director. Born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, Dan was raised Catholic and was an active participant in the life of the Church, serving as an altar boy, a reader at Mass, and as a choir master and youth leader.

With a mathematical mind and a strong interest in science, Dan earned his undergraduate degree in Physics at the University of Mumbai at the age of 21. “The curriculum was rigorous and very much focused on memorization instead of practical application, unlike our system of education in the U.S.,” he says.

Like many other young Catholics in India and elsewhere, Dan fell away from the Church. “At the age of 23, I left to join a Pentecostal church in Bombay,” he says. “During my time as a Protestant, I encountered God through Sacred Scripture, through fellowship with other ‘believers,’ and in the movement of the Holy Spirit in my life. They taught me to love God’s word, to see God as my Heavenly Father, to pray, and to seek to be a disciple. For this, I am very grateful.”

Dan’s parents wanted their children to have better opportunities, so they immigrated to the United States with Dan, his brother, and sister in 1987. The family’s port of entry was New York, where they lived for a number of years. “My uncle, Monsignor Nicholas Soares, was the first in my family to come to the U.S., and he sponsored his brother (my dad) and his other siblings,” Dan says. Adjusting to life in the U.S. was not especially difficult for Dan, who turned 26 the year he arrived.

“Catholics in India are fairly westernized,” he says, “and we spoke English at home, so language was not an issue.” Dan did have to speak slower to be understood, and he needed to learn local idioms and cultural practices that were different. “I quickly came to realize that ‘How are you?’ is the American equivalent of ‘hello.’ They weren’t really asking how I was doing. Community is a big deal in India, and I
missed that in the individualistic culture that is part of the way of life in the U.S,” he says.

Reflecting on his time away from the Church, Dan is reminded of the famous Fulton Sheen quote: “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”

“In the 30+ years that I was away, Jesus’ prayer for unity (John 17:20–23) was a constant thorn in my flesh,” Dan says. “I could not reconcile that with the numerous denominations around me.” He also recognized that there was no ultimate authority to settle doctrinal disputes among Protestant brethren. “If you disagreed with a doctrine, you left and found a church that agreed with what you believed, or you started a new church.”

“God used some painful circumstances in my own family to start my journey back to the Catholic Church,” Dan says. “After a couple of years of reading the Catechism, attending daily Mass (while discerning what to do), calling Catholic Answers with my questions, and interacting with other converts to the Catholic faith, I finally returned to the Catholic Church at Easter in 2013.” When asked what inspired him to study theology, Dan points to his lack of formation. “Because I was so poorly formed in Catholic teaching and so easily led away from the faith, I wanted to understand why the Church teaches what it does and to be equipped to help ‘cultural’ Catholics who have grown up in Catholic homes but have not really appropriated the faith for themselves.”

“The MA program at CDU was challenging because I was working a full-time job while going to school,” Dan says. “It really helped that I was very interested in Theology as a subject, so that kept me going.”

Now that he has earned his degree, Dan plans to get involved in Faith Formation at his parish in the near future. In the past, he served in the choir, RCIA, and led a Men’s group and Bible study. When asked what the biggest takeaway from his educational journey is, Dan responds, “The knowledge I have acquired is not for my own sake, but rather to be shared with others. I look for opportunities to
share my faith with others, to pray with them, to meet them wherever they may be in their journey, and
accompany them.”

“Getting a well-rounded education in Theology in an online setting where I could study at my own pace” is what Dan enjoyed the most about CDU. He highly recommends the program to others, both as a staff member and as one who has critically evaluated the program as a student. “This is a fantastic program with a great curriculum that is faithful to Church teaching and amazing professors who love the Catholic faith and are gifted teachers,” he says.


“The online format is convenient for working adults because it lets you learn at your own pace in the
comfort of your own home, and the school is accredited by multiple agencies, so you can be assured that high standards are being met.”

Online Seminar Offered in August: Making the Case for Christ

Making the Case for Christ, offered August 8–29, 2022, will help Catholics strengthen their faith and develop objective and persuasive reasons for belief, which are valuable for sharing with those who may doubt the historical reality, divinity, or resurrection of Jesus. This continuing education seminar will help attendees better perform the Spiritual Works of Mercy to “counsel the doubtful” and “instruct the uninformed.” Making the Case for Christ is one of six online Apologetics seminars offered. Students who complete all six will earn a Non-Credit Basic Certificate in Apologetics.

The course instructor, Steven R. Hemler, is President of the Catholic Apologetics Institute of North America (CAINA). He is author of a trilogy of apologetics books, The Reality of God: The Layman’s Guide to Scientific Evidence for the CreatorSearch No More: The Keys to Truth and Happiness, and Catholic Stories of Faith and Hope: How God Brings Good Out of Suffering.

Learn more and enroll today at https://www.pathlms.com/cdu/courses/42287.

Higher Learning Commission Accredits CDU

On June 23, 2022, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) granted initial accreditation to Catholic Distance University for its undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs.
Accreditation by the HLC provides assurance that an institution meets high standards in all aspects of educational quality, institutional capabilities, and governance, with a commitment to continuous improvement. HLC is the largest of six historically regional accreditors in the United States recognized by the Department of Education to accredit the nation’s institutions of higher education. In response to new regulations from the Department of Education, several of the historically regional accreditors have recently eliminated their geographic boundaries, expanding their accreditation service area to the entire United States.

President Dr. Marianne Evans Mount, who has served as president since 2008, lauded the landmark accomplishment. “Catholic Distance University celebrates with joy our welcome as an accredited member of the Higher Learning Commission and the broader higher education community of accredited schools. The hard work and adherence to high academic accrediting standards and practices have strengthened CDU and given further assurance to our students and graduates of the value of their educational credentials. We look forward to the witness of their service to the Catholic Church and the world, as they strive to serve the common good and especially the underserved.”

“CDU is now recognized with the same accreditation as many of the most prestigious brick and mortar universities in the U.S.,” said Board Chairman Steve Pryor. “This major milestone marks the beginning of the next stage of CDU’s mission: to communicate the mind and heart of the Church to a wider audience. As trustee Sr. Mary Brendon Zajac observed, this should be viewed ‘…as a Commencement rather than a Graduation….the real work is just beginning.’”

University Chancellor Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, who heads the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, said, “The news that the Higher Learning Commission has accredited Catholic Distance University offers a significant recognition to the commitment of the CDU community to academic excellence. I hope that this decision will be an impetus for the growth of the university and one more sign of its role in forming committed scholars especially in the theological sciences.”

Students will benefit in newfound ways from HLC accreditation, which ensures a quality of education that the general public has the right to expect and that the educational community recognizes widely.

Register Now for Fall Classes

Enrollment in fall classes is underway at Catholic Distance University, which is waiving the application fee through the end of 2022 to give students a break during these tough economic times. Students appreciate CDU’s 8-week-long online courses, affordable tuition, and faithfully Catholic focus. The university is also known for its exceptional faculty, personalized approach to education, and small class sizes.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency list, CDU falls in the lowest 10% for tuition rates among 4-year not-for-profit universities nationwide.

Once admitted, students can begin classes in either the Fall I term, which starts on August 22nd, or the Fall II term, which begins on October 24th.

 Because all of CDU’s programs offered online, students living at home have no room and board costs to pay, and many choose to work part-time while attending. All of these factors help CDU students earn their degrees while avoiding the debt that has become so common in higher education today. Because classes have no set meeting times, students can manage work and family responsibilities while completing coursework at times that fit their schedules.

 Unlike many universities, CDU allows students to begin taking courses part-time. Students may choose to begin with one or two classes. Fall is the perfect time to begin or continue earning college credits! For more information, or to apply for free and enroll in the fall terms, click the “Apply Now” button at the top of the page or contact admissions director Todd Nolan at admissions@cdu.edu.

 

Double Graduate Shares God’s Love through Missionary Work

Emily Rybak, who is an apostolate of the missionaries of the Servant Sisters, earned both her AA and BA degrees at CDU and has been accepted into the MA in Theology program. “Every course formed my intellect in a particular way in which my heart was then able to connect the paradoxical reality of coming to know Christ more fully while simultaneously growing in awe of the mystery He is,” she says. “All of the courses and  faculty members were excellent and truly work to engage the students in cultivating a  rich and vibrant understanding of academics in light of the beauty of the Church.”

Emily says that her education has prepared her in numerous ways for her work, “but the focal point is Christ. CDU truly emphasizes that in the midst of science, philosophy,  literature, logic, idiomatics, history, morality, theology, soteriorology, and so forth, Christ is the center of it all. If Christ is the center of everything I pursue, including academics, then I can rest assured that my work will bear good, holy fruit.”

Emily was prompted to do missionary work with the Servant Sisters after an experience she had before the Blessed Sacrament nearly four years ago. She was in adoration one day and had a vivid and powerful desire to encounter Christ more fully and, in turn, love Him better. “When I expressed this to The Lord and placed this desire in His hands, He

opened the eyes of my heart in a particular way, and in doing so, I began to see Him all  the more in the individuals I would encounter everyday,” she says. “I fell in love with His presence in others and recognized the immense ways in which He was inviting me to  love Him in others.”

Emily’s work is wide ranging. She says, “I have the immense privilege of serving our brothers and sisters in Christ on various levels, such as in the pro-life field, substance  abuse recovery centers, teaching religious education, retreats and formation meetings focused on the youth, and media platforms (such as the Promethean Perspective Podcast) that engage families to embrace the gift of the domestic church, as well as numerous other opportunities to console, strengthen, and tend to the Body of Christ.”

As in all things, there are always challenges, but when challenges are met with love, they can become great joys. “The poverty of a missionary life produces the gift of  interior freedom, the freedom to follow Christ when He calls,” Emily explains. “The joy of laying one’s life down out of love for God and neighbor produces a peace that is never based upon the daily circumstances but on how Christ is inviting us to trust Him in the midst of it all.”

She sees the study of theology as a vibrant experience of appreciating truth, goodness, and beauty all bound together. “I learned all the more who I was, but moreover, who I am in light of who God is. There is nothing more good, true, or beautiful that I could do with my life than to share the power of God’s love with the world or maybe even just one lost soul. We were made for greater things, not grander but greater, and often those things come by way of a humble joyful soul focused on Christ,” Emily says.

Emily, one of six siblings, was born and raised on a farm in the valley of the Blue Ridge  Mountain Range on the east coast. “The daily commitment of farm work and the  consistency of the wholesome lifestyle therein focuses and disciplines you in numerous ways, particularly because you recognize you are part of something larger, a team effort,” she says. “This ‘farmer strong’ mentality applies to many areas of life and was a great gift that I received from my childhood. My parents did an excellent job in cultivating a flourishing domestic church, and having this consistency as a youth was crucial to my formation. Consistency in that which is virtuous is key for holiness and is a golden thread that teaches you to embrace sanctity day by day, moment by moment, out of love for Christ.”

She looks forward to earning her MA degree in Theology. “This privilege will only unlock more doors through which I can walk and serve Him all the more!” Emily says.

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