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.

Compelling Online Seminar Proves the Existence of God

Join us from June 13th through July 4th for an online seminar: Proclaiming the Reality of God: Compelling Evidence of God’s Existence. The cost to enroll is just $89! Have you ever needed to answer the question, “Does God exist?” Given our increasingly secular society and the atheistic worldview often promoted by the mainstream media and academic/scientific establishment, the need to equip Catholics to credibly, convincingly, and compellingly explain and share why we believe in God has never been greater.

Taught by Professor  Steven Hemler, President of the Catholic Apologetics Institute of North America, this online apologetics seminar presents compelling scientific evidence, philosophical reasons, and insights drawn from human nature demonstrating God’s existence. This seminar will help us better perform the spiritual works of mercy to “counsel the doubtful” and “educate the uninformed. Enroll today!

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.

 

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.”

Bishop Robert Barron Receives CDU’s Highest Honor

Bishop Robert Barron receives Founders Award at the 38th Gala. From left to right: CDU Chairman Stephen D. Pryor, President Dr. Marianne Evans Mount, Bishop Robert Barron, and Chancellor Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio.

The November 18th Gala offered supporters, graduates, faculty, staff, and students an opportunity to celebrate the university’s 38th year and to look toward its future. The Academic Convocation Mass, with principal celebrant University Chancellor Archbishop Timothy Broglio, included a graduation ceremony for the classes of 2020 and 2021.

The Gala program featured Bishop Robert Barron, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles and founder of Word on Fire, who received the Founders Award, CDU’s highest honor, for his use of the internet and social media to spread Christ’s teachings throughout the world. His work dovetails with CDU’s own mission to communicate the mind and heart of the church in a digital world. Watch the Gala program and Mass videos!

We look forward to celebrating with you in 2022!

Stephen D. Pryor Elected Chairman of the Board

At the January meeting of the CDU Board of Trustees, Stephen D. Pryor was elected to serve as chairman of the Board of Trustees effective March 15, 2021. He succeeds Dr. Charles R. Wasaff, who has been a CDU trustee since 2012 and chairman since October 2017.

“CDU has a life-changing impact on its students in terms of the growth of faith and service to the Church. We are excited about the opportunities ahead to extend the University’s reach and share its expertise as a pioneer in Catholic distance education,” said Mr. Pryor.

President Dr. Marianne Evans Mount said, “I am thrilled to welcome Stephen Pryor as our new Board Chair effective March 15, 2021. CDU has been blessed with extraordinary board leadership in the work of retiring Board Chair Dr. Charles Wasaff. That tradition will continue with Stephen Pryor.”

“Steve brings remarkable corporate success with a deep commitment to the Catholic Church and the mission of Catholic Distance University. He is a strategic thinker with great insights about current opportunities and CDU’s strength as the only and exclusively online Catholic university whose expertise in theological education impacts all areas of knowledge. I am privileged to work with him,” she continued.

A highly accomplished business executive with a long history of service to the Church and Catholic organizations, Mr. Pryor brings a wealth of experience and visionary leadership to the role of chairman. He retired as president of ExxonMobil Chemical Company in 2015 after more than 43 years of ExxonMobil service. Before his appointment in 2008 as president of ExxonMobil Chemical Company, he was president of ExxonMobil Refining and Supply Company and president of ExxonMobil Lubricants and Specialties Company. He also served as vice president of Exxon Mobil Corporation from 2004 until his retirement.

Before the merger of Exxon and Mobil in 1999, Mr. Pryor was executive vice president of Mobil International Marketing and Refining and president of Mobil Asia Pacific. He joined Mobil Corporation in 1971 in the U.S. Marketing Division and went on to lead marketing / refining and chemical business units in Cyprus, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Mr. Pryor is a trustee emeritus of Lafayette College and former vice chair of the board. He is a director and retiring board chair of The Immokalee Foundation and a director of the Foundation for Government Accountability. He earned a BA in Biology from Lafayette College and an MBA from Harvard University.

With CDU’s Graduate School of Theology having received accreditation from The Association of Theological Schools in 2020, CDU is poised for growth in both its student body and educational offerings.  The university has also just embarked on a newly adopted strategic plan. The Board and staff look forward to Mr. Pryor’s service to the university as Board chair. He was first elected to the Board of Trustees in October 2017.

Professor Bonagura Publishes Second Book

Undergraduate Theology professor David Bonagura, Jr., has published a new book: Staying with the Catholic Church: Trusting God’s Plan of Salvation, which explains the mystery of the Church and why we need her to encounter Christ in light of contemporary challenges. The book can be ordered on Amazon.

Professor Bonagura, who also teaches Theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y., was inspired to write the book in 2018, after the revelation of a new wave of scandals within the Church hierarchy. “So many Catholics were angry, confused, and questioning how such things could happen in God’s Church,” he says. “These reactions are understandable–I shared them. But, if the Church is what we know in faith that she is–the Body of Christ, the temporal extension of the Incarnation–then there has to be more to her than the sins of her members.”

“I set out to explain what the Church is, why Christ founded her, and what her mission is in the hope that Catholics would understand that the Church is a great mystery, a collection of sinners ministering divine healing to sinners, that is worthy not only of our continued support, but our faithful love,” Professor Bonagura says.

People are turning away from the Church in increasing numbers today. “Cascading waves of secularism and radical individualism have caused people to move away from organized religions. Added to this are the Church scandals and lack of understanding the essential truths of our faith,” Professor Bonagura says. “The way to return Catholics to the Church is the same way in which people have been brought into her for centuries, all across the globe: bold proclamation that Christ and His Church are necessary for our salvation, coupled with a tireless witness of Christ-inspired charity toward other people. Scandal draws people away from the Church. Holiness attracts them. The degree to which we live out our baptismal call to holiness will predict how successful we are in bringing people back into the Church.”

Professor Bonagura published the highly rated Steadfast in Faith: Catholicism and the Challenges of Secularism in 2019, which is also available on Amazon.

 

Faculty Member Publishes Book on Catholic Priesthood

Professor Rev. Bevil Bramwell, OMI, has published a new graduate textbook on the philosophical and theological aspects of the priesthood. The bishops and their assistants, the priests, participate to different degrees in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. This book focuses more on the priest, exploring the rich and profound theological background of the priesthood as well as the shattering distraction of scandal. The liturgy, spirituality, the intellectual life, and even the life of Saint John Vianney, the Patron of Pastors, are also covered. The Catholic Priesthood: A 360 Degree View can be purchased on Amazon.com.

MA Grad Reflects on Growth in Knowledge and Faith

In 2017, I was living with my husband and four children in Hawaii where the Army had sent us. While my youngest son was only two years old at the time, I started thinking about what kind of job I wanted to have when he would start Kindergarten. In what I can only describe as a “Holy Spirit moment,” I realized with great clarity that I should shift gears away from my background in business administration towards working in Religious Education. This would build on my previous experience as a corporate trainer and my volunteer experience at several military chapels where I had been active as a Catechist and as a leader in women’s ministries. I felt, and still feel, that Religious Education is the perfect sweet spot where I can use my skills and talents for something that brings me joy, helps others, and serves God.

That summer, the previous Catholic Religious Education Coordinator (CREC) at the military chapel in Hawaii moved, and her position became open. The way the military works, I had to make a bid for my contract and was fortunate enough to be selected. The Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS) requires that all DREs and CRECs obtain a basic certificate in Catechesis, but I chose to go for a graduate certificate. Ever since I started learning about my faith on an adult level during my pre-cana religious education, I have loved growing in knowledge and being challenged to grow in faith.

I researched different Catholic universities but chose CDU because the whole program was designed to be exclusively online, a major benefit for military families who move often and have crazy schedules, because of its existing partnership with the AMS, and because of the course descriptions. The application process was easy, and very soon I started my first course, THEO 503: The Catholic Theological Tradition, with Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio. I realized that I had found a “home,” and because I enjoyed studying theology so much, I applied to switch from a graduate certificate to the MA in Theology and Educational Ministry degree program.

During my different classes, I found several classmates who were connected to the military including some on active duty joining from downrange. It helped me to feel understood when I shared about my work. Military chapels are unique in that most of the time, different Christian denominations and even other religions share buildings and resources. My studies helped me tremendously by letting me understand what the other denominations’ viewpoints were and how to defend the Catholic position firmly but charitably. THEO 640: Presenting the Faith in the Modern World was one of my most impactful courses in this regard. Another challenge in the military community is that the soldiers and families come from all of the different corners of our immensely diverse Catholic faith. In addition, frequent moves and the stressful life of training and deployments make it harder to build community and to form a team of well-trained Catechists. What helped me be successful was the emphasis on kerygmatic Catechesis and the conversion of the baptized that I took away from my courses SPIR 501: Applied Catholic Spirituality and RELED 560: Principles of Catholic Education.

Now that my husband has retired from the military and we moved back to his hometown, I work at the civilian parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Indianapolis, IN. When I interviewed for the position, the Director of Religious Education of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis told me how highly he thinks of CDU. The main difference from my previous job is that I am now also working with the associated Catholic elementary school. I love that my children for the first time are able to attend a Catholic school and that I can assist in integrating faith formation with elementary education for them, as well as develop a strategy for life-long faith formation for all members of the parish.

CDU has certainly prepared me by providing me the necessary theological knowledge and practical skills to be a Director of Religious Education, but what I appreciated the most is that the school and faculty went beyond that and helped me to not only grow in knowledge but in my personal faith as well. While I am still far away from sainthood, I am a better disciple now than before I attended CDU.—Ute Eble, MA in Theology and Educational Ministry (2020) 

 

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