This year’s gala was our grandest event yet!

The November 17th Gala offered the CDU community an opportunity to celebrate the university’s 39th year and to look toward its future.

Archbishop Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco, received the Founders Award, CDU’s highest honor, for his “fearless pastoral leadership in upholding the truths of the Catholic Church.”

The Academic Convocation Mass, with principal celebrant Chancellor Archbishop Timothy Broglio, included a graduation ceremony for the class of 2021-2022. Four bishops and 15 priests concelebrated.

Click the button below to view and download photos from the gala, Academic Convocation Mass, and graduation ceremony, and to watch touching videos that show how CDU is advancing its mission.

High-Profile Professor to Teach New Graduate Course in January

CST 630 Respect for Life, Sex, Marriage, and Parenting: An Integrated Catholic Approach, a new 1-credit graduate course, is being offered in the Winter I term. The timely course will be taught by Helen M. Alvaré, J.D., M.A., a well-known law professor, dean, and published author and speaker.  She is currently Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the Robert A. Levy Chair in Law & Liberty, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University.

The course will explore the Catholic Church’s teachings concerning sex, marriage and parenting as part of Catholic social justice, so that students can communicate these more effectively in ways that are responsive to contemporary culture’s values, skepticism, and sometimes hostility. Students will learn to:

  • Explain the faith and reason informing the Church’s teachings on sex, marriage and parenting.
  • Discuss the relationship between Catholic sex, marriage, and parenting teachings and the “architecture of the faith,” specifically, God’s identity, how He loves us, and how He wants us to love Him and one another.
  • Describe the unity of Catholic teachings about sex, marriage, and parenting, and about social justice.
  • Articulate contemporary secular objections to Catholic sexual expression teachings and how to effectively respond to these.

Online Seminar: Why Would a Loving God Allow Evil, Pain, and Suffering?

(January 16–February 6, 2023)

This three-week seminar will help participants better understand and share with others how suffering can teach us spiritual truths, build our character, and stimulate growth in sanctity and holiness. The lessons learned will support participants as they undertake the Spiritual Works of Mercy to comfort the afflicted, counsel the doubtful, and teach the uninformed. The seminar is taught by Steven Hemler, President of the Catholic Apologetics Institute of North America.

Taking this seminar fulfills 1 continuing education unit. Coursework can be completed at your convenience during the dates posted.

Tuition is just $99. Enroll today!

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.”

Theology of Sacred Architecture Course Offered in Fall II Term

Uncover secret beauty hiding in plain sight with Theology of Sacred Architecture taught by Professor Erik Bootsma in the approaching Fall II term.

Class begins October 24th and registration is already open!

Theology of Sacred Architecture introduces the history, theology and symbolism of Catholic sacred architecture, focusing on how its development has affected the shape, configuration and use of the Catholic Church throughout various architectural styles and eras.

The class will trace the Church’s development from Pagan and Old Testament ideas of sacred architecture through the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Counter-Reformation and Vatican II.

Professor Bootsma is a prominent architect, lecturer and commentator. His work on sacred and classical architecture has appeared in journals and outlets such as First Things, Crisis Magazine, Catholic World Report, Adoremus and Catholic News Agency.

He has also lectured at the Catholic Art Guild, the Hillsdale College Kirby Center, the University of Notre Dame, Franciscan University of Steubenville and The Catholic University of America.

He holds a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture and an undergraduate degree in Liberal Arts from Thomas Aquinas College in California. He is a registered architect in the state of Virginia and has been in private practice since 2014, focusing on ecclesiastical architecture.

The cross-listed course (HUM 260 & THEO 290/590) fulfills Humanities or Theology credits at the undergraduate level or graduate level. Students will learn to:

  • Articulate the major periods of development in Catholic sacred architecture.
  • Identify the essential parts of a church and their theological symbolism, particularly the baptistry, the sanctuary, the altar and the tabernacle and the liturgical celebrations proper to each.
  • Have general knowledge of the various documents touching on sacred architecture and general knowledge of the canonical and conciliar decrees about sacred Architecture and the liturgy.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of a given design in communicating theology of the Catholic Faith.

Those interested in understanding the role of sacred architecture and art in the Catholic Church’s theology and liturgy should complete their application quickly as registration is already underway for the Fall II term, which begins October 24th. There is no application fee!

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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