Deacon with Fascinating Career History Joins CDU Faculty

At St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Permanent Deacon Rick Bauer delivers a powerful sermon on the Eucharist as the true body and blood of Christ. He challenges the widely held belief among many sitting in the pews today that the Eucharist is symbolic. He concludes, “How about it, Catholics? As it becomes more difficult to accept this teaching, more will walk away, because there will always be convenient, palatable substitutes for the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. As for me and my family, in the Communion line, when they say ‘The body and blood of Christ,’ I will say ‘Amen.’” To further make his point, he has prepared a two-page parish bulletin insert that supports the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist with passages from Scripture, the Catechism, and the words of the Fathers of the Church.

Deacon Rick Bauer recently joined CDU’s faculty and will teach SCRPT 210 Reading Scripture Theologically and SCRPT 520 Pentateuch. He holds a ThM in Hebrew Bible from Harvard University Divinity School, an MA in Biblical Theology from The Augustine Institute, an MSc degree in the Management of Technology from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, and an MA degree in English from the University of Florida.

Deacon Rick is also a published author of three books, a technologist, and a member of the Permanent Diaconate Formation Program teaching faculty for the Diocese of Colorado Springs, where he has taught since his ordination in 2011, preparing groups of men–and their wives–for the challenges of being an ordained servant of Christ.  He currently serves as the review editor for The Colorado Catholic Herald as well.

A revert to the Catholic faith, Deacon Rick Bauer’s professional background includes stints as a Protestant minister in the Church of Christ, technology manager, consultant on cults for the FBI, and chief technology officer for the U.S. Presidential Inaugural Committee & Presidential Transition Team for President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney in 2000 and 2001. His career path—and faith life–have taken a long and circuitous path.

Deacon Rick was raised in a Catholic family and attended Catholic school halfway through high school, but he left the Church as an undergraduate at the University of Florida after being invited to an informal bible study. “I had accumulated a lot of ‘Catholic stuff’ but did not have it in any coherent form, nor could I recall anything much of value when I got to college,” he says. “I know what attracted me on campus to the evangelical Protestant outreach was their confidence in their biblical understanding (far more than mine), their friendliness and willingness to invite me to an informal bible study,” he says.

Though the bible study was billed as nondenominational, it turned out to be quite anti-Catholic. While he had serious questions about leaving the Faith and being baptized as a Protestant, there were no Catholic resources on campus for guidance, and he became a member of the Church of Christ.

“A lot of Catholics end up losing their faith in the first semester,” Deacon Rick says. “Most Catholics leave their faith from age 18-22, and only a few Catholics are really paying attention to this. That’s why my wife and I support the FOCUS outreach programs going on at many campuses in the United States, and here in the University of Colorado system,” he adds.

After graduating, he decided to forgo law school to join the Church of Christ ministry training program. The church was growing rapidly throughout the south, and he was offered a position as a campus minister at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Membership in the campus ministry swelled under his direction, but the rapid growth of the Church, lack of structure, and inexperience of the leaders led to splits in the church and disillusionment of the members. “Ignorance doesn’t scale very well,” he says.  He returned to the University of Florida to start a school of ministry and pursue a Master’s degree. Eventually, the leadership of the church in Gainesville became unaccountable, and Deacon Rick left for Boston to finish his Master’s degree in Hebrew bible at Harvard University’s Divinity School. At the time, he was still a minister in the church.

The more Deacon Rick studied and reflected on the bible at Harvard, the more he realized there were holes in Protestant theology and that the Old Testament didn’t need to be taken word for word as those in the evangelical movement believe.

But his renewal in the Catholic faith was ultimately driven by his realization that the Eucharist is truly the real presence of Christ; he remembered a wonderful experience he had had receiving Christ at Mass as a child. He resigned from his ministerial position in the Church of Christ, drawing ostracism and harassment from members. Toxic Christianity: The International Church of Christ/Boston Movement Cult, published in 1994, details his negative experiences in the movement. As a guest on EWTN’s The Journey Home, he tells the story of his return to the Catholic (the episode is available on YouTube).

After completing his degree at Harvard, he returned to Washington, D.C., to work as a technology manager in his father’s business and study at The Catholic University of America. One day in February 1993, he received a phone call. “It’s a strange call when the secretary says, ‘Mr. Bauer, FBI on line 2!’” he says. With a dangerous situation brewing at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, the FBI had called Harvard University for advice on dealing with cults, and his professor had recommended him as a consultant.

While in Boston, Deacon Rick had spoken with his advisor, “a brilliant man who was helping with his faith transitions,” about how some of the same settings for apocalyptic conflict in the Hebrew Bible might also occur with millennial expectation at the turn of the century, so in the 1990s he studied groups that had a biblical veneer but were cultic.

The situation in Waco tuned into a violent 51-day standoff between members of the sect and federal agents, four of whom were killed. Two members of the sect were killed in the fighting, and then a fire swept through the compound. “We had been studying this very issue–a cult-like, violent group, apocalyptic mindset, yet with a biblical exterior,” Deacon Rick says. “It was very interesting, and I consulted without pay, but it unfortunately resulted in needless violence and the death of 76 Branch Davidians, including 25 children, two pregnant women, and David Koresh (aka Vernon Howell) himself.”

In the 1990s Deacon Rick served as executive director for several technology organizations. He was working as the chief information officer for a school in Philadelphia, when James Baker III, an alum, board member, and parent, invited him to serve as a chief technology officer for the U.S. Presidential Inaugural Committee & Presidential Transition Team for President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney in 2000 and 2001.

Given the Bush/Gore election issue and the brief time for presidential transition, the inauguration, and staffing, the new administration was cut by about 50%. “Since by then I had an IT background, they asked me to help out,” Deacon Rick says. “It was a wonderful feeling to watch a hotly contested election get resolved and a peaceful transition of power take place,” he adds. “It made me proud to be a citizen of our great country.”

Deacon Rick eventually took a technology job in Colorado, where he was formally accepted back into the Catholic Church after years of study and consideration. “I was told by a Jesuit priest, ‘you would make a pretty good deacon’ soon after I was formally accepted back into the Catholic Church,” he says. “With all the years I had served as a Protestant minister, it was encouraging to have a few men in my life feel that there was something ‘still left in the tank’ with regard to ministry or teaching.”

“I had to “unlearn” a lot of things in my 5-year formation process, but my preparation in the biblical languages and in biblical studies could find fruitfulness, which has been humbling,” he says.

Bishop Barron to Receive Founders Award at Gala

We are excited to be hosting a traditional Gala this year!  Please join us on November 18th at the St. John Paul II Shrine in Washington, D.C., as we honor Bishop Robert Barron with the Founders Award and welcome him to the CDU community. His special address will be the heart of our program. This annual event is held to celebrate CDU’s mission, accomplishments, graduates, and to thank the growing number of donors and benefactors who support our work for the Church. 

CDU Advisory Board member Professor Helen Alvaré of the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University and well-known author and speaker will serve as our emcee for the evening.  Dr.  Joseph V. Braddock will be acknowledged as our first trustee emeritus as well.

Your presence and support are vital to our bold plans for the future. We look forward to seeing you as we join Bishop Barron in reflecting on the gift of media and technology to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ!  For more information, visit www.cdu.edu/gala.

Psychiatrist Treats Patients with Justice and Charity

Dr. Araceli V. Lardizabal-Carnazzo, MD, MA (Catechetical Diploma, ‘15; MA in Theology, ‘16), is a forensic psychiatrist and active in parish ministry in the Diocese of Monterey, California. She was working as a staff psychiatrist in a forensic hospital when she began studying theology at the graduate level and then added the Catechetical Diploma to better impart her enriched Catholic faith to others in an engaging way.

Forensic psychiatrists practice in the medical field that interfaces with the law and the court system and treat patients in a hospital, outpatient, correctional, crisis, or emergency setting. They must accurately diagnose patients; soundly prescribe psychotropic medications and/or psychotherapies; and make proper clinical judgments as the team leader in the treatment planning conferences that are held with the psychologists, nurses, social workers, psychiatric technicians, and each patient. They are also responsible for safely managing, with the ward team, the aberrant behaviors of mentally disordered violent or sexual offenders and those who may be feigning mental illness for personal gain.

“Forensic psychiatry can gain much from Theology to promote the emotional health and the spirituality of the patients,” Dr. Lardizabal-Carnazzo says. “They have special needs, being burdened and handicapped not only by their serious mental illnesses, but also troubled by legal issues, including their incarceration, an impending trial, criminal conviction with a life or lengthy sentence, or facing uncertain futures with their families or basic survival once back in society.”

Studying theology helped Dr. Lardizabal-Carnazzo impart her work with the virtues of justice and charity. “As a Christian Catholic forensic psychiatrist, in justice, from which flows the virtue of religion, I give to God all the glory that is His due for all that is good in me, including my gifts of medical acumen and competence, moved by love for Him above all as I serve Him through my psychiatric patients,” she explains. “And in justice and charity, I give to the patients what is their due, moved by love that wills their highest good, in serving them, in imitation of the Divine Physician, as their psychiatrist.”

In addition to making appropriate consultations on complicated cases, a grounding in Theology and Catholic social teaching also facilitates her interactions with the other specialty doctors, forensic colleagues, pharmacists, probation and parole officers, prison and county jail staff, district attorneys and public defenders, custodial and community mental health management and support staff, and the patient’s relatives, who she treats with kindness and respect that stem from charity and justice.

Dr. Lardizabal-Carnazzo’s daily responsibilities include writing proficient psychiatric admission-intake evaluations, progress reports, discharge summaries, and medico-legal progress reports that are advisory to the court. She also appears in court as an expert witness on a patient’s competency, for example, to stand trial or to accept or refuse treatment; the need for involuntary treatment or commitment in a secure setting; the danger posed to self or others; grave disability; and whether a patient is not guilty by reason of insanity or can be safely treated in the community.

“Theology also helped me to appreciate having a holistic approach that includes the supernatural perspective in the treatment, healing, and care of the forensic patients, and thus, to counsel them accordingly,” she explains. “It includes appreciating the Trinitarian God as man’s end and that it is good for the soul to have a personal relationship with Him.”

It was not easy to counsel patients to choose to live a life rooted in God in the institutions where she worked. She says, “If a patient responded positively to the greeting ‘God bless you,’ I usually took it as a safe opening for a follow-up on the godly way of life. But often, I could not reach them due to their fragile mental stability, and so I just commended them to the merciful God.”  She continued to pray for their special healing needs, conversion of hearts to the Lord, and the salvation of their souls.

Dr. Lardizabal-Carnazzo feels that Divine Providence had a plan for her career path. Psychiatry was her best rotation in both medical school and in her post-graduate internship. She went into internal medicine residency training in the Philippines but lasted only six months, as she and her brother had to come to the U.S. to be with their mother. After passing the medical board tests and requirements for medical postgraduate hospital training in California, she learned about a possible opening for General Psychiatry residency training in the Bay Area. “I took a chance, applied for it, and was accepted after the interview,” she says. After completing the training, she applied for a Forensic and Correctional Psychiatry fellowship, was accepted, and eventually received the Sustained Superior Achievement Award at the forensic hospital where she worked.

Dr. Lardizabal-Carnazzo is grateful for her studies in Theology and Catechetics. “I feel very blessed and enjoy what I am doing currently as I am at last able to apply and to share what I learned to serve others,” she says. “I am privileged to be part of the faith journey of the children and the adults in the parish.”

As a certified catechist, Dr. Lardizabal-Carnazzo co-facilitates the children’s First Confession-First Holy Communion preparation classes and the adults’ Sacramental Prep-RCIA-Continuing Religious Education classes. She also helps facilitate the weekly Bible Study Group. She especially enjoys her work with the children. “I find it heart-warming to see them apply what they learned and to experience personal joy when going for their First Confession and First Holy Communion. It is gratifying, as well, to see how their parents and relatives feel blessed for what their children have accomplished through their efforts and faith,” she says. She enjoys hearing affirmative feedback from her adult students. The quiet ones may start speaking in class or tell her that they are learning more, have a better understanding of the tenets of the Faith, or appreciate the knowledge shared.

Dr. Lardizabal-Carnazzo is also a co-facilitator of the Rachel’s Vineyard weekend retreats in northern California for those in need of post-abortion healing. Her studies in Catholic healthcare ethics training sponsored by the Catholic Medical Association via CDU have allowed her to be a resource for relatives, parishioners, and a priest on difficult and gray areas in this field. Her Catholic social doctrine training at CDU and CUA has helped inform the conscience of her family to invest exclusively in pro-life stocks. She is also working with fellow Catholic healthcare professionals to start parish ministries on emotional health anonymous, Catholic healthcare ethics, and a Rachel’s Vineyard weekend retreat program for California’s Central Coast, which is home to several college campuses.

A cradle Catholic who attended Catholic schools through high school, her faith was enriched after attending a Catholic Life in the Spirit Seminar in the Bay Area. She also credits CDU with fostering her Catholic spirituality.  She enjoyed the convenience of online learning with its necessary technical support, being nurtured with orthodox Catholic teaching, the outreach program to alumni, the spirit of Catholic family togetherness among the students, alumni, and staff, and the privilege of giving back to CDU via its ad hoc prison ministry program advisory and alumni association.

She is also blessed with a loving family.I married a medical colleague-businessman who is a Catholic revert like me,” Dr. Lardizabal-Carnazzo says. They pray together daily and are blessed to have a daughter who is a hospice nurse and two sons who are priests of the Catholic Melkite rite. Both sons are married, and each have seven children who are homeschooled. Before becoming priests, both sons taught online seminars at CDU, and she was first introduced to CDU when she took one of their courses. Both priests continue to serve souls and teach online.

“I feel deeply blessed for my training in Theology and Catechetics at CDU, a gift that keeps on giving—to have a servant’s heart in the Lord, through service to His Church, all for His love and glory!” Dr. Lardizabal-Carnazzo says.

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) 

 

BA Program Admissions Requirements Streamlined

Over the past 20 years, more than 31 million students have enrolled in college and left without receiving a degree or certificate, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. To provide greater opportunity to those seeking to complete a Bachelor’s degree at a faithful Catholic college, Catholic Distance University has reduced the number of credits required to enter its fully online BA in Theology degree completion program from 48 to just 18.  To allow students more time to earn their credits, the time limit for completing the program has been extended from 4 to 6 years.

High Retention and Completion Rates

CDU’s BA in Theology degree completion program is known for its high retention rate, which for the 2019–2020 terms is 86.8%. CDU’s retention rates are far above the norm for online universities, many of which struggle to retain students. According to U.S. News and World Report, the average retention rate among first-time, full-time students at online colleges is 55 percent and the average retention rate among first-time, part-time students is just 39 percent.  By choosing CDU, students have a very high expectation of successfully completing the BA program.

“[Coming to CDU] was a great decision,” says Adam Beerling, who earned a BA degree in Theology and then went on to complete an MA degree in Theology at CDU. “I had all of these college credits and no degree, and the BA in Theology was the answer I was searching for. And for the first time in my life, my education was now something I could be passionate about.”

Program Prepares Students for Wide Range of Careers

The BA in Theology degree completion curriculum helps to develop critical thinking skills that employers value highly. Humanistic skills, such as emotional intelligence, ethics, and communication, are also developed through the program. Such skills are applicable to a wide range of careers and are highly regarded in today’s workplace.

According to a 2019 report by The College Board, Individuals with bachelor’s degrees will earn $400,000 more in their lifetimes than those with just a high school diploma. College-educated workers are more likely to work for employers that offer health insurance, retirement plans, and other benefits as well.

Greater Access to Higher Education for Working Adults

CDU is committed to providing greater access to higher education through its affordable, flexible fully online programs that were designed around the needs of working adults. The university, which was founded in 1983, is featured in the Cardinal Newman Society College Guide, which was designed to help Catholic families learn about faithful Catholic colleges and navigate the college search process.

With a student population that tends to be older than the traditional college student population, many CDU students have work, family, and volunteer responsibilities that make attending a campus-based program with fixed class times inconvenient or impossible. CDU’s Bachelor’s degree completion program allows them the flexibility to earn credits at a faster or slower pace according to their needs through classes that are asynchronous.

CDU Is Transfer-Credit Friendly and Offers Flexibility

CDU will accept up to 81 transfer credits toward the BA degree, and previous theology credits are not required. Students may have earned their credits at college or through the Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, DANTES, or CLEP programs. Up to 30 such credits can be applied to the BA degree completion program.

Students who wish to enter the degree completion program but have fewer than 18 credits can enroll in undergraduate courses at CDU prior to program acceptance to earn the required credits. The university also offers an AA degree program in Liberal Arts with a Concentration in Catholic Studies, and credits earned in that program can be applied to the BA degree program.

Five academic terms are offered throughout the year, and most classes are just 8 weeks long, making it possible to earn the BA degree in four years from a faithful Catholic university that is committed to transmitting the true teachings of the Catholic Church.

Online Campus Fosters Community and Student Success

CDU’s robust Catholic community is fostered through a vibrant Student Life Center that is the online equivalent of a campus-based student union. In the SLC, students have access to a faculty advisor, a student life director who is a graduate of the MA in Theology degree program, and a student life coordinator who is a graduate of the AA degree program. Students engage in conversation with other students and the staff in the café and in a theological conversation area and pray together and enjoy fellowship in the chapel. In the SLC, they can also ask questions of a faculty advisor and access resources that promote student success.

Recently Ordained Deacon in Australia Earns MA Degree

Order of Malta member Deacon Adam Walk of Brisbane, Australia, recently completed his MA in Theology at CDU to meet the academic requirements for becoming a deacon in the Archdiocese of Brisbane. He is also a financial economist with a PhD from Griffith University with a busy career that involves lots of travel.

Ordained in November 2019, he is nearing the end of his first year of service. “Being in the midst of a pandemic, it has been a very strange first year of ministry as a deacon,” Deacon Walk says.  At this time last year, he wasn’t expecting to be assisting at online Masses without an assembly. His ministry is quite broad. He is a part-time police chaplain, he and his wife do pre-marriage and newly married ministry together, he is involved in governance roles within the Archdiocese that use his professional skills, and he serves at the parish where he is appointed assisting at Mass, as RCIA instructor, and as a member of the Pastoral Council.

When asked what he enjoyed most about CDU, Deacon Walk says, “There are several aspects. The first—and this might sound like a strange answer when talking about an online institution—is community. I have never met a single one of my professors or fellow students in person, but I can say that I felt like I was part of a community that is both faithfully Catholic and eager to learn.”

“This was encouraged by the professors—the second great aspect of CDU—who were passionate about their subject matter and committed to the learning experience of their students,” he continues. “As someone who has studied most of his adult life in one form or another—face-to-face and online, undergraduate to doctoral level—I can say that I have never had a better collection of teachers than I had at CDU.”

Deacon Walk appreciated the flexibility as well, which allowed him to fit in his study commitments around his professional work and travel schedule. “It was great to have so many teaching periods, because it allowed me to progress quicker than I otherwise could have,” he says. “I completed PHIL 508 Philosophy for Theology in five cities: Brisbane, Melbourne, London, Oxford, and Rome, with a lot of time on planes for reading!” he adds.

Deacon Walk was in his 30s when he entered the Church in the Easter season of 2006, receiving the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and first Holy Communion. “From then I was quite intentional about formation because I felt I had a lot to learn,” he says. As he learned more about the Church, he became aware of the diaconate and the fact that it was open to married men.

In 2014, a Texan friend suggested he consider the diaconate. He prayed about it, discussed it with his wife, to whom he has now been married for 21 years, and decided to apply to the program in his hometown of Brisbane. He was accepted in 2015 and began searching for a theology degree program to fulfil the academic requirements for becoming a deacon. “I was on the lookout for a good quality theology program that was flexible enough to balance with my professional life,” Deacon Walk says. He began studying through a distance education provider in Australia but found that it was less a curriculum and more a selection of courses.

In late 2015, Deacon Walk learned about CDU when a podcast of The Catholic Café—which is a ministry of the Order of Malta hosted by Deacon Jeff Drzycimski of the Diocese of Memphis—popped up on his iPhone featuring CDU President Dr. Marianne Mount. “In the podcast, Dr. Mount refers to an Ordinariate priest from Brisbane – my home town – who had completed CDU’s MA. In any event, Dr. Mount was very convincing, and it was clear from the example she gave that I could study from here,” Deacon Walk says. “Once I learned that CDU is recommended by the Newman Guide, my decision was made.” Campion College—a Catholic liberal arts college based in Sydney of which Deacon Walk is a trustee—is also listed in the Newman Guide.

His discernment continued throughout the formation process. “I knew I was in the hands of the Church in terms of whether I would be ordained, so I just tried to do my bit and see where it led,” he says. “I was ordained on the Feast of St. Andrew last year, around six months prior to completing the MA at CDU.”

“I couldn’t imagine trying to fulfil my responsibilities as a deacon without the academic formation I received at CDU,” Deacon Walk says. He was attracted to the CDU program partly it culminated in a comprehensive exam, which isn’t common at universities in Australia. “I thought preparing for a comprehensive exam would force me to synthesize content from a range of subjects. So, in a way, it was the fear of having to one day give a homily that drew me to CDU,” he adds.

Deacon Walk’s professional work is divided between being an investment advisor to wealthy clients and small institutions, such as foundations, and fulfilling governance roles for a range of organizations. Earlier in his career, Deacon Walk taught economics and finance mostly to graduate students at several universities and published research in his field. He is an adjunct faculty member with the business school of the University of Notre Dame Australia currently, though his responsibilities in service to the Church preclude him from pursuing research with the same focus as a full-time academic.

“In my professional work, I am in a position of trust where I am required to act in the best interests of others, be they clients or, say, the beneficiaries of the pension fund of which I am a trustee director,” Deacon Walk says. “In this sense, there are some similarities with being a deacon, which places me in a position of trust where I am called to serve others.”

Theological Librarian Publishes Article about Online Library

Theological Librarian Sister Rebecca Abel recently published an article, “Online Library at Catholic Distance University,” in Theological Librarianship, an open access journal for peer reviewed articles as well as essays and reviews on subjects at the intersection of librarianship and religious and theological studies that potentially impact libraries.

Sister Rebecca has been CDU’s theological librarian since 2015. Originally from Owensboro, Kentucky, she is a Sister of St. Benedict based in Ferdinand, Indiana. Her order lives faithfully the 1,500-year-old tradition of Benedictine life: they seek God together, pray daily, and share their lives and ministries with others. Sister Rebecca served as librarian of the North American College in Rome, Italy, for 17 years after 25 years in the SE Dubois County Public Schools as librarian and director of Media Services. She earned her B.S. in Education from St. Benedict College and an M.L.S. from Ball State University.

Under Sister Rebecca’s direction, the CDU online library has significantly grown its collection to provide ample online resources and e-books. In addition to maintaining the online library, Sister Rebecca assists students and faculty with research, locating resources, and provides guidance to students in writing. Organized around nine modules, the Canvas LMS-based library has seen usage grow significantly with her efforts to increase its holdings and make it more user friendly.

Students and faculty can browse the library by accessing an Index page, links to websites offering open access resources are included, and e-books can be checked out through the ATLA E-Book Lending Program. Links to open access and public domain e-books are also provided. A module on “Research and Writing” provides a link to the online Chicago Manual of Style and various writing guides. Specific term paper and citation guidelines required by the CDU faculty are included as well. Resources are easily accessible to students and faculty 24/7. For scholarly theological journal articles, students can access the EBSCO/ATLA databases. Additional databases and e-books are added yearly so that students have access to the materials needed for research and study.
Read Sister Rebecca’s article here: https://serials.atla.com/theolib/article/view/1931/2202.

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