Faculty Gather at Mandatum Ceremony

CDU faculty members gathered on April 9th to take the Oath of Fidelity to the Catholic Church and make the Profession of Faith at the Chancery of the Diocese of Arlington. CDU Trustee Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, DD, PhD, conducted the ceremony as the local ordinary. In keeping with Canon law, the mandatum ceremony is held to ensure that faculty teach in full communion with the Church and reflects CDU’s commitment to remain faithful to the Magisterium.

Pictured, from left to right: Dr. James Kruggel, Dr. Peter Brown, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Father Bevil Bramwell, and Dr. Matthew Bunson. Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio and Dr. Marie Nuar attended remotely.

Attorney in Singapore Earns an MA in Theology

Raymond Clement of Jalan Novena Utara, Singapore, works as an in-house counsel for a bank. In late 2018 he earned his MA degree in Theology.

“I decided to study theology after experiencing a nagging feeling for a number of years that I was not plumbing the inexhaustible richness of the Catholic Faith,” Raymond says. “I also felt a keen awareness that in order to engage intelligently in the culture wars that are shaping the times we live in, I needed to be equipped with the right tools.”

He chose CDU primarily due to its completely online teaching format. “Other universities I came across uniformly had a residency requirement that I would have found difficult to fulfill,” he says. “CDU’s faithfulness to the Magisterium and the quality of its faculty were also important considerations.”

Despite working in banking—a field seemingly unrelated to theology–Raymond finds his degree useful in his work. “My knowledge of theology has helped me to see my work in a different light and shown me more opportunities to practice my faith in the workplace,” he says.

Raymond took a break from volunteering at church while studying at CDU but intends to begin again now that he has completed his degree program. In the past he has led a church choir and advised churches on legal matters.

“Church attendance in Singapore is high, and there is a deep hunger for God’s Word,” he says. “I hope to help in a small way to fulfil this need after having completed my studies at CDU.”

What Raymond enjoyed most about his experience at CDU was the sense of belonging to a Catholic community and the passion he developed for sharing the Faith with others.

Professor Padgett Earns His STL

On March 7th, Professor Chris Padgett successfully defended his thesis, “The Life and Mariology of Father Juniper Carol, O.F.M,” earning his Licentiate in Sacred Theology at the Marianist Institute at the University of Dayton. Chris has been a faculty member since 2015 and will teach THEO 304 Foundations of Catholicism and THEO 640 Presenting the Faith in the Modern World: Dealing with the Hard Questions in the Summer I term.

Father Juniper Carol was born in 1911 in Cardenas, Cuba, and eventually came to the United States and joined the Franciscans. He started the Mariological Research Institute and published extensively on the predestination of Mary with Jesus, The Debitum Peccati, and Mary as coredemptrix, exploring her crucial role in salvation history. He died in 1990.

“I was first introduced to Carol through Mariology courses I took at Franciscan University of Steubenville,” Chris says. “I ended up having Dr. Mark Miravalle as my adviser, and I think that his love for Mary and the people he referenced had a big influence on me.”

Chris and his wife, Linda, have been married for more than 25 years and have nine children–five girls and four boys–and a couple of grandchildren. They live in Central New York on a little homestead in a nine-sided, red house and travel extensively. Chris and Linda and have a non-profit ministry for Marriages and Families called Catholic Family and Marriage, Inc. www.catholicfam.org. Chris is active on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

AA Grad to Pursue Passion for Youth Ministry

Mary Kate Budd, pictured with her fiancé, Jason, recently completed her AA degree in Liberal Arts while working full-time for the Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan. “CDU gave me a chance that I didn’t think I would have at first–a chance to study theology online in a way that would be easy for me as a working young adult,” she says.

With a passion for youth ministry, Mary Kate looks forward to using her education to share with young people the beauty of having a relationship with Jesus. “I can’t wait to use the tools that I have gained from CDU to accomplish what Christ is calling me to,” she says.

Mary Kate attended Franciscan University at Steubenville at first, where she planned to major in English for a career in education. While she loved the university, it was expensive. To avoid being saddled with student loan debt, she decided not to return following freshman year and switched to a community college near home.

One day her brother suggested that she should look into studying theology. “It was then that a light bulb went on in my head,” she says. “Why in the world had I never considered that before?” Mary Kate found the major to be a perfect fit.

Knowing she would have to pursue her education online because she was working full time, she began researching programs. “Eventually, I stumbled upon Catholic Distance University, read the entire website, and applied that very same night. It was with joy that I found out a few weeks later that I had been accepted and that a lot of my credits had also transferred,” she says.

“I liked how helpful the professors were and how concerned they were for their students,” Mary Kate says. “I also enjoyed the interactions I had with my fellow classmates. Every class started with an introduction, and it was so interesting to read about all the different classmates I had, where they came from, and all the different walks of life they came from as well.”

Kathy Vestermark, her first professor at CDU, was her favorite. She teaches THEO 101 and THEO 102, which cover the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “Professor Vestermark was always ready to help, and studying under her was such a pleasure,” Mary Kate says. “We were truly able to dive into the beauties of theology in those classes, and she did such a wonderful job presenting the Catechism to us.”

Mary Kate grew up in a strong, close-knit, faith-filled Catholic family as the youngest of six children. “Growing up, my mom would take us all to Mass every day and to Perpetual Adoration at least once a week. I grew up learning through the Baltimore Catechism and reading books about the Saints. The Faith was just a part of our daily lives,” she says. As she grew older, the Faith fascinated her, and she wanted to learn more. “My Confirmation in 2007 at the age of 14 was such a joyful moment, and it spurred me on to continue learning,” she says.

“When I came back home from Franciscan, I knew I was going to need to find a community of young Catholics to back me up after losing the community I had while away at college,” Mary Kate says. She joined a Catholic youth group at a local state university as well as a young adult group in her diocese that her sister had founded.

The groups were great for helping her grow in her faith and providing community, but they were small, and it was hard to gain traction and the attention of Catholic young people. Going to Mass on any given Sunday she noticed high attendance among older people but few young people. “This broke my heart, and I knew something needed to change,” she says. “I wanted to show other young Catholics not only how fun our groups were, but how beautiful the Catholic Faith was, and the love that can only come from a relationship that has to constantly be growing with Christ.”

“Through the two young adult groups I met my future husband, Jason,” Mary Kate says. He was in seminary at the time, but in early 2017, he announced that he would no longer be studying for the priesthood. “This sounds funny, but I was a bit disappointed! I thought he would make a great priest,” she says. After a while, they began dating. He proposed to her in the Adoration chapel she had routinely visited as a child. “I, of course, said yes,” she says. Their wedding is scheduled for June, and they look forward to having a family someday.

“After our marriage, I hope to be able to find a job in youth ministry in our area if I can and to keep learning and studying on my own the Catholic Faith. I hope to also enter the BA program at CDU at some point to earn my Bachelor’s degree in theology,” she says.

“But my biggest plan is, and will remain, God willing, that I will be able to help young people come to know, love, and serve God in this life, so to be happy with Him in the next.”

Brooklyn Graduate Student with Law Degree Serves Disabled Community

Graduate student Andrew Toscano of Brooklyn, NY, works for Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC), which serves New York City and Long Island. As a Family Support Services Coordinator, he helps families obtain eligibility and the necessary funding to access services from New York State’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. “As everything I do in some way helps the individual and his/her family, the most rewarding part for me is helping all of the people I work with to become as independent as possible,” Andrew says.

Though he already held a J.D. degree from New York Law School, Andrew earned an M.S. in Special Education and Teaching from Mercy College in 2011. He attributes the change in career path to an eventful life and divine providence. “God allowed me to freely make decisions and brought me people who led me to my current position both professionally and personally,” he explains.

“I decided that I wanted to help those in most need and chose a career working with the mentally and developmentally disabled,” Andrew says. “My JD was useful for several years (and still is), but the MS in Special Education was the degree I felt would be most useful in a variety of positions.”

Andrew student taught middle school for a semester and planned to teach special education, but a chance meeting on the subway led him to work with disabled adults in a different capacity. “I had a conversation with a woman who mentioned that there was a position open at an agency. I decided to follow up, was offered the position, and thus began my work with disabled adults,” he says.

Andrew and his wife, Margrett, both lector and teach RCIA at All Saints Roman Catholic Parish in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Both are pursuing graduate theology study at CDU, which the Diocese of Brooklyn generously funds for those working in ministries with in the diocese. Andrew says they are both grateful to the Diocese for making Catholic higher education possible through CDU for those who serve the diocese’s parishes. The Diocese of Brooklyn is the nation’s fifth most populous, serving 1.5 million Catholics and spanning a 179-square mile area.

“My wife and I both wish to become DREs and work full time with the Diocese, and this program so far is exceeding our expectations. The online aspect is the biggest asset for us as we both work full time and it allows us to obtain a quality education without affecting our employment and exhausting us with physical classes,” he says.

“We are very happy to be with CDU,” Andrew says. “In addition to the online aspect, the professionalism and enthusiasm of the CDU team is refreshing. We also feel comfortable because CDU seems to believe in authentic Catholic teaching without some of the abuses we have seen in other ‘Catholic colleges.’” he adds.

Higher Learning Commission Grants Candidacy to CDU

At its November 1, 2018, meeting, the Board of Trustees of the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) named Catholic Distance University (CDU) a Candidate for Accreditation. Founded in 1895 as one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States, HLC is the largest of the regional accreditors, accrediting 1,000 colleges and universities in the North Central region. Nineteen states comprise the region, which includes West Virginia, CDU’s home state. Candidacy is official recognition of affiliation with HLC. Full initial accreditation is usually achieved in a period of two to four additional years.

CDU has been continuously accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, a national accreditor, for over 30 years and is authorized to grant degrees through the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. In June 2018, the Graduate School of Theology was named an Associate Member of the Association of Theological Schools, which accredits more than 270 theological schools and most Catholic seminaries in the United States.

CDU’s Board of Trustees, which is chaired by Dr. Charles Wasaff, has identified full regional and programmatic accreditation as the University’s foremost priority in its Strategic Plan. President Marianne Evans Mount explains, “In addition to our 30-year history of accreditation with the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, we are fully committed to achieving initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission and the Association of Theological Schools to demonstrate the quality of our academic programs and the value of the credentials earned at CDU by our outstanding graduates who are breaking new ground for the Church in pursuing online theological education.”

Recent BA Grad Becomes Director of Religious Education

Katlyn Lawler, who recently earned her BA in Theology, was promoted to Director of Religious Education at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Lake Ridge, Virginia, where she has worked for several years and been a parishioner for most of her life. Katlyn recently married and lives with her husband Benjamin, pictured here, and puppy in Woodbridge, Virginia. She was raised in a large family of nine who have always encouraged her to obtain her dreams.

“Catholic Distance University did not just prepare me for my job but gave me an opportunity to grow in my Faith with a wonderful community of classmates and professors,” Katlyn says. “I am so grateful for my time at CDU and cannot wait to share what I have learned with my family, Parish community, and all those I encounter in my lifetime.”

Katlyn began serving as a catechist aide for the church’s religious education program in middle school and continued to volunteer as an aide, catechist, and retreat leader through high school. While in college, she was offered a job as the Administrative Assistant for the Director of Religious Education for Middle School and Confirmation Prep. “Three years later,” she says, “I have graduated from CDU with a Bachelor’s in Theology and have been promoted to work as the Director of Religious Education. It has been a great journey, and I love working with the youth of the parish.”

As DRE, Katlyn is responsible for kindergarten through eighth grade religious education classes and sacramental preparation programs for Penance, Eucharist, and Confirmation.

“My degree in Theology will not only help me as the Director of Religious Education but also as a Catholic Christian living in the world,” she says. “I am able to better dialogue with my family, help others, grow in my own spiritual journey, and share my Faith more beautifully. No matter where God takes me and my husband, I will be able to use my degree in my career, in my home, and in the world.”

Katlyn attended Catholic schools her entire life, and the Faith has always been important to her. “Since middle school, I have felt called to work for Christ’s Church, and my heart was always pulled toward teaching,” she says. Before leaving high school, Katlyn thought she was being called to nursing. She entered college and began to pursue a degree in that field but found that her heart was not in nursing.

“After praying and discerning, I knew I was being called to teach, to pursue a degree in Theology,” she says. “I began looking for colleges and saw CDU advertised in my parish bulletin, and I checked it out. I was so excited to find a school that would allow me to continue working since I was paying for school myself. I was absolutely thrilled to be accepted and enroll in CDU.”

“I love CDU and would recommend it to everyone,” Katlyn says. “It has been a blessing to be a part of the school community, and the ability to work on my courses at home or during my lunch break at work was the best. I loved being able to open up about my Faith and the Catholic Church with my peers and professors,” she adds.

“My biggest takeaway from my education at CDU is the ability to dive deeper into the Catholic Church and the life of God,” Katlyn says. “We cannot just scratch the surface our entire lives; we would miss the true beauty of God. CDU challenged me to go deeper and seek God in a more intimate way. I cannot express how grateful I am to CDU and the staff who journeyed with me during this part of my spiritual and educational journey.”

ATS Grants Associate Membership to Graduate School of Theology

Catholic Distance University’s Graduate School of Theology was granted associate membership in the Association of Theological Schools at the accrediting agency’s biennial meeting in Denver, Colorado, on June 20th. Associate membership is the first step toward full accreditation by ATS.

Dr. Marianne Mount, President, and Sister Mary Brendon Zajac, Board member, attended the meeting. “CDU’s associate membership in the Association of Theological Schools is an incremental fulfillment of the University’s first strategic goal to pursue regional and programmatic accreditation,” says Dr. Mount, who has served the University in a variety of leadership positions since its founding in 1983.

“CDU’s Graduate School of Theology was welcomed as a colleague of more than 270 theological schools that includes most Catholic seminaries in the U.S. CDU is deeply grateful to our hard-working staff and committed Board of Trustees,” she adds. “This accomplishment is especially important for our graduate students and MA graduates.”

Pictured (l to r): Sister Mary Brendon Zajac, CDU Board Member; Dr. Marianne Mount, CDU President; Sister Mary McCormick, OSU Academic Dean; and Father Mark Latcovich, President-Rector, Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology, Diocese of Cleveland, gather to celebrate CDU’s associate membership.

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