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.

BA Grad Helps Others Find Truth, Beauty, and Goodness

Gian Parham (BA in Theology, 2021) of Benque Viejo del Carmen, Belize, teaches adults and youth in two Catholic high schools and also serves as coordinator of the national Theology of the Body (TOB) teachers’ training program.

Belizean by birth, Gian says that Belize is a very unique country. As the only English-speaking country in Central America, it is also considered a “melting pot of cultures.” Belize also has a high teen pregnancy rate.

Gian has been married for 24 years and is blessed with two beautiful children. “We are also living the joys of being grandparents,” he says. His favorite pastime, when not with the family or teaching, is fishing in the Caribbean Sea, “the perfect place to unwind and contemplate the mysteries of life and God.”

During the day, Gian teaches English Literature and TOB to seniors at Our Lady of Mount Carmel High School. At night, he teaches adults Computer Science and TOB at Saint Ignatius High School Evening Division.

For me, teaching is not a job. It is a passion, a vocation, something I am called to do,” Gian says, adding that he is truly blessed to share his God-given gifts with both the teens and adult students he has come to love. “The joy that comes from interacting with the young as they search for what is true, good, and beautiful is deeply moving.”

“Many of the teenagers I work with are living destitute lives, and having made my own journey through the fire, I am humbled that God would use me as a witness and beacon of hope that ‘with him all things are possible.’” The adult students are not that different from the teens, he says, except that they come with a greater sense of the human experience. “At the end of many class sessions, the reaction is always, ‘Why didn’t we hear of this before?’” he says.

As national coordinator of the TOB teachers’ training program, Gian promotes the TOB program in all of Belize’s Catholic Schools. He has conducted workshops with all administrators and principals about the need for the TOB and conducts ongoing training sessions with school faculty and staff. TOB clubs are now being established at Belizean high schools that will be led by trained youth leaders as well. “I am grateful to be, as St. Theresa of Calcutta puts it, ‘but a pencil in the hand of God,’” Gian says.

“I have always believed and am convinced that the TOB, being rooted deeply in Sacred Scripture, is the antidote for the broken world we live in. I really became passionate about the TOB because of my own daughter, who became a teen mom and was abandoned by the father of her child,” he says. This situation is not unusual for many families in Belize, he explains. He, too, was born to a teen mom in a similar situation.

“I decided that there MUST be a better way, and that the cycle of broken relationships must come to an end. TOB has been the chain-breaker, the game-changer for many young girls and boys in my community,” he says.

“Girls are learning that they are valuable and worth waiting for. They have learned they deserve respect and true, authentic, sacrificial love because of their God-given dignity. The young men, on the other hand, are realizing that the image of manhood society is illustrating is a false one. They are learning that true men must grow in virtue in order to die to self and protect the women around them, first and foremost from themselves.  Young men are being challenged to grow in responsibility and to love in an authentic way.” He points out that TOB is not just helping to reduce teenage pregnancies in Belize, but it is also helping to lower the abortion rate.

“For years, TOB was reserved for seniors only at Our Lady of Mount Carmel High School, but realizing the transformative effects of the TOB, we decided to launch it at all levels, across the board,” Gian says. “The effects on students are astounding. Last year our administration proudly reported that there were zero cases of toxic relationships, young girls eloping, and teen pregnancy cases were almost nonexistent. There was also a notable decrease in major disciplinary issues. Although there are other factors that contributed to these results, I am convinced that TOB was surely one of them,” Gian says. “Many of the adults told me that the teachings of the TOB had challenged them to change their way of life. There are so many stories I could tell of how the TOB has tremendously changed the lives of both the teens and adults I am privileged to work with.”

Gian decided to pursue a BA in Theology at CDU when he was required by the Ministry of Education to further his studies for professional development. He could have continued his education in Computer Science but decided that he only wanted to study a subject that would benefit his soul. “In my search, I came across CDU and was surprised at the cost of the program, which was significantly lower than most other universities,” he says.

“But what really hooked me, apart from a really solid Catholic curriculum, was the faculty line up,” Gian says. “The old cliché, ‘you come for the price but stay for the service’ was exactly the case for me. The faculty was ‘unapologetically Catholic.’” The fact that many had studied at Franciscan University of Steubenville at some point in their educational journeys was a plus for Gian, who had wanted to attend Franciscan but could not afford the tuition.

“I could not even afford CDU, but God is good, and with Him all things are possible,” Gian says. “There are many I wish to thank for believing in me and for finding it in their hearts to invest in my education at CDU, which has cracked open for me the rich deposit of faith that I can now share with confidence with the longing hearts of my students.”

Gian enjoyed the edifying and deep discussions at CDU through which great friendships flourished. “Being able to share, not just on the weekly topic, but on my Belizean religious culture and traditions, was wonderful,” Gian says. At the start of new classes, he enjoyed reconnecting with those from previous classes. He is especially grateful to the professors for their empathy.

“I am proud to be named among the alumni of CDU! Gaudium de Veritate!” he says.

BA Grad Sees Hand of God in His Path

Francis Cabildo (BA in Theology, ’21) works as an assistant director of campus ministry for Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, and is also a singer-songwriter. He and his wife Nicole are raising five young boys.

“I was one of those students who took a long break in completing my degree,” Francis says.  “First, I was not sure what I wanted to study.  My career choice is not one that you hear about in mainstream college career choices. Looking back, I can see the hand of God guiding me each step of the way.”

“My education from CDU gave me confidence as well as valuable knowledge that has helped me in my professional life.  I have also gained critical thinking skills, organizational skills, and increased my ability to look at things through a worldview centered on Jesus and his Church,” Francis says.

As assistant campus minister, Francis plans, prepares, and facilitates retreats for students and trains volunteers and student leaders in how to run small groups, present talks, and work as a team. He also plans and leads music at Masses and other liturgies. Francis enjoys working with students, especially those who are furthest away from the Lord.  “I love to see them realize the love of God and for them to begin a relationship with Jesus and the Church,” he says.  He also enjoys helping volunteers and student leaders discover a love for ministry and leading others to Christ and working with students’ parents–especially when they encounter Jesus in real ways through their students returning from retreat.

One of the biggest struggles Francis finds in working with students is the lack of evangelization.  Though students may know how to answer a test question about God or the Church, they may not have not had a real encounter with God or know Jesus, he explains.

Francis has been in music ministry for close to 28 years.  He started as a volunteer singing at his local parish.  “I quickly discovered that I have a calling to help others pray through music,” he says. “I am passionate about helping the people of God find their voice, and it gives me great joy knowing that the gifts God has given me are helping to build the kingdom and give glory to God.”

His youth minister in high school played guitar and inspired him to learn. Francis bought his first guitar when he was 18 years old after saving up tips from busing tables and taught himself to play. He served on National Evangelization Team Ministries from 1994 to 1995, which challenges young Catholics to love Christ and embrace the life of the Church. Every August, 175 young Catholics aged 18-28 travel across the U.S. for nine months to share the Gospel with young people and their families. “That is when I really heard the calling to be a worship leader/musician,” he says. After NET, he served at his local parish, Sacred Heart in Rancho Cucamonga, California, as a youth leader and a liturgical musician and helped with Masses, Bible studies, prayer meetings, and retreats.

Francis’ family is an integral part of all that he does, and they help him to connect with God in many ways.  “Being a husband reminds me that I have to die to myself daily and that I am first to serve and to die for my bride just as Christ died for his bride,” he says.  “My children are gifts and blessings.  They help me to grow in love and patience, and they help me practice forgiveness and mercy.”

“I chose CDU because it gave me flexibility and options,” he says.  “I am raising a young family, and with my work in ministry, my schedule did not allow me to take courses with a normal schedule.  CDU gave me the opportunity to complete my degree and still be present to my family and those that I serve in ministry at the high school.”

Lifelong Religious Educator Honored as Outstanding Graduate

Cynthia M. Stalcup of Ashburn, Virginia, has been selected as the Outstanding Graduate of 2020. Cindy graduated summa cum laude after completing the MA in Theology and Educational Ministry degree program with a 4.1 GPA. Cindy has worked as a religious educator, either as a volunteer or professionally, since her early teen years.  Her enthusiasm for this field eventually led her to pursue an advanced degree at CDU.

The flexibility of asynchronous online education coupled with CDU’s academically accomplished faculty presented the opportunity to achieve this goal despite a busy family life, a part-time job, and multiple volunteer positions.

As a participant in CDU’s pilot practicum program, a requirement for the degree, she developed a four-part program to enhance an established grade-level curriculum.  She continues to use this learning experience to expand her own classroom instruction in terms of content, delivery, and technological methodology.

“My experience at CDU has provided rich rewards in the catechetical classroom.  Not only have the courses expanded my knowledge of the faith, but my online learning experience has encouraged me to re-formulate my instructional methods,” Cindy says.

Cindy will be honored by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, CDU’s accreditor, which honors an outstanding graduate each year from its member institutions.

 

BA Grad Continues into MA Program

Lucas Jacobson of New Hope, Minnesota, earned his BA degree in Theology in 2018 and is now pursuing his MA degree in Theology and Educational Ministry. A full-time student, he decided to pursue the study of theology because he figured that if he is going to spend eternity with God, he better get to know something about Him now.
“What I really enjoy about CDU is that one can obtain a degree in Catholic Theology online,” Mr. Jacobson says. “I have a physical disability, Cerebral Palsy, and use a wheelchair for mobility. I live in Minnesota, and the snow in the winter is hard for my chair to maneuver.”

“For those who have a hard time going out in the community, [the online option] is very beneficial,” Mr. Jacobson says. “Additionally, one can receive instruction from very knowledgeable instructors [who] are authentic individuals, living out the Catholic faith they teach about. This is very inspiring.”

He began his studies in the first year federal financial aid was made available to students at CDU, which has helped to put his educational goals within reach.

Eventually Mr. Jacobson hopes to pursue a career as a Theology professor for an online higher education institution. He has also considered the possibility of motivational speaking or pursuing a doctorate if a fully online program can be found but says he will see where God leads him.

“I sense that God has been calling me into a deeper relationship with him through his mother, Mary, so that I can lead others into their own relationship with God as someone who has personal experience of it,” he says.
Mr. Jacobson is thankful to those who have helped him along the way. “I am very grateful for everyone who has supported me, including the CDU professors and staff.” He encourages everyone to think about who has helped them throughout their lives and to thank them in some manner.

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, his first year of service has been an unusual one. “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 with 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 maintain 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!”

BA Grad Lives What She Has Learned

Rosanne Terese Kouris of LaPorte, Indiana, is currently the coordinator of the Office of Family Life for the Diocese of Gary, Indiana. Obtaining her BA has enabled her to develop and expand programs and events offered by the diocese to enrich marriage and family life, including marriage preparation, natural family planning, marriage enrichment, women’s Bible studies, and an annual Women’s Conference. As the director of the diocese’s Rachel’s Vineyard ministry, knowledge and insights obtained through her studies have given her a richer platform from which to minister to those in need of post-abortion healing.

Mrs. Kouris is also the head of the Savior of the World Children’s Center, a home for orphaned and indigent children in Sierra Leone, West Africa. She oversees the operation of the home, organizes fundraising, and edits a bimonthly newsletter. She and her husband, pictured above in Sierra Leone, Africa, with children at the Savior of the World Children’s Center, have legally adopted five orphaned children from the center who now live with them in the United States. Rosanne is active in the pro-life movement and frequently volunteers for events.

Named CDU’s Outstanding Graduate for 2019, Mrs. Kouris graduated summa cum laude, having attained a 4.08 GPA. The Distance Education Accrediting Commission, CDU’s accreditor, honors an outstanding graduate each year from its member institutions.

Of her time at CDU, Mrs. Kouris says, “Catholic Distance University is an excellent online university with rich and diverse courses, knowledgeable and caring staff, paired with solid Catholic theology. The interactive class structure made learning stimulating and gratifying, inspiring me through challenging courses, and motivating me to complete my degree.”

MA Grad’s Love of Reading Led to His Conversion

Daniel Kelly (MA, Theology, ‘20) lives in rural Mora County, New Mexico, on a small farm where he raises livestock and chickens, goats, and peacocks. Married to a second grade teacher, he has a beautiful and intelligent stepdaughter, and he and his wife are expecting a son in March. A professor at Luna Community College, Daniel is using his theological education to teach a course on The History of Christian Thought. He also teaches a continuing faith formation class at his parish and along with his wife has been placed in charge of the local Newman Center. “Pray for us!!,” he says. “It is so weird with the COVID restrictions.”

Raised in a household that believed in a philosophically sophisticated form of Hinduism, Daniel was attracted to Catholicism in his late teens by Catholic acquaintances and religious. At first, it seemed to him then that Jesus fit in perfectly with the Hindu schema of thought that he had been taught but that Catholicism was intellectually unsophisticated. However, that changed through his love of reading.

“Then, as now, I am completely unable to resist reading any book near me,” Daniel says. An avid reader, delving deeply into the Fantasy genre works of C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and J.R.R. Tolkien moved him toward the Catholic Faith.  He particularly remembers receiving a copy of In Defense of Sanity, the collection of G.K. Chesterton’s essays. “Chesterton completely demolished my preconceptions that Catholicism was unsophisticated and laid the groundwork for all my Catholic thinking,” he says. “Chesterton was obviously superior to any of the other writers I had read, and his explanations of Catholic thought were clear and thought provoking. He led me to purposely seek out and read other Catholic writers, and I soon came to see that the Catholic thought system really is in a league of its own.”

G.K. Chesterton–and his grandmother, who had been raised a Seventh day Adventist—led him to read C.S. Lewis’ works on Christianity. “It was refreshing to see that he had met Hindu philosophy on the way to Christianity, and it had almost detained him as well. So C.S. Lewis and Chesterton really built my understanding of Christianity,” Daniel says. “Tolkien soon came to my aid as well. I was prepared to completely cut off contact with my roots of fantasy reading, which had had an enormous impact on the formation of my world view, but I read Tolkien’s Tree and Leaf at this time, and I saw that I didn’t have to discard the good of the literature I had consumed. Indeed, novels can and should be a positive good for Catholic minds.”

As a convert, Daniel pursued an MA degree in Theology because he wanted to deepen his knowledge of the faith and teach. With CDU, he was able to continue to work for his archdiocese while earning his degree. Daniel has served as director of religious education and parish secretary of St. Gertrude the Great, his home parish, and continues to serve in a variety of ministries there and in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

“I came to CDU because I loved–and love–academia and growing academically, but I was tired of the abrasive effects of pagans and heretics in the academic world I had been in,” he says, adding, “although I loved, and still love, many of them dearly.” “CDU certainly allowed me to grow in this regard. I especially liked my Philosophy (and English) classes with Fr. Bramwell and Dr. Urbanczyk. Never have I been pushed harder to clarify my thoughts, and never has my brain grown more–not even in stats class.”

“CDU has benefited me in so many ways, it is impossible to count them all,” Daniel says. “I have grown in my faith, in my knowledge, and in my intelligence.”

“I know for myself that much of the good of my upbringing came from voraciously reading fiction–and maybe all of the bad,” Daniel says. “If we want to capture the hearts and minds of the youth, it needs to be the way Chesterton and Tolkien did, through the popular culture.”

Daniel’s MA thesis, “My Very Self You Know: A Personalist Examination of Vocation,” was published in the Easter 2020 issue of Digital Continent.

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) 

 

Student Helps Lead Pandemic Response at Hard-Hit Hospital

Charles Aviles of the Bronx, New York, is working toward his AA degree in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Catholic Studies while working as the director of life safety, fire safety, and emergency management for Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, which has experienced significant loss of life during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lincoln Hospital serves one of the poorest communities in the USA and has the third busiest emergency room in the nation. Charles served as the incident commander during the pandemic, working in the command center, and was then infected with COVID-19 and out of work for 15 days. Upon returning to work, he headed the Mass Fatality Program, where he tried to handle all of the decedents in a dignified manner during very difficult circumstances.

Charles has been married for 30 years and has four children. He has completed 11 courses in just over 2 years. Charles’ path to Theology began when he took catechist courses through the Archdiocese of New York after learning about CDU on the archdiocesan website. “I have ministered for the confirmation class, RCIA, and a Bible study in my parish,” he says. Currently 53 years old, he will be eligible for retirement in 5 years as a NYC worker. “My goal is to earn my Master’s degree by the time I retire and then work for the Archdiocese of New York in some capacity, hopefully teaching theology,” he says. Charles would also like to join the diaconate program at some point.

“CDU has been an incredible blessing for me,” he says. “The flexible programs have allowed me to manage a very high level position in the hospital with an enormous amount of responsibility. I am on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with a tier 1 classification. My position is very challenging; being a city hospital we are terribly underfunded and understaffed. I work long hours and 6-7 days a week, sometimes 16 hour days because of staff shortages. It would be impossible for me to earn a degree in a classroom environment.”

 

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