MA Grad Looks Forward to Sharing the Faith with Others

Dan Soares recently earned his MA degree in Theology and Educational Ministry while working full time as CDU’s IT director. Born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, Dan was raised Catholic and was an active participant in the life of the Church, serving as an altar boy, a reader at Mass, and as a choir master and youth leader.

With a mathematical mind and a strong interest in science, Dan earned his undergraduate degree in Physics at the University of Mumbai at the age of 21. “The curriculum was rigorous and very much focused on memorization instead of practical application, unlike our system of education in the U.S.,” he says.

Like many other young Catholics in India and elsewhere, Dan fell away from the Church. “At the age of 23, I left to join a Pentecostal church in Bombay,” he says. “During my time as a Protestant, I encountered God through Sacred Scripture, through fellowship with other ‘believers,’ and in the movement of the Holy Spirit in my life. They taught me to love God’s word, to see God as my Heavenly Father, to pray, and to seek to be a disciple. For this, I am very grateful.”

Dan’s parents wanted their children to have better opportunities, so they immigrated to the United States with Dan, his brother, and sister in 1987. The family’s port of entry was New York, where they lived for a number of years. “My uncle, Monsignor Nicholas Soares, was the first in my family to come to the U.S., and he sponsored his brother (my dad) and his other siblings,” Dan says. Adjusting to life in the U.S. was not especially difficult for Dan, who turned 26 the year he arrived.

“Catholics in India are fairly westernized,” he says, “and we spoke English at home, so language was not an issue.” Dan did have to speak slower to be understood, and he needed to learn local idioms and cultural practices that were different. “I quickly came to realize that ‘How are you?’ is the American equivalent of ‘hello.’ They weren’t really asking how I was doing. Community is a big deal in India, and I
missed that in the individualistic culture that is part of the way of life in the U.S,” he says.

Reflecting on his time away from the Church, Dan is reminded of the famous Fulton Sheen quote: “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”

“In the 30+ years that I was away, Jesus’ prayer for unity (John 17:20–23) was a constant thorn in my flesh,” Dan says. “I could not reconcile that with the numerous denominations around me.” He also recognized that there was no ultimate authority to settle doctrinal disputes among Protestant brethren. “If you disagreed with a doctrine, you left and found a church that agreed with what you believed, or you started a new church.”

“God used some painful circumstances in my own family to start my journey back to the Catholic Church,” Dan says. “After a couple of years of reading the Catechism, attending daily Mass (while discerning what to do), calling Catholic Answers with my questions, and interacting with other converts to the Catholic faith, I finally returned to the Catholic Church at Easter in 2013.” When asked what inspired him to study theology, Dan points to his lack of formation. “Because I was so poorly formed in Catholic teaching and so easily led away from the faith, I wanted to understand why the Church teaches what it does and to be equipped to help ‘cultural’ Catholics who have grown up in Catholic homes but have not really appropriated the faith for themselves.”

“The MA program at CDU was challenging because I was working a full-time job while going to school,” Dan says. “It really helped that I was very interested in Theology as a subject, so that kept me going.”

Now that he has earned his degree, Dan plans to get involved in Faith Formation at his parish in the near future. In the past, he served in the choir, RCIA, and led a Men’s group and Bible study. When asked what the biggest takeaway from his educational journey is, Dan responds, “The knowledge I have acquired is not for my own sake, but rather to be shared with others. I look for opportunities to
share my faith with others, to pray with them, to meet them wherever they may be in their journey, and
accompany them.”

“Getting a well-rounded education in Theology in an online setting where I could study at my own pace” is what Dan enjoyed the most about CDU. He highly recommends the program to others, both as a staff member and as one who has critically evaluated the program as a student. “This is a fantastic program with a great curriculum that is faithful to Church teaching and amazing professors who love the Catholic faith and are gifted teachers,” he says.


“The online format is convenient for working adults because it lets you learn at your own pace in the
comfort of your own home, and the school is accredited by multiple agencies, so you can be assured that high standards are being met.”

Double Graduate Shares God’s Love through Missionary Work

Emily Rybak, who is an apostolate of the missionaries of the Servant Sisters, earned both her AA and BA degrees at CDU and has been accepted into the MA in Theology program. “Every course formed my intellect in a particular way in which my heart was then able to connect the paradoxical reality of coming to know Christ more fully while simultaneously growing in awe of the mystery He is,” she says. “All of the courses and  faculty members were excellent and truly work to engage the students in cultivating a  rich and vibrant understanding of academics in light of the beauty of the Church.”

Emily says that her education has prepared her in numerous ways for her work, “but the focal point is Christ. CDU truly emphasizes that in the midst of science, philosophy,  literature, logic, idiomatics, history, morality, theology, soteriorology, and so forth, Christ is the center of it all. If Christ is the center of everything I pursue, including academics, then I can rest assured that my work will bear good, holy fruit.”

Emily was prompted to do missionary work with the Servant Sisters after an experience she had before the Blessed Sacrament nearly four years ago. She was in adoration one day and had a vivid and powerful desire to encounter Christ more fully and, in turn, love Him better. “When I expressed this to The Lord and placed this desire in His hands, He

opened the eyes of my heart in a particular way, and in doing so, I began to see Him all  the more in the individuals I would encounter everyday,” she says. “I fell in love with His presence in others and recognized the immense ways in which He was inviting me to  love Him in others.”

Emily’s work is wide ranging. She says, “I have the immense privilege of serving our brothers and sisters in Christ on various levels, such as in the pro-life field, substance  abuse recovery centers, teaching religious education, retreats and formation meetings focused on the youth, and media platforms (such as the Promethean Perspective Podcast) that engage families to embrace the gift of the domestic church, as well as numerous other opportunities to console, strengthen, and tend to the Body of Christ.”

As in all things, there are always challenges, but when challenges are met with love, they can become great joys. “The poverty of a missionary life produces the gift of  interior freedom, the freedom to follow Christ when He calls,” Emily explains. “The joy of laying one’s life down out of love for God and neighbor produces a peace that is never based upon the daily circumstances but on how Christ is inviting us to trust Him in the midst of it all.”

She sees the study of theology as a vibrant experience of appreciating truth, goodness, and beauty all bound together. “I learned all the more who I was, but moreover, who I am in light of who God is. There is nothing more good, true, or beautiful that I could do with my life than to share the power of God’s love with the world or maybe even just one lost soul. We were made for greater things, not grander but greater, and often those things come by way of a humble joyful soul focused on Christ,” Emily says.

Emily, one of six siblings, was born and raised on a farm in the valley of the Blue Ridge  Mountain Range on the east coast. “The daily commitment of farm work and the  consistency of the wholesome lifestyle therein focuses and disciplines you in numerous ways, particularly because you recognize you are part of something larger, a team effort,” she says. “This ‘farmer strong’ mentality applies to many areas of life and was a great gift that I received from my childhood. My parents did an excellent job in cultivating a flourishing domestic church, and having this consistency as a youth was crucial to my formation. Consistency in that which is virtuous is key for holiness and is a golden thread that teaches you to embrace sanctity day by day, moment by moment, out of love for Christ.”

She looks forward to earning her MA degree in Theology. “This privilege will only unlock more doors through which I can walk and serve Him all the more!” Emily says.

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.

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