Friends, trustees, faculty, and staff of Catholic Distance University gathered to celebrate 35 Years of serving the New Evangelization at the annual gala on Saturday, November 3rd, 2018, at the National Shrine of St. John Paul II in Washington, DC. Helen Alvaré, professor of law at George Mason University School of Law and noted Catholic advocate for women and families, served as the master of ceremonies. The event was hosted by Dr. Charles Wasaff, the first lay chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Archbishop Timothy Broglio, university chancellor and vice chairman of the Board. Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington and trustee of CDU delivered the invocation. “Here we are at the Shrine of St. John Paul II, who told us always to use every appropriate resource and tool possible to teach the truth and the joy of the Gospel,” he aptly noted. Bishop Burbidge thanked God for blessing CDU for 35 years and for the many ways the University has responded to that challenge and call. The evening began with an academic convocation Mass to honor CDU’s 2018 graduates, who hail from throughout the United States as well as Japan, Austria, Scotland, and Canada. Archbishop Timothy Broglio served as the principal celebrant, and trustee Bishop Emeritus Paul Loverde of Arlington, who served as chairman of the Board of Trustees from 2003 until 2017, con-celebrated.
MA in Theology degree graduates attending Mass included students from California, Virginia, and Iowa. A student in attendance from Iowa who earned the rank of Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force is now studying at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois for the Archdiocese of Dubuque. He began his career in aerospace engineering in the Air Force as a Combat Search and Rescue Navigator. While deployed abroad during active duty he enrolled in CDU’s MA program and discerned a vocation to the priesthood. BA in Theology degree graduates attending Mass included students from California and Florida. BA graduate Alfredo Garcia Lopez of Fresno, CA, was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and emigrated to the United States in 1987. All of the graduates actively lead or participate in ministries in their parishes and are committed to sharing the faith with others. Dr. Charles Wasaff and president Dr. Marianne Evans Mount presented the Bishop Thomas J. Welsh Parish Award to the Basilica of St. Mary of Alexandria, VA. Rector Rev. Edward C. Hathaway warmly accepted the award on behalf of St. Mary’s Parish, which was founded in 1795 as the first Catholic parish in Virginia. Pope Francis named the church a minor basilica on December 6, 2017, due to its important role in the growth of the Catholic Church in North America. Dr. Wasaff noted the Basilica’s outstanding record of service. The Basilica has 54 apostolates; 400 parishioners actively volunteering in the community; and a 700 plus-student school, making it the largest K-8 school in the Diocese of Arlington. Three of its pastors, including Father Hathaway, have generously supported CDU through the years.
In attendance from the Diocese of Brooklyn, which partners with CDU, were Theodore Musco, a CDU trustee and secretary for the Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese, and Father Joseph Gibino, coordinator for curriculum and degrees for the Diocese. CDU is the academic partner to the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Holy Spirit Institute for Service and Leadership, providing degree and certificate programs at the noncredit, bachelor’s, and graduate degree levels.
Dr. Angelo Giardino, an MA graduate of CDU, trustee, and president of the Alumni Association, also attended. Dr. Giardino, who is professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Utah and chief medical officer at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, is also a consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In her remarks, Dr. Marianne Evans Mount thanked the gala chair, The Honorable Susan R. Malone, for her leadership of the event. “Susan is a dedicated member of our Board, a Dame of Malta, and one of the first two women chosen to serve our country in the FBI,” Dr. Mount said. “She works throughout the year to ensure that we have a spectacular evening and a great Silent Auction to raise money for scholarships.”
Dr. Mount recalled the early history of CDU, which was begun by Bishop Thomas J. Welsh in 1983 as a catechetical institute to put out into the deep for the new evangelization. “Today, as a University, [CDU] honors graduates with a global presence and an impressive diversity as missionary disciples for the 21st century,” she said.
“Her graduates proclaim the transformative experience of learning online because we embrace a different pedagogy, a new model of Catholic university not bound by time or place, whose door is always open,” Dr. Mount explained. “CDU offers a contemplative classroom in the comfort of home, highly credentialed faculty passionate about their faith, and the flexibility and rich interactivity of a cutting-edge learning platform that mirrors the warm conversational teaching of Jesus with his disciples 2000 years ago.”
Attendees were treated to a video that reflected on milestones in CDU’s 35-year history and featured heartfelt messages of congratulations. “Thirty-five years represents a significant moment in the history of CDU,” said Archbishop Timothy Broglio. “Thirty-five years of bringing the Catholic Faith right into the homes of individuals, allowing them to study, earn a degree, and develop in their understanding of our Catholic Faith.” Others featured included benefactor Blanche Moore, who spoke of the importance of spreading the Catholic Faith through distance education. Bishop Emeritus Paul Loverde remarked, “The next 35 years will see this University growing and touching the lives of many more people so that light can come into darkness, so that clarity of truth can dispel misgivings [and] misunderstanding, so that people can live with the Lord Jesus as he brings us closer to each other and one day closer to our eternal reward.” “Thank you for equipping students to be a vital part of the New Evangelization,” said Bishop Burbidge. Others congratulating the University on 35 years of service to the New Evangelization included Greg Erlandson, director and editor in chief of Catholic News Service; Rev. Robert Spitzer, president of the Magis Center and the Spitzer Center; and Rev. Edward Hathaway.
Among a roomful of loyal supporters, Dr. Margaret B. Melady, trustee of CDU and president of the Order of Malta, gave a toast to CDU, looking ahead to its future. “At this milestone, we might ask: what does the future hold? What will CDU look like in the next 10 or 20 or 35 years? I imagine that our faculty will be exploring newly invented, technological tools to improve interactive learning. We will be encountering learners in the peripheries of our global world in all walks of life. We do that now, but this will expand as access to digital communication increases.”
“Our current alumni are from diverse fields—medical, criminal justice, education, media, military, church ministry. More and more of them will be disciples for Christ using their faith formation to evangelize—and much of that will employ digital means,” she added. In addition to a wonderful meal, fine wine donated by the Napa Institute, and a lively cocktail hour, attendees enjoyed the St. John Paul II Shrine’s multimedia exhibit on the life of the sainted late pontiff and enjoyed a silent auction featuring unique items and trips to exotic locations.