Friends, trustees, faculty, and staff of Catholic Distance University gathered to celebrate 36 Years of serving the New Evangelization at the annual gala on Saturday, November 16th, 2019, at the National Shrine of St. John Paul II in Washington, DC. Award-winning WUSA9 newscaster Andrea Roane served as the master of ceremonies. The event was hosted by Chairman of the Board of Trustees Dr. Charles Wasaff and Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, who serves as vice chairman of the Board and chancellor of the University. The theme of the gala was the dream of Pope Francis for a Church of Missionary Disciples who carry out a new evangelization along “new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.”
The evening began with an Academic Convocation Mass to honor the university’s 2019 graduates, who hail from throughout the United States as well as Scotland, Singapore, and Japan. Archbishop Broglio served as the principal celebrant and homilist, and Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, served as principal concelebrant.
Degree and certificate graduates attending the Mass included students from Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Maryland, and Virginia. Despite their diverse careers and professional backgrounds, all of the graduates actively lead or participate in ministries in their parishes and are committed to sharing the faith with others. They were warmly welcomed by University President Dr. Marianne Evans Mount.
Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington and trustee of CDU delivered the invocation. “With the divine assistance of your Son, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the help of Mary our Mother, may this university remain effective and creative in communicating the truth and joy of the Gospel and mind and heart of the Church in a digital world and help others to do the same,” he said.
In her remarks, President Dr. Marianne Evans Mount reflected on the characteristics that CDU graduates have in common. “Our graduates are the face of Christ in their varied circumstances of being on mission as disciples who fulfill the command of Christ to make disciples of all nations.”
She also reflected on the wide reach of the global university, which has offered degrees for 20 years. “Catholic Distance University exists to communicate the mind and heart of the Church, a very ancient tradition to the children of God today, who dwell in a digital world. Our mission reaches the face and heart of students in all circumstances and places, including the barren walls of a prison cell and war-torn areas of the Middle East that may be home to our Military students,” Dr. Mount said. She added that in the last 19 months, CDU’s incarcerated students in prisons across the country with access to a new digital tablet loaded with CDU’s religious education courses have completed 110,000 courses.
“The warmth of the beating heart of Jesus Christ crosses the threshold of CDU’s digital network whose door is always open, welcoming the curious, the searching, the hungry, and the determined believer, who seek the joy of truth in the discipline of study; at our University the human heart encounters the tender, loving, life-giving word of God by tapping an app on a smartphone, a tablet, or a laptop computer,” she added.
Dr. Charles Wasaff presented the Queenship of Mary Award to the Diocese of Brooklyn, the fifth largest diocese in the nation, which has partnered with CDU for over 10 years. In attendance from the Diocese were Theodore Musco, a CDU trustee and diocesan secretary for the Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis, Father Joseph Gibino, academic dean of the Diaconate Program, and Janene Iocco, who earned the Certificate for Catholic Educators this year. 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. Speaking of the flourishing partnership, Theodore Musco said, “It’s now developed into a multilevel program that involves learning not only for catechists and catechetical leaders, but also for those who want a higher education degree or a certificate in religious education or theology. We are very grateful for the opportunities that we’ve had to work with Catholic Distance University.”
Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio presented the Founders Award to Apostolic Nuncio Christophe Pierre, who graciously accepted the award. “Founded in 1983 to offer opportunities for education and faith formation to those at the peripheries, today Catholic Distance University stands as a premier institution in offering graduate and undergraduate degrees and certificates in theology and scripture, as well as providing quality formation for catechists and lay leaders in the Church,” Archbishop Pierre said.
His address noted the concerns Pope Francis expressed at the Synod on Youth about the effects of living in a highly digitalized culture and its profound impact on ideas of time and space, self-understanding, understanding of others and the world, and our ability to communicate, learn, be informed, and enter into relationships with others. “So often technology, even in education, is used for political activity and economic gain,” Archbishop Pierre said. “As such, there is a temptation to educate for efficiency and productivity, without concern for formation of character.”
Yet, formation of character is essential to education and Catholic education in particular. Archbishop Pierre thanked Catholic Distance University for keeping character—and Christ—at the forefront of education. “The essential content of all the education and formation provided by Catholic Distance University is the person of Christ. He changes everything – makes all things new – for our young people, our Church, and our world. I am truly grateful to all at Catholic Distance University who work to make Christ more widely known and loved,” he said.
Bishop Paul S. Loverde, bishop emeritus of Arlington and former chairman of the Board, offered the benediction at the end of the evening.
In addition to a wonderful meal, fine wine donated by the Napa Institute, and a lively cocktail hour, attendees enjoyed the National Shrine of St. John Paul II’s multimedia exhibit on the life of the sainted late pontiff and a silent auction featuring unique items and trips to exotic locations.