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.
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.”
On November 3, 2018, CDU graduates from across the United States traveled to the National Shrine of St. John Paul II in Washington, DC, to attend the annual Academic Convocation Mass, where all 2018 graduates were honored for their academic achievements. More than 60 students from throughout the United States as well as Japan, Scotland, Austria, and Canada earned academic degrees and certificates this year. University Chancellor Archbishop Timothy Broglio served as the principal celebrant, and trustee Bishop Emeritus Paul Loverde of Arlington con-celebrated.
Given the many reasons why students choose to study online, including cost, schedules, family responsibilities, work, and health, we are always delighted to meet those who are able to travel to the Washington, DC, area to participate in the Academic Convocation Mass. They represent their fellow graduates and and enjoy the opportunity to meet each other, the faculty, and staff members who attend. Read more about the outstanding graduates who attended the Mass below.
|Irma Juanita Alvarez: MA (Theology)
Irma Juanita Alvarez enrolled in 2011 immediately after retiring as a teacher and administrator at Southwestern Community College in Chula Vista, CA. She had seen Dr. Robert Royal and other CDU representatives on EWTN promoting CDUs graduate programs in theology and felt the Lord’s call to deepen her understanding of the Catholic Church and its theological roots so she could teach and evangelize others. “The fact that the CDU program was taught by an outstanding faculty and that it was taught online caught my interest,” she says. “The CDU program has been both challenging and inspiring for me. I am very grateful for the education I have received from such distinguished professors, and I thank God for having allowed me this opportunity.”
|Cierra Elizabeth Holt: BA Theology
After moving around the United States in her youth, Cierra and her family settled in Florida. Wishing to focus on the most important thing in life, relationship with God, Cierra chose to complete her undergraduate studies at CDU. Cierra uses the knowledge gained from her studies to teach others about the Faith, especially children in her parish’s faith formation program. Cierra is grateful to CDU for offering her an orthodox Catholic education, to her parents for making her studies possible, and to the Holy Trinity for blessing her continually.
|Alfredo Garcia Lopez: BA Theology
Alfredo Garcia Lopez, of Fresno, CA, was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and emigrated to the United States in 1987. He is married with three children and is self-employed, working in the field of taxes and insurance since 1989. “Going back to the Church in 2005, I started to participate in bible studies. I now participate in several ministries at Saint John’s Cathedral,” he says. “I was looking for a more in-depth understanding of my faith and providentially found Catholic Distance University. It has been a marvelous and awesome experience to have been introduced to the wonderful mysteries of our God. I’m deeply thankful to my teachers and all the people at CDU.”
|Mary McKay: MA (Theology)
Mary McKay is Liturgy Director at St Mary of Sorrows. In a volunteer role she serves as a facilitator for some of the adult faith formation programs offered at St Mary’s, which is a passion of hers. “In both my paid and volunteer capacities, I use what I learned at CDU nearly every day,” Mary says. “I’m also particularly grateful to Fr Bramwell who, early on, pushed us to be precise in our language when speaking about theology.”
|Maria Moore-Michels: BA Theology
Maria Moore-Michels of Wrightwood, CA, first heard of CDU in 2007 from a former student. “I thought it was a tantalizing dream,” she says. “My wishful thinking, written on a napkin, became reality in 2013. Today, I am here to joyfully walk for my BA first and foremost by the grace of God who filled my life with my daughter Jacqueline, whose studies inspired me to keep learning, because of Robert my late husband’s love of the word, and because my current husband Arnie and my parents Maria Luisa and Narciso lovingly encouraged me. I thank my Lord for this unbelievable achievement in his honor, for directing me to follow him as an Oblate of St. Andrew’s Abbey, for all the children I have been blessed to teach in RCIC, and for the tremendous joy of serving him as Eucharistic Minister, Reader, and Master of Ceremonies at Our Lady of the Snows in beautiful Wrightwood, CA.”
|Nicholas R. Radloff: MA (Theology)
Nicholas Radloff of Dyersville, Iowa, a former captain in the U.S. Air Force and now a civilian, studied aerospace engineering at Saint Louis University. After completing undergraduate studies in 2008, he began a career as a Combat Search and Rescue Navigator with the U.S. Air Force flying the HC-130 aircraft. While on active duty, Nicholas began his studies at CDU and is grateful for the opportunity to study theology while simultaneously being deployed to many parts of the world. His courses played a role in his discernment, and he left the Air Force to pursue the priesthood. Nicholas is currently a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Dubuque studying at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois.
|Suzanne Reinhardt-Johnson: MA (Theology)
Suzanne Reinhardt-Johnson is married with four adult children and two grandchildren. She works part-time as a preschool teacher. After serving as a catechist for her children, Suzanne began her studies at CDU. “The convenient online classes and support of the instructors and discussion chat rooms made learning the curriculum and deepening one’s faith an unsurpassed experience,” she says. She makes use of both as a catechist in multiple ministries in her home parish.
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.
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.”
MA (Theology) alumnus Deacon Gerard-Marie Anthony is an, author, apologist, and religion/bioethics teacher. He was ordained a deacon for the Diocese of Arlington in January 2017 and also serves as a member of the diocese’s Black Catholic Ministries and Evangelization Board.
“I’m proud to be a CDU alumni!” says Deacon Anthony, who earned his CDU degree in 2009. “My degree in theology has helped me tremendously both as a professional and as a deacon.” Since then Deacon Anthony has earned his Virginia Catholic Education Teaching Certification through George Mason University, taught religion and bioethics at John Paul the Great High School, and has served as a professor for Christ the Teacher College. He is now taking a break from teaching to pursue a counseling degree at Divine Mercy University.
The flexibility of CDU and the quality of classes are what Deacon Anthony enjoyed most about CDU. “I wanted a good quality program that would allow me to grow, challenge me to know more about God, and allow me the flexibility to study and work,” he says.
“I use what I learned from my Master’s programs to teach theology at my parish assignments,” he says. “I have taught on topics ranging from Books of the Bible, the Mission of Jesus, to Humanae Vitae and the diaconate. The [CDU] class on the vocation of the laity helped me to see how to motivate the laity to take up their role of apostolate in the Church,” he says. “And of course, my theology degree helps me tremendously with homilies.”
Deacon Anthony has written many articles and books, including Who Am I: The Theology of the Body in Prayer and has contributed to Lay Witness, Immaculate Heart Messenger, and Spirituality Today magazines, and is a frequent contributor to Catechist and The Josephite Harvest magazines and blogs at CatholicMatch.com. He has also been a guest on EWTN radio shows on numerous occasions with appearances on Catholic Connection and the SonRise Morning Show and has appeared as a special guest on the EWTN television show The Church Universal.
He has worked with teens for over 15 years and frequently gives talks for people of all ages including teens at Confirmation retreats, adults seeking faith education, and young adults. “The thing that I enjoy the most about teaching is seeing how the knowledge that you impart can bring people closer to truth, thus improving their lives and helping the student to better him or herself,” he says. Because he thinks theologically, Deacon Anthony says, “I see in this the power of the Word, and it reminds me of the importance of being disciples of Christ and letting His Word guide our lives as a teacher helps guide a student.”
Deacon Anthony is a longtime member of the world’s largest lay apostolic organization, the Legion of Mary. He says, “The things that led me to pursue the diaconate were a love for helping people, that is, service, people telling me I should be a deacon, prayer, and the Legion of Mary, which promoted an active participation in the service of others under the guidance of the Church.”
Deacon Anthony runs an apologetics website at gmarieforG-O-D.com in his spare time.