CDU Supporters Celebrate 35 Years at Annual Gala

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.

Recent BA Grad Becomes Director of Religious Education

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.”

CDU Alumnus Ordained a Deacon Shares the Faith

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.

Married MA Student Ordained Catholic Priest

MA (Theology) student Father Captain Joseph W. Reffner, a Chaplain in the US Army, was ordained a Catholic priest for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter in Houston, Texas, on May 31, 2018. Father Reffner, who was an Anglican priest prior to his ordination in the Catholic Church, is married and has five children with his wife. He converted to Catholicism in 2011 after many years of discernment.

Bishop Steven J. Lopes, Bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, conducted the ceremony, and Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, and Chancellor of CDU, concelebrated the ordination Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Father Reffner was raised as an Evangelical Protestant in Pennsylvania and felt a call to ministry in 2004. “I started to realize I had a heart for ministry when I was an Infantry officer about 15 years ago,” he says. “Soldiers would express personal things to me and look for guidance and counsel. I think they knew I was religious, was approachable, and they were looking for answers. I realized that I really wanted to help these men, but I could only help so much before having them seek the Chaplain,” he says. “I didn’t have the experience or wisdom, plus I needed to focus on mission and training. It really opened up the discernment process to pursue full-time ministry.”

Father Reffner entered a Protestant seminary, and after taking a Systematic Theology course, became Anglican. He later became a deacon and then a priest in the Anglican Church. Over the years the richness of Catholicism appealed to him, and during his discernment he developed a great love and devotion for the Eucharist. Father Reffner’s wife converted to Catholicism in 2012.

Father Reffner wanted to pursue the Catholic priesthood but was concerned about how he would be received as a married Catholic priest. After lots of prayer, discernment, and conversations with deacons, priests, and lay people, he decided to move forward. He says both parishioners and priests have been supportive, open, and loving, and there has been no negativity from anyone.

As an Active Duty Army Chaplain, Father Reffner’s focus is on the men and women who currently serve or have served in uniform along with their families. He serves the military community at the chapels on post and the unit where he is assigned. His garrison is Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington state. “There is also always the possibility of getting deployed to another country or a field training exercise that lasts several days to months,” Father Reffner says. “The important thing is to be where the Soldiers are by providing ministry, counseling, advising the Commander and staff on various issues such as religious area analysis that may affect the mission, morale, moral implications of a decision, resiliency, etc.”

When asked how he balances his roles as a military chaplain, priest, husband, and father, Father Reffner says, “First, I think it comes from the call to holiness from Jesus. As Pope Francis recently said in Guadete Et Exsultate, ‘A Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth without seeing it as a path of holiness.’”

“My mission is as a priest and husband, and since I have received the sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony in which Christ is present, I need to ensure I don’t get in the way of Christ or use him as an excuse to put myself against one over the other. I’m no good as a priest if I abandon my family, and I’m not a good man of integrity if I put off my duties and dignities as a priest,” he says. “Yes, there is tension, but I find my inspiration and reflection in my devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

“Second, is manage expectations,” Father Reffner says. “There is a balance, and it has to be communicated to the chapel staff, the unit, and the family. There are many late nights and weekends away from the family in the military. The best is knowing that there are other priests who are there to help cover when I may be gone on retreat or vice a versa. The beauty of having other devoted Catholic priests and lay faithful is knowing it’s not about me and doesn’t depend entirely on me,” he says.

Of CDU, Father Reffner says, “The faculty and staff express a true, lived-out Catholic faith. Several professors head their own apostolates or are active in others, and some teach at other Catholic institutions.”

He loves the emphasis on St. Thomas Aquinas in CDU’s courses. “I dabbled with The Summa Theologiae to some extent while in a Protestant seminary, but CDU has really emphasized him and I have come to really enjoy him. It has actually helped me learn to listen to arguments better and form my thoughts with an understanding of how another might hear them,” he says.

Last summer Father Reffner was in Syria taking Christology. “Some Soldiers and Airmen asked if I could start a weeknight study of some sort, and I agreed,” he says. “I was able to formulate a simple approach to Christology for them because I was taking the class at the time, and the notes and Scripture references where right there. The men and women loved it.”

Given Father Reffner’s multiple roles, the flexibility of CDU has been important. “I have moved twice during my time at CDU and been deployed. I have been able to choose the classes that fit my situation the best. Plus, CDU is military friendly and very supportive. The professors have been very supportive in understanding my role in the Army.”

Fr. deLadurantaye Named to Vatican Secretariat of State

The Arlington Catholic Herald

Father Paul F. deLadurantaye, executive director of the St. Thomas More Institute and diocesan secretary for catechetics and sacred liturgy, has been appointed to the English section of the Vatican Secretariat of State for five years beginning Sept. 1, 2018.

Click here to read more.

ATS Grants Associate Membership to Graduate School of Theology

Catholic Distance University’s Graduate School of Theology was granted associate membership in the Association of Theological Schools at the accrediting agency’s biennial meeting in Denver, Colorado, on June 20th. Associate membership is the first step toward full accreditation by ATS.

Dr. Marianne Mount, President, and Sister Mary Brendon Zajac, Board member, attended the meeting. “CDU’s associate membership in the Association of Theological Schools is an incremental fulfillment of the University’s first strategic goal to pursue regional and programmatic accreditation,” says Dr. Mount, who has served the University in a variety of leadership positions since its founding in 1983.

“CDU’s Graduate School of Theology was welcomed as a colleague of more than 270 theological schools that includes most Catholic seminaries in the U.S. CDU is deeply grateful to our hard-working staff and committed Board of Trustees,” she adds. “This accomplishment is especially important for our graduate students and MA graduates.”

Pictured (l to r): Sister Mary Brendon Zajac, CDU Board Member; Dr. Marianne Mount, CDU President; Sister Mary McCormick, OSU Academic Dean; and Father Mark Latcovich, President-Rector, Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology, Diocese of Cleveland, gather to celebrate CDU’s associate membership.

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