CDU Partners with Shepherd University

On July 23rd Catholic Distance University signed a Memorandum of Understanding and an articulation agreement with Shepherd University, a state university in West Virginia. The agreement allows students who earn CDU’s AA degree in the Liberal Arts with a Concentration in Catholic Studies to continue on at Shepherd University to earn a Regents Bachelor of Arts (RBA) degree. The documents were signed by CDU President Dr. Marianne Evans Mount and Shepherd University Provost Dr. Scott Beard. Also in attendance from Shepherd University were Dr. Virginia Hicks, assistant provost for academic community outreach, and Beth Thomas, RBA program coordinator.

Shepherd University’s RBA program was designed to help students work around life’s challenges to earn a bachelor’s degree. CDU expects the program to be particularly attractive to Catholic students in West Virginia, who may choose to earn CDU’s online AA degree in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Catholic Studies to save money while living at home and to become better grounded in the faith before heading off to Shepherd University to earn a Bachelor’s degree. At just $305 per credit hour, CDU’s AA degree is an affordable option.

“We are excited about the opportunities for our students,” said Dr. Marianne Evans Mount, “and continuing opportunities for our faculty to work together and explore ways of expanding our curriculum. We are thrilled to be working with a state university like Shepherd University.”

Dr. Scott Beard said, “We are really appreciative of this opportunity to collaborate with Catholic Distance University and to really have some clear degree pathways for a new population of students. We look forward to future collaborations with Catholic Distance University.”

Pictured, left to right: Dr. Virginia Hicks, assistant provost for academic community outreach; Dr. Marianne Evans Mount, CDU president; Dr. Scott Beard, Shepherd University provost; and Beth Thomas, Shepherd University RBA program coordinator

MA Grad Accepted into PhD Program

Doug Spriggs, a dedicated English teacher and high school football coach who is also involved in local parish ministry, has been accepted into a PhD program at the United States Sports Academy for Sports Management.

Through his sports career, Doug became a campus minister at the University of Arkansas and a leader in Fellowship of Christian Athletes. His education in the MA (Theology) program has benefited his professional life. In public schools, Doug strives to ensure that the English curriculum eliminates bias against Christian denominations, literature, and the Catholic Church, and his theological education allows him to refute many philosophical ideologies used to defend unethical behaviors and unfair treatment of student populations.

“The fidelity of my studies within the Catholic Faith guides all of my decisions as I advance my career outside of the Church,” Doug says. “My rigorous study at CDU prepared me to succeed on a higher level. I am now seeking employment at the collegiate level as an athletic director.” Doug’s education in the PhD program at the United States Sports Academy for Sports Management will help prepare him for the career transition.

Doug sees the impact his MA degree has in the secular world and is eager to effect a profound change within the growing world of collegiate sports. His graduate experience at CDU helps guide his life in a manner that is grounded in faith. He hopes that this combination of studies will inspire the next generation of Catholics to expand their notions of “vocation” and fulfill God’s calling in their lives.

IT Professional Graduates Summa Cum Laude

Daniel Colón earned his BA degree summa cum laude this year. He is an information technology professional and also serves as a coordinator of religious education at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Palmyra, PA. Daniel attended two other institutions and switched his field of study several times before settling on theology at CDU.

“In 1986 I began attending Sacred Heart University in Santurce, Puerto Rico. I was majoring in telecommunication (radio and TV), however after two years I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I changed my major to psychology because I always felt drawn to help to others in some way, so psychology seemed like a good bet,” he says. “Unfortunately, due to life’s circumstances, I had to drop out with a year and a half left to complete the BA.” Some years later, Daniel attended a computer technical school. After obtaining a certificate and various IT certifications, he began his career in the IT field.

“About 6 years ago, I ran across CDU’s BA completion program and thought, ‘what a great way to learn more about my faith and complete my degree,’” he says. “I have always been driven to help, teach, and mentor others. A degree in theology sounded like a great way to be more helpful and effective when talking to others about my faith.” Daniel found the asynchronous online classes very convenient. “They also allow for more meaningful conversations as students have the chance to develop a thought through and then share with the class,” he adds.

Though Daniel was raised Catholic, he left the Church for a time. “In my late teens I got involved with a Pentecostal church, and I had an encounter with Christ,” he says. People from the church were very welcoming, and they helped Daniel to get involved in youth ministry, music ministry, and increase his knowledge of Scripture. Looking back, Daniel says, he was drawn away from the [Catholic] Church by the lure of novelty and the rush of excitement from more charismatic religious practices.

“I guess you can say I didn’t leave the [Catholic] Church all at once but rather slowly trickled away,” he says. “I know now that the reason I walked away is because I did not understand nor appreciate the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I thought I had found Jesus, yet he was there in the tabernacle at my parish the whole time. This is why as a religious educator, I try to focus on the Eucharist to help students understand that they will not find the Eucharist anywhere else but in the Catholic Church.”

He advises young people who may be thinking of leaving the Church to get involved in their parish and find ways to participate in youth ministry, altar serving, or volunteering. “This is especially true for Confirmation students,” he says. “I always remind them that confirmation is not graduation and that it is a beginning rather that an end. Teens considering leaving the Church should remember that God loves them, and He will never tire of reaching out in love to draw them back.”

After many years the Holy Spirit moved Daniel to return to the Church, and that is when he discovered CDU. “I responded to this call with an intense feeling that God was preparing me for something,” he says. “I had an insatiable desire to study Church history, theology, and teaching, and the more I studied, the more I wanted. So I took the next natural step, which was to pursue a theology degree.”

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio was Daniel’s favorite professor. “I took 2 classes with him, and he is wonderful. THEO 503 The Catholic Theological Tradition was a fantastic course. His method of teaching and delivery is very conducive to great board discussions, and he is extremely knowledgeable,” he says.

Daniel developed a good rapport with a few of his fellow classmates, sharing notes and having great discussions. “In general, I found students at CDU a very cordial and smart. It was great reading their stories and comments,” he says.

As coordinator of religious education, Daniel helps prepare children to receive the sacraments, assists with the RCIA process, teaches classes, helps to coordinate adult Bible studies, and serves as a premarital marriage mentor along with his wife, to whom he has been married for 29 years. They have two daughters and two sons.

Though being a coordinator of religious education is very rewarding, there are many challenges, one of which is avoiding discouragement, he explains. “It breaks my heart when a 14-year-old receives Confirmation and then we never see them again,” Daniel says. “This has been a source of frustration and pain. However, I remind myself that God is in control, and I must trust the Holy Spirit. It is not about me but about what God is doing in the life of that young person. If we have done a good job laying a solid foundation, I trust that they will come back.”

Another challenge is getting parents and families involved in the religious formation of their children. “Far too often, I notice parents dropping off their kids in the parking lot without setting a foot in the church or going to Mass. I think parents are missing the boat when they do that,” he says.

“God has a plan for everyone,” Daniel says. “If you had told me 5 years ago that I would have a degree in theology and be coordinator of religious education for a church I would have laughed. You never know where God is going to take you, and He usually takes you in directions that are neither comfortable nor easy but are filled with blessings and rewards. We must listen to the voice of God and prayerfully allow the Holy Spirit to complete his work in us; only then can we be truly fulfilled and happy.”

Recently, Daniel was asked to speak to a group about Lent. “Five years ago no one really cared what I had to say about anything, and now I get invited to speak. God is good!” Daniel says. “In only a couple of years, I have gone from a life of little to no involvement in church and community to a life of service to others and sharer of the good news of Christ. I am truly blessed. To God be all the glory!”

Professor Hood Earns a PhD in Semitics

Professor Joshua Hood, who teaches graduate and undergraduate Latin courses, recently earned his PhD in Semitics from The Catholic University of America. His dissertation was titled, “Songs of Supplication and Penitence: ʿOnyātā from the Warda Collection in Mingana Syr 214.”

Onyātā are a type of stanzaic hymn used in the liturgies of the East Syriac tradition,” Dr. Hood explains, which is represented today by the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Assyrian Church of the East, the Ancient Church of the East, and some of the churches of India. Gīwargīs Wardā, who wrote most likely in the 13th century, authored many of these hymns as well as a liturgical book. “My dissertation examines those ʿonyātā appointed for the “Rogation of the Ninevites,” a three-day fast that occurs a few weeks before Lent,” Dr. Hood says. “In addition to a Syriac edition of the hymns and an English translation, I have tried to point out Wardā’s creative use of biblical narrative and the apocryphal and traditional stories that inform his retelling of biblical episodes. There are significant points of contact with Jewish and Islamic tradition as well,” he explains.

Professor Hood has studied many ancient and contemporary languages. “I was drawn to medieval Latin Catholicism as a teenager, and studying Latin in college was a natural first step in studying this,” he says. “I soon began studying Greek as well, and when I began graduate school at The Catholic University of America, my interests increasingly shifted ‘eastward’ as I moved from Biblical Studies to Semitics, concentrating in Syriac, but also studying Coptic, Arabic, and Hebrew.”

Subjects that particularly interest Dr. Hood include Eastern Christianity, Christian-Jewish-Islamic encounters throughout history, Christian apocrypha, and Syriac and Byzantine liturgy.

Faculty Gather at Mandatum Ceremony

CDU faculty members gathered on April 9th to take the Oath of Fidelity to the Catholic Church and make the Profession of Faith at the Chancery of the Diocese of Arlington. CDU Trustee Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, DD, PhD, conducted the ceremony as the local ordinary. In keeping with Canon law, the mandatum ceremony is held to ensure that faculty teach in full communion with the Church and reflects CDU’s commitment to remain faithful to the Magisterium.

Pictured, from left to right: Dr. James Kruggel, Dr. Peter Brown, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Father Bevil Bramwell, and Dr. Matthew Bunson. Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio and Dr. Marie Nuar attended remotely.

Attorney in Singapore Earns an MA in Theology

Raymond Clement of Jalan Novena Utara, Singapore, works as an in-house counsel for a bank. In late 2018 he earned his MA degree in Theology.

“I decided to study theology after experiencing a nagging feeling for a number of years that I was not plumbing the inexhaustible richness of the Catholic Faith,” Raymond says. “I also felt a keen awareness that in order to engage intelligently in the culture wars that are shaping the times we live in, I needed to be equipped with the right tools.”

He chose CDU primarily due to its completely online teaching format. “Other universities I came across uniformly had a residency requirement that I would have found difficult to fulfill,” he says. “CDU’s faithfulness to the Magisterium and the quality of its faculty were also important considerations.”

Despite working in banking—a field seemingly unrelated to theology–Raymond finds his degree useful in his work. “My knowledge of theology has helped me to see my work in a different light and shown me more opportunities to practice my faith in the workplace,” he says.

Raymond took a break from volunteering at church while studying at CDU but intends to begin again now that he has completed his degree program. In the past he has led a church choir and advised churches on legal matters.

“Church attendance in Singapore is high, and there is a deep hunger for God’s Word,” he says. “I hope to help in a small way to fulfil this need after having completed my studies at CDU.”

What Raymond enjoyed most about his experience at CDU was the sense of belonging to a Catholic community and the passion he developed for sharing the Faith with others.

Professor Padgett Earns His STL

On March 7th, Professor Chris Padgett successfully defended his thesis, “The Life and Mariology of Father Juniper Carol, O.F.M,” earning his Licentiate in Sacred Theology at the Marianist Institute at the University of Dayton. Chris has been a faculty member since 2015 and will teach THEO 304 Foundations of Catholicism and THEO 640 Presenting the Faith in the Modern World: Dealing with the Hard Questions in the Summer I term.

Father Juniper Carol was born in 1911 in Cardenas, Cuba, and eventually came to the United States and joined the Franciscans. He started the Mariological Research Institute and published extensively on the predestination of Mary with Jesus, The Debitum Peccati, and Mary as coredemptrix, exploring her crucial role in salvation history. He died in 1990.

“I was first introduced to Carol through Mariology courses I took at Franciscan University of Steubenville,” Chris says. “I ended up having Dr. Mark Miravalle as my adviser, and I think that his love for Mary and the people he referenced had a big influence on me.”

Chris and his wife, Linda, have been married for more than 25 years and have nine children–five girls and four boys–and a couple of grandchildren. They live in Central New York on a little homestead in a nine-sided, red house and travel extensively. Chris and Linda and have a non-profit ministry for Marriages and Families called Catholic Family and Marriage, Inc. www.catholicfam.org. Chris is active on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

ATS Grants Candidacy to Graduate School of Theology

At its February 7-8, 2019, meeting, the Board of Commissioners of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) unanimously voted CDU’s Graduate School of Theology a Candidate for Accreditation. Founded in 1918, ATS accredits more than 270 graduate schools of theology and most Catholic seminaries in the United States and Canada. Member schools offer post-baccalaureate professional and academic degree programs to educate students for the practice of ministry and for teaching and research in the theological disciplines.

The Graduate School of Theology’s purpose is to provide a transformative learning experience in the digital space and to develop leaders and teachers for the new evangelization in the 21st century. Nearly ninety percent of Graduate School of Theology alumni serve the Church in some ministry, including as youth ministers, directors of religious education, catechists, school teachers, liturgy directors, professors of theology, parish administrators, religious sisters, and diocesan staff. Others use their education to work in the public, non-profit, or private sectors in a variety of fields including education, healthcare, and business.

Notable alumni include Dr. Angelo Giardino, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Well known within the medical community, his career has focused on treating and preventing suffering in children who may have experienced abuse or neglect. Dr. Giardino serves on the National Board of Directors for Prevent Child Abuse America, the National Review Board for the Protection of Children, and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, in addition to CDU’s Board of Trustees. He also serves as a consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Fifty-two percent of Graduate School of Theology alumni are women. Since CDU was founded in 1983, its educational programs have offered women an opportunity to more fully enter into the life and leadership of the Church community. About one-third of the graduate school’s faculty members are women, and a number of women serve on CDU’s Board of Trustees.

Collectively, ATS member schools enroll approximately 74,500 students and employ more than 7,200 faculty and administrators. The mission of ATS is to promote the improvement and enhancement of theological schools to the benefit of communities of faith and the broader public. Member schools are committed to the following shared values: diversity, quality and improvement, collegiality, and leadership. Candidacy is the first step toward full accreditation, which would likely be achieved in a period of two years.

CDU has been continuously accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, a national accreditor, since 1986 and is authorized to grant degrees through the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. In November 2018, CDU was named a Candidate for Accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission, which accredits post-secondary educational institutions in a 19-state region that includes West Virginia, where CDU is headquartered.

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