“Graduating with a BA in Theology this Advent Season is the greatest gift,” says Lan Nguyen, who is now continuing her studies in the MA (Theology) program. “I could not have accomplished this milestone without the grace of God and the support of my wonderful family, especially my husband.”
“Every time someone asks me, ‘why are you studying theology, and what are you going to do with that degree?’ I always reply with a gentle smile and say, ‘I really don’t know, but one thing I do know is that studying theology is like heaven opening the door for me. I feel an angel walking with me through each class,’” she says.
Lan is an active volunteer at Our Lady of La Vang Mission, which currently operates out of St. Veronica Church in Chantilly, Virginia. Though OLL Mission first began with just 30 families, now more than 422 families are registered. On September 3rd , 2017, the Our Lady of La Vang Catholic Community was established as a mission of Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Church in Arlington by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge.
“As our membership has grown, the CCC program has grown along with it,” says Lan. Catechists are always desperately needed, so she volunteered to be a substitute catechist in 2012 and eventually became a regular catechist. Lan currently volunteers at OLL Mission as multicultural representative and diocesan liaison. Her work includes managing the child protection program, working with the Asian and Pacific Island Catholic Community, assisting the DRE as a coordinator of the diocesan CCD program, and serving as a catechist for the Confirmation class. “On occasion, I have had the opportunity to direct the entertainment program, including the Christmas play and Mariam dance for the community,” she adds.
Lan enrolled at CDU in 2015 after completing the Diocese of Arlington’s Master Catechist Training Program, which was led by Rev. Paul F. deLadurantaye, the diocesan secretary for religious education and the sacred liturgy. “After that, I was still yearning to learn more and deepen my faith and my involvement in the catechetical ministry of the Church. Through the Arlington DRE network, I discovered CDU,” she says.
“Going back to school as an adult is quite difficult. It’s even harder when English is your second language,” says Lan, whose first language was Vietnamese. “With these concerns, I was excited to find that CDU has developed a very convenient online program with a great support system.” “Each course has introduced to me a different piece of the Church’s doctrine and God’s Word, where I then find truth and authentic love,” she explains.
“The thing I love most is having access to my coursework anytime and anywhere; and the staff is amazing. They are always there to help and support,” she adds. One of her favorite “places” is the CDU chapel. “I often click in there to just say a prayer or discuss something with God.”
“I am always fascinated with the Bible every time I read it, and therefore find that I have so many questions,” Lan says. “God says, You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).”
“I would like to invite those who want to learn more about the Church’s teaching to take one course at CDU,” Lan says. “I guarantee you will have a rewarding experience. CDU has a vibrant learning community that truly reflects the universality of the Church.” She adds, “Theology can be a very difficult subject, but just remember what Jesus said: With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).”
“I am so thankful for the professors and programs at CDU that continue to guide me on this spiritual journey,” Lan says. “These professors are teaching the authentic, life-giving Gospel.”
A Global Civilization, taught by esteemed faculty member Dr. Charles Rieper, is the third of three undergraduate survey courses covering the totality of Western history. The course traces the development of Western Civilization from the Enlightenment to the era of the war on terror and globalization in the 21st century. Dr. Rieper will guide students thought significant periods of western history including the emergence of the Enlightenment and Age of Absolutism, the French Revolution, the birth of the United States, the Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression and World Wars, the Cold War, and the modern era, which has brought momentous change.
Theresa (Terri) Thomas recently earned her BA in Theology and plans to continue her studies in the MA program next year. Since 2008 Terri has served as the Adult Faith Formation Coordinator for Holy Trinity Church in Peachtree City, Georgia. “My relationship with God has deepened and my heart has been set on fire through my education at CDU,” Terri says.
Her work in the Church led her to want to learn more. Finding a university that was faithful to the teachings of the Church was important to Terri. “I had taken classes in the past from another Catholic university but was deeply disappointed because most of the professors were not faithful to the Magisterium. Negativity and criticism of the Church permeated many of the classes, and it was a very deflating, stressful and exhausting experience,” she explains. “CDU was a breath of fresh air for me.”
Because she works full time, Terri also needed a university that was fully online without a summer residency requirement. CDU’s asynchronous classes easily fit into her schedule. “The degree completion program was a wonderful and doable option for me because it allowed me to utilize all of the classes that I had already completed,” she says
The program has better prepared her to share her knowledge of the faith with others, she explains. “ I personally feel much more competent to teach classes on a variety of topics. I hope to foster a love and appreciation for the great gift of our Catholic Faith and to open people’s eyes as to how very practical it is for our everyday lives,” Terri says.
“[CDU] is definitely a means to mature in Christ. I am not the same person I was when I began this journey.”
“I have always felt a great responsibility to pass on the true teachings of the Church in the most charitable way possible because I firmly believed that the closer I come to the Truth the more fruitful it will be for the people I serve,” she explains.
CDU’s courses and theology curriculum led to a better view of the whole picture. “Before CDU, I would randomly select different topics to read and learn about based on my interest at the time. I was deeply touched and benefitted from that method of learning, but there were many ‘holes’ in my education/formation. I did not understand how everything I was learning fit together,” she says.
“CDU has given me a very balanced and complete education and a solid foundation to build on. It was a wonderful experience to learn how deeply connected every aspect of the Catholic Faith is from the seemingly smallest teaching—such as why we genuflect–to the grandest teaching, such as the work of the Holy Spirit in our souls.”
Terri says that CDU has fostered in her a deeper appreciation for “all things Catholic.” “This education has given me a more comprehensive understanding of the teachings of the Church, which is very important when planning and selecting the classes, programs and events that will be offered in order to provide a well-rounded formation here at Holy Trinity.”
“My desire was to take my time earning my degree so that I could contemplate and pray about what I was learning in order to apply it in my job and in my life in the most fruitful way possible,” Terri says. “As a result, I have grown as a person and this has had a profound effect on all of my relationships, especially in my family and in my role as the Adult Faith Coordinator,” she adds.
Terri particularly appreciated the faculty members who taught her. “The professors and course authors are well known in their areas of expertise, and I knew that I could trust them,” she says. “They consistently exhibited patience with our continual questions and wrong assumptions. They clearly articulated true Catholic teaching and gently corrected any false notions and distorted understandings of Church teaching.”
All in all, she says of the BA program, “It was a very uplifting experience and a wonderful example of how to evangelize and catechize!”
“Catholic Distance University far exceeded my hopes, dreams, and expectations,” Terri says. “ I was a little apprehensive when I began this journey. I was not sure if I had what it would take to complete my degree at this time in my life. The staff and professors were so helpful and encouraging while at the same time they challenged and stretched me in many wonderful ways. I am so thankful for that!”