Online Teaching Course Offered Worldwide

Catholic Distance University and the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU) are partnering to offer IFCU faculty members worldwide a course titled Teaching in a Digital World.

CDU’s faculty members are eager to share their knowledge with colleagues whose classes have suddenly moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. CDU, the only exclusively online Catholic university, has been accredited to offer distance education since 1986 and has delivered online programs for 20 years. Faculty members are well versed in best practices in online teaching and have many years of successful teaching experience in the online environment.

The 4-week, 10-hour course features Dr. Marie Nuar, Dr. Peter Brown, Alissa Thorell, and Kathy Vestermark presenting various elements of online teaching. President Dr. Marianne Evans Mount teaches the theory, research, pedagogy, and theology of distance education. Other topics covered include practical techniques of best practices for successful teaching online, course design, use of media, interaction, and student support. During the course, participants can develop a course of their own design on the Canvas learning platform and have many opportunities to dialogue with CDU faculty.

The first course was offered in June and included faculty from the following countries and territories: Spain, Philippines, Belgium, Chile, Sierra Leone, Puerto Rico, Palestine, Congo DR, Indonesia, Spain, Italy, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, India, and Mexico. The course will be offered to IFCU members again in July, September, and October and will then be offered to anyone who wishes to enroll.

Many faculty members accustomed to classroom teaching find the online environment a challenge both for themselves and for their students. In some cases, students have internet connectivity issues, and both teachers and students have a learning curve with the adaptation to a learning management system. There is a great interest in learning how to humanize and foster a sense of community especially in a Catholic university environment. Some faculty have expressed concerns about a lack of student engagement, the effects of social isolation on students, cultural differences, and potential learning loss. Teaching in a Digital World is designed to give faculty members the expertise and knowledge they need to teach online with confidence while fostering interaction, engagement, and strong learning outcomes for students.

MA Grad to Teach Computer Science

Fausto Franco, a graduate of the MA (Theology) program (Graduate School of Theology, 2019), will teach COSCI Introduction to Computing in the Fall II term. In addition to teaching for CDU, Fausto works in Information Technology with a focus on Cyber Security as a business information security officer for state government. He currently resides in Albany, New York, and is a parishioner at the Shrine Church of Our Lady of the Americas.

After earning his M.Eng. in Computer Systems Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Fausto felt an interior tug to educate himself in theology as he had prepared for his secular career. “I was in a place at that time where being in a traditional school setting was not ideal for me, and I started researching programs I could attend,” he says. “I do not like going to school at night, which is what I did for my first master’s degree, but was willing to do so if the Lord was placing this desire in my heart. One evening while at home, a Google ad for CDU popped up, and without realizing it, I clicked on the ad and was on the CDU page. Upon reading, I came to realize that the Lord had responded to what I had ‘demanded,’ and now it was on me to do my part. I applied, and the rest is history.”

He thoroughly enjoyed the MA (Theology) program. “It was a challenging program, but each course happened at the ‘right’ time for me in my own personal faith journey,” he says. “It turns out that I was applying the material right away in my daily life. At times in ministry, questions or talks on topics would be presented to me that were specifically on the topic that I was currently engaged in. That served for me as a reminder of God’s action in my life in responding to that interior tug, and these were moments of consolation on the journey. Those moments helped me to stay in the program,” he says. “In the journey of faith, obstacles are part of the package.”

Fausto’s degree has been very helpful in his evangelization work, which has led to travel throughout the United States and internationally. “As I started the program, I was called to be the coordinator of the youth/young adult ministry for the Hispanic Catholic Charismatic Renewal for the Archdiocese of New York. It also was during this time that I served as the national coordinator of the US/Canada for youth/young adults in the Hispanic Catholic Charismatic Renewal,” he says. The MA program helped Fausto grow in his understanding of the faith and share it with others in the ministry and those who participated in retreats and events.

“In the workplace, as co-workers found out that I was pursuing this degree, it led to many interesting conversations around faith. It allowed me to go deeper and gain more understanding to build my own relationship with God and, in turn, the desire to want to share that with others. It has allowed me to be part of the CDU faculty as well, teaching and allowing students to realize that even in the world of Mathematics and Computing, God is revealing Himself to us there and what the Church teaches us regarding these subjects,” he says.

The oldest of four children born to immigrant parents from the Dominican Republic, Fausto was raised in the Bronx, New York. He has been involved in youth and young adult ministry for many years and is active on the Diocesan Service Committee for the Archdiocese of New York. He was published in the summer 2018 edition of Pentecost Today magazine and spoke at the Golden Jubilee 50th anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in July 2017. Fausto also participated in the V Encuentro of Latino/Hispanic Ministry representing ecclesial movements and is a member of the Locos por Jesus ministry that travels to the Dominican Republic and throughout the United States to evangelize.

In his free time, Fausto plays baseball in the Albany Twilight League, one of the oldest amateur baseball leagues in the country, usually as second baseman or shortstop. He played baseball for Siena College as an undergraduate.

 

ATS GRANTS ACCREDITATION TO GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY

On June 2, 2020, the Board of Commissioners of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) voted to accredit Catholic Distance University’s Graduate School of Theology for an initial period of 7 years. Founded in 1918, ATS accredits more than 270 graduate schools of theology and most Catholic seminaries in the United States and Canada. CDU is the first exclusively online Catholic university without campus-based programs to achieve ATS accreditation.

University Chancellor Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio said, “The Catholic Distance University Community and its Board of Trustees rejoice in the ATS accreditation for the next seven years. This vote of confidence for our Graduate School of Theology is a tribute to very diligent work and academic excellence, as well as a stimulus for increased effort and an ever deeper commitment to faithful theological education.” Archbishop Broglio heads the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.

President Dr. Marianne Evans Mount said, “This accomplishment is a gift to the CDU Community and to all who will come to CDU in the future. I thank ATS for its commitment to accreditation standards that objectively evaluate schools based on their mission and academic outcomes, not the modality of educational delivery. CDU is honored to join so many highly respected Catholic seminaries and Christian theological institutions in Canada and the United States. We look forward to joining a community of scholars who will help to enhance our work and motivate us even more to make Jesus Christ more present today through our mission to communicate the mind and heart of the Church in a digital world.” Dr. Mount has been with CDU since 1983 and has served as president since 2008.

The Graduate School of Theology provides a transformative learning experience in the digital space and develops leaders and teachers for the new evangelization in the 21st century. Its two degree programs and three certificate programs are offered completely online. 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.

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.

MA Student Appreciates Convenience of Online Education

Lucas Jacobson of New Hope, Minnesota, earned his BA degree in Theology in 2018 and is now pursuing his MA degree in Theology and Educational Ministry. A full-time student, Lucas decided to pursue the study of theology because he figured that if he is going to spend eternity with God, he better get to know something about Him now.
“What I really enjoy about CDU is that one can obtain a degree in Catholic Theology online,” Lucas says. “I have a physical disability, Cerebral Palsy, and use a wheelchair for mobility. I live in Minnesota, and the snow in the winter is hard for my chair to maneuver,” he says.
“For those who have a hard time going out in the community, [the online option] is very beneficial,” Lucas says. “Additionally, one can receive instruction from very knowledgeable instructors [who] are authentic individuals, living out the Catholic faith they teach about. This is very inspiring.”
Lucas began his studies in the first year federal financial aid was made available to students at CDU, which has also helped to put his educational goals within reach. “This enables myself and many others to pursue their education unhindered by financial obstacles,” he says.
Eventually Lucas hopes to pursue a career as a Theology professor for an online higher education institution. He has also considered the possibility of motivational speaking or pursuing a doctorate if a fully online program can be found, but says he will see where God leads him.
Lucas sees the task God is giving him right now as transferring what he has learned about God from his head to his heart, an important process in any theological education. “I sense that God has been calling me into a deeper relationship with him through his mother, Mary, so that I can lead others into their own relationship with God as someone who has personal experience of it,” he says. After recently completing THEO 641, Theology of the Church, Lucas says, “I realized anew during my studies that we are not meant to experience the spiritual life in any aspect alone, but always within the Church.”
His advice to other students is, “Even though you may want to finish your degree faster, ask God what He wants and pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is saying in your heart. The bottom line is, do not go beyond your limits.”
Lucas is thankful to those who have helped him along the way. “No one can take any journey alone. This includes an educational one,” he says. “I am blessed with four siblings and parents who all help me in various ways. Additionally, pursuing my educational goals would be much harder without the aid of personal care attendants, who have also become my friends. I am very grateful for everyone who has supported me, including the CDU professors and staff.” He encourages everyone to think about who has helped them throughout their lives and to thank them in some manner.

Outstanding 2019 Graduate to Be Honored

Rosanne Terese Kouris of LaPorte, Indiana, has been named CDU’s Outstanding Graduate for 2019. Kouris is a worthy honoree who graduated summa cum laude, having attained a 4.08 GPA while earning her BA degree in Theology. The Distance Education Accrediting Commission, CDU’s accreditor, honors an outstanding graduate or alumnus each year from its member institutions.
Rosanne is currently the coordinator of the Office of Family Life for the Diocese of Gary, Indiana. Obtaining her BA has enabled her to develop and expand programs and events offered by the diocese to enrich marriage and family life, including marriage preparation, natural family planning, marriage enrichment, women’s Bible studies, and an annual Women’s Conference. As the director of the diocese’s Rachel’s Vineyard ministry, knowledge and insights obtained through her studies have given her a richer platform from which to minister to those in need of post-abortion healing.
Rosanne is the head of the Savior of the World Children’s Center, a home for orphaned and indigent children in Sierra Leone, West Africa. She oversees the operation of the home, organizes fundraising, and edits a bimonthly newsletter. She and her husband have legally adopted five orphaned children from the Savior of the World Children’s Center, who now live with them in the United States. Rosanne is active in the pro-life movement and frequently volunteers for events.
Of her time at CDU, Rosanne says, “Catholic Distance University is an excellent online school with rich and diverse courses, knowledgeable and caring staff, paired with solid Catholic theology. Their interactive class structure made learning stimulating and gratifying, inspiring me through challenging courses, and motivating me to complete my degree.”
Photo: Rosanne and her husband (at left center) are pictured in Sierra Leone, Africa, with children at the Savior of the World Children’s Center, from which they have legally adopted five children.

Bishop Brennan Blesses New Headquarters Building

On March 2nd, Bishop Mark E. Brennan of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston visited Catholic Distance University’s new headquarters building at 300 S. George Street, Charles Town, WV 25414. Accompanied by Deacon David Galvin of St. James the Greater Church in Charles Town, Bishop Brennan offered Mass, blessed the building, and enjoyed a leisurely lunch with Board of Trustees members and staff. Like a number of other U.S. dioceses, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston uses Catholic Distance University to train its catechists, catechetical leaders, and Catholic school teachers.

Attorney Earns MA Degree While Living in Three Countries

Sarah Fellona, a practicing trial lawyer, wife of an active duty Air Force colonel, and mother of four, recently earned her MA (Theology) degree while living in Germany, Italy, and the United States due to her husband’s military service.

“CDU’s flexible platform made it possible for me to continue my studies despite moves to three different countries,” Sarah says. “As long as I had my laptop and access to the internet, I could connect to my classrooms anywhere in the world.  I also really enjoyed interacting with people from many different walks of life who lived all over the world.  I met so many great people and felt comforted that I was not alone in my desire to learn more about the Faith.”

Eager to share what she has learned at CDU with others, Sarah serves as the coordinator of rites at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Columbia, South Carolina, where she directs the RCIA program, teaches confirmation classes, and coordinates baptisms. “It is a joy to help ignite the fire of passion for God with those seeking the sacraments of initiation!” she says.

The study of theology benefitted Sarah’s practice of law. “Despite our cultural slant on the legal profession, at its core the law serves to do justice.  From that standpoint, as a trial lawyer I find myself much less combative and much more compassionate,” she says.

“I am much more prepared to witness, evangelize, and humbly defend the faith through everyday encounters in my profession.  That said, God has allowed me to use theology in interesting and creative ways in trial practice,” Sarah adds. “I tried a case in September in which it so happened that the daily readings I heard at Mass the last day of the trial fit perfectly into my closing argument.  It is a blessing to fully live out the Faith in everyday life even at work.”

Studying theology also led her to desire a deeper, more intimate relationship with Christ. “St. Anslem said that theology is ‘faith seeking understanding,’ but in studying theology I experienced the dynamic of understanding seeking greater faith,” Sarah says. “The more I learned, the more I desired to know, love, and serve God.  I realized that without a vibrant spiritual life of prayer and sacraments, I did not fully grasp what was being taught in my theology classes.” When Sarah started at CDU, she attended Sunday Mass and an all-school Mass on Fridays with her children. “Now, daily mass is the bedrock of my day,” she says.

Sarah completed her Master’s degree 4 years after enrolling in the program. She took a 1-year break while living in Rome to earn a Diploma in Spirituality from the Angelicum, and the foundation in theology she had gained at CDU was instrumental. “I had finished 2 years at CDU when we learned we were being stationed in Rome.  I was very fortunate that my coursework gave me enough of a foundation in theology to be accepted into the Spirituality program at the Angelicum,” she says.  While in Rome from 2017-2018, Sarah took 12 classes over 2 semesters at the Angelicum to earn the diploma.

A few of Sarah’s favorite classes at CDU were Revelation & Faith: Fundamental Theology, Philosophy for Theology with Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, Pentateuch with Professor John Worgul, and Defending the Faith in the Modern World with Professor Chris Padgett.

“Studying theology was pure joy,” Sarah says. “I could not learn enough fast enough to satisfy my hunger to know God more.  But it wasn’t until I began to take my spiritual life more seriously that theology came alive for me,” she reflects.  “It wasn’t head knowledge that helped me understand the Faith more, but heart knowledge born of sacraments and prayer.  The heart knowledge I began to acquire, however, was the progression of study.”

Sarah is grateful to her husband and four children, ages 16, 14, 13, and 10, for their support while she worked toward her MA degree. “Not only did they accommodate the time needed to work on classes, they were actively interested in what I was learning and always prayed for me,” she says.

Dr. Marie Nuar Joins Administration as Faculty Chair

In January, faculty member Dr. Marie Nuar returned from Rome to begin working at CDU full time as faculty chair, a role that combines teaching and administrative responsibilities. Dr. Nuar has spent over 11 years overseas, living in Rome for most of that time but also in Cairo and Old City Jerusalem.

She holds a doctorate in Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas in Rome, an MA in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University of Steubenville, an MA in Jewish Studies from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and an STL in Missiology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Dr. Nuar also has a license in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies in Rome and is proficient in Arabic.

“I am excited to be able to work on the organizing/planning side of things,” she says. Dr. Nuar will continue to teach several classes per year as well. “I really like the interaction and sharing what I have learned with students. To me, learning information without sharing it is like a lake that has an inflow but no outflow. It becomes stagnant and in the extreme, dead, like the Dead Sea.”

The first course Dr. Nuar taught for CDU was Introduction to Comparative Religions: Judaism and Islam. “The more I studied Judaism and Islam,” she says, “the more I realized how much details can make a large difference. For instance, all three religions would posit that the world and humans are created by a benevolent God, that there are objective standards that he puts forth for what is right and wrong, that human beings have freedom to follow these standards or not, but that they will be judged accordingly.”

“The difference lies in Christianity’s belief in the Incarnation,” she explains. “’The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57, 1-4.) She adds, “In many things, especially compared with non-believers, we would agree, but in this one thing, the incarnation and God’s closeness to and divinization of mankind, we differ. And that makes all the difference.”

During her time in Rome, Dr. Nuar taught World Religions and Moral Theology of the Marketplace as an adjunct professor of theology at St. John’s University, Rome campus, and served as an adjunct professor for The Catholic University of America’s Rome campus, teaching Christian Art and Architecture of Rome. She also enjoyed working as a guide for the excavations beneath St. Peter’s Basilica. “One thing that shocks many Americans is that the 1st century Necropolis was specifically filled in in order to build the first basilica,” Dr. Nuar says. “Another thing is that there are two basilicas, one built by Constantine in the 4th century and a second (the first was torn down) built over a period of 120 years, mostly in the 16th century. A third is that it is a mostly pagan Necropolis. There are very few Christians (that we know of) buried there besides Peter.”

In the Summer I term Dr. Nuar will teach Vatican II: The Church and Her Liturgy. In Summer II she will teach Church History II: Renaissance to Modern Church and Introduction to Comparative Religions: Judaism and Islam.

CDU Supporters Celebrate 36 Years at Annual Gala

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.

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