Catholic Theological Union Learn@CTUCatholics on CallCatholic Common Ground Initiative
Follow CTU on Facebook
CTU Twitter feed
CTU on LinkedIn
Aug 28, 2013

You will be welcomed many times over in the next few weeks. We genuinely mean it!

We want you to feel welcome. Be at home!

The next few weeks will undoubtebly be a bit stressful. You'll settle in, I promise. We think you'll even come to love this community!

To assist in easing some your fears about "beginning anew," here are some reminders and resources that may be helpful.

  • New student orientations are scheduled for Wednesday evening (August 28) and Thursday morning (August 29). For online, distance learners, we're holding an online (webinar style) session Thursday evening. For more information and details about new student orientations please visit the CTU calendar here. If you have questions about these sessions or need to RSVP, please email ASAP.
  • Instructions for course registration have been included in admissions letters.   You may also contact the Office of the Registrar at 773.371.5453 or for assistance.
  • Text books can be purchased from MBS Direct, CTU’s official bookstore vendor.  You can access the course book lists and buy directly from them. Click here to learn more.
  • Housing is still available in our Residence Hall, located directly across the street from our Academic Center, are still open for the 2013-14 academic year.  More information about housing and an application form can be accessed here.
  • General Scholarship funds continue to be available.  We encourage you to apply!  Download the application here.
  • Information on the application process for Federal Student Loans can be found at  If you wish to apply for student loans, please plan to initiate the process ASAP so that your application may be processed in time for the fall semester disbursement date.
  • Looking to secure a parking permit? Need information on using University of Chicago's wellness facilities? For all CTU has to offer, please consult the Student Services Guide here.
  • Welcome back events have been planned during the first and second week of classes. Please consult the online event calender for details on the Welcome Back Bash, opening Mass of the Holy Spirit, and more.
  • The Information Technology Department is able to assist with computer and network issues you may be experiencing. To contact the help desk email them at and/or visit them in the library on the 4th floor during business hours.
  • If you are experiencing personal struggles and challenges as you begin the semester, please seek out an Emmaus Staff member to assist you. Emmaus staff are trained to work with any student who may be having difficulties. To contact an Emmaus Staff member, please call 773.371.5447 or email

If there is anything else we can do for you as you settle in, please let me know. I can be reached at or by phone at 773.371.5523.

Please, be at home!

Ryan J. Hoffmann | Senior Director of Enrollment Management

Jul 26, 2013

Blessed are the gentle (meek) for they shall inherit the earth.  Matthew 5:5

Earlier this week, I heard one of my colleagues mention this beatitude.  It caught me in a way that I hadn’t quite heard before.  I began to wonder about it – what could it mean for us today? 

What is it to be gentle?  I know a gentle lawyer.  That’s right, you heard me, a lawyer - more precisely, a law professor.  Ted believes the law is designed to serve the people, to care for them, in a sense.  Ted has had anything but a gentle life as his father died when he was young, and his mother’s health was so poor that she was sent to live in an institution.  Ted lived in an orphanage for a while before family came to claim him.  Then he was sent to live with a number of families before finally landing with one that loved him.  Just when it seemed that things were looking better, the mother in that family passed away.   Despite of his tough beginnings, Ted exhibits thoughtful, genuine care for people in his life.

The gentle people I know are those who know themselves, their strengths, their weaknesses, their sense of purpose, and what they bring to this community on earth.  They remember who they are - children of a God who loves them relentlessly, ceaselessly, full-out. They don’t have to prove anything to anybody.  They are grounded and balanced in their lives.

What does it mean to “inherit the earth?”  At this time of the summer, the local farmers’ markets are already teaming with the fruits and vegetables of the earth.  In a sense we’ve already inherited the earth through the wonderful gifts this planet bestows on us.  When you inherit something, it is passed on to you, generally by someone who at least knows you, perhaps even loves you. The one who provides the inheritance often wishes that you will use their gifts well.   It seems God wishes to pass on the earth to those who are gentle, those who will care for her. 

In the Native American way, the Earth is alive and has Spirit.  The Earth cares for us.  Perhaps God understands that those who are gentle are capable of relationships, deep, genuine, purposeful relationships.  How are we in relationship with the Earth?  Are we a gentle partner in the relationship?  Do we listen to the messages of the Earth?  Have we learned how to speak her language?  Do we understand that the waters are her life blood and that how we treat the land and the water has a direct affect, not only on us humans, but on the plants and animals that live here, as well?

At CTU we offer a special concentration in the MA in Justice Ministry degree on Environmental Justice.  Students can take courses such as Care for the Earth; Catholic Environmental Ethics; Creation and Eschatology; Ecology and Spiritual Practice; and Ethics, Spirituality, Global Climate Change, to name just a few.   The degree program and courses provide a way for people to become educated, skilled partners in relationship with Earth.  As you enjoy the inheritance of the Earth this summer through the abundance she provides, perhaps you will consider learning how to walk more gently upon the Earth and begin something new.  Why not consider taking a course or beginning a degree in Environmental Justice?

Kathy Van Duser, Director of Recruitment | | 773-371-5450

Jul 03, 2013

I'm looking forward to a wonderful weekend with family and friends! Given the 4th of July holiday, I'll be able to take a few extra days off and enjoy all the sights and sounds Chicago has to offer. Fun, food, and fellowship will undoubtedly be part of the celebrations. As they should be. God has gifted this country with an abundance of blessings!

As fireworks blast off, families and friends gather, and food simmers on the barby, I hope you'll take some time to consider what this freedom means.

Are the celebrations about our individual freedoms? Has this become a jubilation of personal rights? There's a certain "it's all about me" in that approach. While upholding the dignity and worth of all people, wouldn't it be a better celebration if we focused on what freedom means to us as a collective people, under one flag? Better yet, for Christians, under one God? For Catholics, one Church.  

To be sure, there is much banter today about freedoms, rights, equalities and protections. As this should be, too.

But what about our responsibilities? I can't help but think of Luke 12:48, "to whom much is given much is required." We've been given much, indeed! 

To what have we been entrusted and for what purpose?

Where are our riches, gifts and talents, experiences calling us?

I think these are the types of reflections freedom brings. They are both personal questions and communal ones.

It seems that, in true paradoxical fashion, the more we live for others the more free we become.

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shinning sea!  
Ryan J. Hoffmann, Senior Director of Enrollment Management | | 773.371.5523
Jun 24, 2013


This past Sunday (June 23rd), CTU celebrated the presidency of Fr. Donald Senior, C.P. There was a beautiful liturgy, heartfelt tributes, a festive reception. All of us who attended have had some kind of meaningful interaction or relationship with Fr. Don. This, in and of itself, is really quite something, especially when you consider that the circle of people who know and respect Fr. Don goes far, far beyond that gathering of 300 and I'm sure they have had a similar experience. 

I met Fr. Don about 12 years ago when I was working for the Passionists of Holy Cross Province, of which he is a member. I had heard his name, of course, and knew his reputation. I felt some timidity in meeting him. That was short-lived, because anyone who has met Fr. Don is put immediately at ease by his unassuming manner, his great humor, his kindness.

As I reflect on Fr. Don’s presidency, it seems to me that if one tries to define leadership or a great leader, so much rests on the demands of the moment. For example, perhaps unwavering strength is called for at a critical time, or decisiveness, character, vision, managerial prowess, intellectual giftedness, relational deftness. A thick skin. The list goes on.

But when one considers leadership over time, as is true in Fr. Don’s case having served for 23 years, then a staggering rubric of these qualities and more is required. Long-term leadership is not for the faint of heart, in my opinion. And to make it all look easy and joyful? That’s a tall order.

It has been my enormous privilege to work for and with Fr. Don. To have seen him deal gracefully and thoughtfully with the complicated tasks associated with leading a graduate school of theology and ministry in today’s Church was an education. To have traveled with him to the Holy Land and Greece and Turkey was nourishing to mind, heart, and soul. To have witnessed his astonishing work ethic and intellectual clarity was a gift. To have experienced his compassion when I felt vulnerable at work or in my personal life was a blessing. I will carry the memory of his kindness with me always.

Thank you, Fr. Don, for your leadership at CTU, this beautiful institution, and, when all is said and done, for being an unforgettable teacher. Teaching, we know, is your first love. You have taught me more than words could ever say, and for that, I am truly grateful.

Jun 07, 2013

Summertime when the living is easy, fish are jumping and the cotton is high…

Every year this favorite song comes to mind when the hot, humid days of summer arrive.  It takes me back to lazy summer days when school was out, the pace was different, and the summer seemed to be an endless stretch of time.

Here in Chicago, the “hot days of summer” have not arrived yet.  Our temperatures have been cooler, in fact, we’ve had to remind ourselves that it really is summer!  Some of us have even been seen wearing a parka.

Next week we begin Summer Institute at CTU.   It’s a time when we offer short courses (one or two weeks long) designed to provide knowledge, to help people sharpen their skills, or to broaden their perspectives.  Many students begin their degree or certificate programs at CTU during this time.  Others, like myself, just wanted to try out master’s level classes before committing to a program, still others take the courses for the sheer enjoyment of learning more in their field or a new field.  Many of CTU’s distinguished faculty or guest lecturers teach in the summer.

Some of my favorite picks from Summer Institute this year are: The Gospel of Matthew, Rahner and Spirituality, Imaging the Reign of God:  Social Justice and Global Cinema, and Beyond Pizza and Icebreakers:  Imagining Youth Ministry that Makes a Difference.  If you’d like to check out what we’re offering or sign up for one of the Summer Institute courses offered over the next three weeks, check out this link:

We’ve offered opportunities to visit CTU and sit in on a class during this time with our Visit Events options, Summer Visit Days

What better way to enjoy the summer than sitting by the pool, sipping a cool drink, and reading your latest assignment from a Summer Institute course.   

Kathy Van Duser, Director of Recruitment | | 773-371-5450

May 31, 2013

Meet John Angotti, Jean Rogers and Robert Cowlishaw. These folks, along with three of their peers, were the first class to obtain a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (M.A.P.S.) degree through CTU’s distance learning program.

I had the opportunity to interview John, Jean, and Robert when they were in town for graduation. I admired their discipline, drive, and curiosity.  The group had a purpose in life greater than themselves. A common theme emerged as John, Jean and Robert discussed how CTU deepened their faith.

Robert hails from Salt Lake City, Utah where he works as a systems analyst and is planning to transition to a career in ministry. Robert described having a traditional, static view of God as “a guy with a beard on a throne.” CTU challenged these beliefs. “My first year I took a class at CTU’s Summer Institute – ‘God and the Modern World,’” he said. “I realized that God is beyond our conception. God is a mystery, and that mystery is a beautiful thing.”

Robert likened his awakening process to “letting go of Santa Claus…it was probably the most powerful and disruptive concept I learned at CTU.”

Musician John Angotti is a successful performer who uses music as a tool to bring a message of hope. He enrolled at CTU because he recognized that if he was going to continue writing for the Church, he needed to further his education and go deeper than his own personal experience.

“CTU has allowed me to recognize that everything around me is a gift,” he said. “I’ve opened up now to [see] that every relationship, every moment is an encounter with God.”

Jean serves both as associate campus minister of community building and as director of music and liturgy at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. “Studying at CTU has deepened my faith,” she said.  “There have been difficult times in my job; a new generation of students that do not see Catholicism or the Church or spirituality the way I was raised. Learning the things I’ve learned has reinvigorated my faith in humanity and the Church.”

I found all three students to be quite inspirational. I value their ability to be comfortable in the gray areas of life – the space where we ask questions but don’t necessarily receive answers.  I like this space too.  As a child, my Jewish faith taught me that there is one God.  As an adult, I still believe in a “higher power,” though not shaped, gendered or perceived in the traditional view. I am happy to be working at an institution where questions are just as important as answers.

To see John, Jean and Robert’s interviews, visit in a few days. And for more information on CTU’s distance learning program click here.

May 24, 2013


With the official school year behind us,  “journey” is a prime topic of conversation at CTU.

Our graduates now journey to new homes and new ministries.  Our current students and faculty, whether they journey to summer work or rest, welcome the opportunity to break outside of the typical routine.  And while our staff keeps the lights on at CTU in the summer months, talk of the upcoming event or vacation infuses us with some renewed energy. 

Although, admittedly, my next three weekends feel pretty exhausting, with trips to help my sister move into her first home, as well as to attend my little brother’s graduation, an ordination of a fellow CTU grad, and the wedding shower of a long-time friend.  Yes, that was four trips, and three weekends!!!

Like our graduates, each of these friends/ family members (the line blurs) embarks on his or her own journey.  For some, it will signal a physical relocation, taking them to places and situations altogether unfamiliar.  For others, it will mean a deepening of roots and commitment to an existing place or way of life.   For each, it is an invitation to further the journey within, to know oneself better, and in so doing, to better know the One who created us. 

So whether we have a grand road trip planned this summer, a “staycation” is more in order, or…we work harder this time of year than all others, know that there is still a road beckoning.

A friend recently shared this poem with me…I resonated quite a bit with it, as it addresses the sort of journey I had to make to get to CTU--the sort of journey, in one way or another, we will all eventually get asked to make.   Probably more than once.

Where are you headed this summer?


One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice --

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

"Mend my life!"

each voice cried.

But you didn't stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do --

determined to save

the only life you could save.


~ Mary Oliver ~


Angela Paviglianiti | Director of Admissions |

May 03, 2013

I spent a few days last week in Boston. The plans to visit had been made months ago, and the city’s focus on capturing the alleged perpetrators of the Marathon bombing had ended. To be honest, I felt some apprehension making the trip. Was it safe? Would the atmosphere feel tense and oppressive?

I flew in on a glorious spring day that seemed to warm as each hour passed. Myriad cherry blossom trees were bursting with flowers in delicate or deep shades of pink. The hotel was near the Boston Common (founded 1634), and after stowing my suitcase I headed for the park. Hundreds of people were on the lawns, having picnics, throwing Frisbees, clowning around, stretching out in the sun.

Not what I expected.

I was struck by the sheer force of life; life going on.  Part of me wanted to shout, “Wait a minute, you’re not forgetting so quickly are you?”  I knew that couldn’t be the case. Another part of me wanted to say, “Thank you for embracing life; for taking back the day. Thank you for being here now.”

The trip included miles of walking, a ball game at Fenway, Paul Revere’s house, museums, churches, and chowder. My friend and I went to the memorial on Boylston Street to pay our respects. No, this wasn’t a city, a people, who were forgetting too quickly. Not by a long shot. They were grieving, and coping, and reflecting; leaving tender messages of solidarity for those who had been touched by the violence. They were also meeting with friends, going to the park, sunning themselves, laughing, and planning. They were, simply, living.

When I got home I learned that the mayor of Boston had encouraged people to repopulate the downtown area, to support the business owners, to carry on. I was newly touched that the citizens of Boston, with characteristic hardiness and civic pride, did so. Then, on the drive to work, I listened to the resilient comments of a woman who lost both legs to the bombing, and of her daughter who lost one leg. The mind reels, the heart aches in imagining their journey. How can we hurt each other this way?

We are kind and cruel; fragile and tough. We are vulnerable flesh and mighty spirit. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Boston, as you heal from your wounds.  Thank you for the warm welcome to your beautiful city even as you own a new page of your incredible history. I wish you great peace.

Apr 24, 2013

Beacons of Light

In recent days, we’ve been called to pray together at special services and liturgies for those who were victims of the bombings at the Boston Marathon and for the victims of the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas.  In coming together and sharing grief, we’ve been reminded that love prevails when confronted with unexpected loss and in spite of the fear and the hatred that terror tries to instill.  We are each invited to be beacons of light.  We are called to seek stronger and deeper relationships.   

Last week, we had a number of events at CTU that were inspiring that served to provide hope and light.   Fr. Mark Francis was named to succeed Fr. Donald Senior as the seventh president of CTU.  (Fr. Donald Senior, the current President, recently announced his retirement.  Fr. Don has been a remarkable leader and visionary – someone who has led the school with wisdom and grace.  Fortunately for CTU, he plans to continue as a professor at the school.)

Fr. Mark Francis, a Viatorian priest, comes to CTU with enthusiasm, with vision, and with a global perspective.  He served as Superior General of the Viatorians and has written extensively.  He was ordained a priest in 1982 and earned a masters of divinity and a masters of arts degree in theology from CTU.  In 1988, he earned a doctorate in sacred liturgy in Rome and then returned to CTU as a professor of liturgy for 12 years.  Fr. Mark inspires hope, and a bold and faithful response to the needs of the world.  We will be formally welcoming him to his new position soon. To access an interview with Fr. Mark, please go to  and YouTube -

CTU also welcomed Mary McAleese, the eighth president of Ireland, who was the recipient of the 2013 “Blessed are the Peacemakers Award” given at the Catholic Theological Union Trustee Dinner.  Mary presented at a CTU community forum and at the Trustee dinner.  Her talk was life-giving as she told story after story about the peacemaking and reconciliation work that was initiated in Ireland and continues today.  Her courage and faith were evident as she told of her commitment to justice through the lens of seeing all people as “children of God.”  She spoke about the challenges and healing that needed to take place when she took office, about reaching out to those who had once considered each other enemies, about eating together, and about building friendships and trust.  (If you are interested in listening to her talk, you can go to the talk will be posted after May 1.)

The welcoming of Mary McAleese and Fr. Mark Francis to CTU somehow fit as the stories of so many at CTU are inspiring.  As Director of Recruitment and previously Director of Admissions, I’ve heard the stories of students and graduates - the next generation of leaders who will and are already immersing themselves in transforming the world through relationships.   Many are working in parishes, non-profits, schools, or businesses.  Some work in government.  They bring to these ministries a sensitivity, respect, and voice for those who are often voiceless.  They minister and serve.  Often students and graduates are called upon to build bridges between people of different faith traditions.  At CTU we have an remarkable student body and an extensive alumni/ae community that brings the global voice to issues.  We also have an extraordinary faculty who not only write, teach, and lecture, but who are also involved in building a more just and peaceful world.  CTU is a place where professors and students of many faith traditions hold the value of respect toward others as a guiding principle.   

We are all invited to bring about change and transformation by committing to accompany those in need and by protecting the human dignity of the vulnerable.

Let us be beacons of hope to a complex and sometimes violent world by sharing the vision of how we can do relationship, of how we can build bridges of peace and reconciliation between faith traditions, and by gaining a deeper understanding what it means to live in a multifaith world.  As Mary McAleese recently reminded us, “Let us remember who we are - we are all children of God.”

Kathy Van Duser, Director of Recruitment | | 773-371-5450

Apr 12, 2013

  Holocaust Remembrance Day occurred this week.  In Israel the entire country comes to a halt at 10am as a 60 second siren wails across the land.  People stop what they're doing and stand in memoriam. Traffic ceases, drivers emerge from their vehicles and stand like statues. Even dogs sense the day and pause.

This collective ritual reinforces the power of pausing to reflect on the atrocities in the world. It is fitting that this week, CTU presented two screenings of the award-winning documentary film Beneath the Blindfold.  Filmmakers Ines Sommer and Kathy Berger spent six years creating this poignant work that looks at the lives of four torture survivors. Far from a pity piece, the film celebrates the survivors' strength and resiliency.  Beneath the Blindfold offers us an opportunity to reflect about injustice and witness the journeys of four survivors on their path to becoming whole. 

I had the opportunity to interview Ines and Kathy about their film.  We covered a range of topics from activism to how faith based communities can interact with the film.  I invite you to listen to the podcast. It's a chance to pause, witness and reflect. 

You can also find out more about Beneath the Blindfold and see a trailer at