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Apr 08, 2013

This year, Easter Vigil shone with even greater brilliance as our friend and colleague Valerie was initiated into the Church at St. Thomas the Apostle, parish home to many members of the CTU community.   In the last few days, people have visited Valarie to ask her about the experience, to talk about their own Easters with family and faith community and, to dip into the bowl of jelly beans on her desk—a sweet reminder of our celebrations.   As the visitors have added up, the candy has diminished somewhat.  By late Friday afternoon, I had begun to feel that Easter was draining away…and I sat somewhat uninspired to write this blog entry…

…Until Professor Maria Cimperman, RSCJ, stopped by my office.  For the end of the week, she still seemed pretty energized—and clearly still carried Easter with her.  She shared a question she had posed to her students this week: “We all had our Lenten practices, but what will be our Easter practices?”  

A new Alleluia struck me.  That’s right.  Easter does not end with Easter Sunday, or Easter Week, or whenever the jelly beans run out.   We have FIFTY days of Easter.   We may find Lent to stretch a bit long at times, but Easter Season is actually longer!   

We adopted our Lenten fasting practices to make room in our minds, hearts, and bodies for the transforming Love that is God.  Now is the time to relish, and even revel a bit in the joy that Love brings us—in our renewed ways of being with ourselves, with those we encounter, with the world.

Each year, our “Taste of CTU” event provides an opportunity for our global community to share stories, song, and dance—those from our homeland, and those closest to our hearts.  This year’s “Taste of CTU,” which happened the day we returned from our Easter Recess, modeled some good Easter practices for all of us. It was an intentional time to set aside for joy, even when confronted by fear (stage fright) or obstacles (getting the right music to play).  And by the end of the evening, we were all out of our seats (even this double-left foot gal) dancing together.

We have kept the fast.  Now the dance floor is open.  How will we keep the feast?

Angela Paviglianiti | Director of Admissions |

Mar 14, 2013

This week on campus has been incredibly eventful, and highlights for me what is so compelling about CTU and its mission.

Tuesday night, CTU showed the film “A Band of Sisters,” a moving documentary about Catholic sisters and their work for social justice after Vatican II. It reminded me again of the invaluable “boots on the ground” service that women in the Church have given for centuries, and the contributions of sisters today here at CTU. At the film’s conclusion, I overheard a young nun remark that she regretted that the movie showed very few younger sisters. “Are we invisible?” she said.

Let’s hope not. CTU is truly fortunate to count several young religious women among its students. These women will go on, no doubt, to do great work as their fellow sisters have done before them.

Then on Wednesday at lunchtime, a large group gathered in our Atrium, which was resplendent with textiles and fabrics from around the globe, to celebrate International Women’s Day. We prayed together for the women around our world who face unspeakable struggles, including violence. And we celebrated women’s gifts and contributions. The service was led by Academic Dean and Vice President Barbara Reid, O.P., a formidable scholar, and included prayers led by several CTU students in their native languages. It was beautiful and powerful.

Our gathering ended just as the puffs of white smoke emerged from the Vatican chimney! Quickly we commandeered an empty classroom and projected the press coverage onto the screen from a laptop. One by one, then in groups, CTU students, faculty, and staff crowded into the classroom. Cheers and applause erupted as the new Pope’s name was announced and he emerged to voice his first words as Pope.

When we finally disbursed, a sense of hope and enthusiasm flowed palpably throughout the building. A colleague stopped me in the hall and said, “That was so great! Here they were talking on TV about the global Church of today, and I looked around the room and there we were, the global Church of today!”

That is what I treasure about CTU – people of faith and good will from across the globe coming together to build a more just, peaceful, and loving world. And so, for Francis I and for us, too, the work continues of building a healthy and vibrant Church for the good of God’s people.

Nancy Nickel  |  Director of Marketing and Communications  |  773.371.5415  |

Mar 01, 2013

Pope Benedict, as the first pope in 600 years to voluntarily leave office, stepped down this week. The Church now waits “in joyful hope” and anticipation in an interim period called, “Sede Vacante.”

So here we are in a transition time, and what a time it is!  “Odds Makers” in Las Vegas are encouraging people to place bets on who the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church will be. There are sites soliciting people to provide the top characteristic they would want in the next pope. The Cardinals are gathering in Rome.

Questions swirl and dance, tempt and tease.  Will this leader help us face the major challenges of our times?  Will he be a person of courage and spirit - one who will help the Church and the world face the controversial issues that try to divide and destroy us as human beings? Will a leader be called forth who will turn worldwide systems of covering up cases of abuse into new systems that value transparency and promote healing?  How will trust be mended?  Can it be regained?  It will take a healer-leader who exhibits fearless compassion to mend and unite.

Will the spirit of the Second Vatican Council be the guide for ongoing renewal of the whole Catholic Church including the Vatican?  Will the reforms needed in the Church be discussed and promoted? 

We will have opportunities for life-giving reconciliation with our Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim sisters and brothers.  Will we step into them?

Will we make peace with modern science and be a more vocal participant at the discussion table when issues of morality are pitted against issues of progress.  Will we place not only human needs but the needs of a fragile planet forward in the discussion of health and wholeness?

The issues of our day seem too much for one person alone to bear…will collegiality be modeled by the pope and the bishops?  Will the understanding of true community deepen into a new way of being together?  Will Catholics be encouraged to speak up, to speak out for justice in this world as well as for justice within the Church?  Will the new pope encourage the faithful to speak truth to power? Everyone has the ability do something toward the renewal of the Church and the renewal of the world within their own life.  Will the new pope lead by example as the heart and hands of the body of Christ alive in this world?

So many questions to live into, so many hopes, so many dreams for the promise of a new day ... let us pray that the hearts of those choosing the new pope will be inspired to choose a person of great love, compassion, and courage - one who unites, one who includes, one who invites, and one who helps us face our challenges head-on together. 

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

Feb 22, 2013

I didn’t know much about Catholicism when I started working at Catholic Theological Union.  I’m Jewish, and Catholicism has always been outside the realm of my experience. Although some might find it unusual that a Jewish person would be on staff at CTU, it’s not really that unorthodox to me. I grew up with a faith background, and it feels comfortable to be around religion, even when it’s not my own tradition. I come to CTU with a respect of all religions and a curiosity about other cultures and faiths. Likewise, everyone here has welcomed me with open arms. Interfaith is not just a word at CTU; it’s something that is truly practiced.

That said, working at CTU has made me think quite a bit about differences and similarities. There are some days I am reminded of our differences, especially when I encounter unfamiliar aspects of Catholicism. I’m full of questions: "What is Advent?"; "Why are you bringing in palm fronds on Ash Wednesday?"; "What exactly is the Eucharist?" My questions may seem basic, but I’m starting at ground zero. I’m quite appreciative of my fellow coworkers who patiently explain aspects of the religion to me.

I have also have had the privilege to dialogue not only with Catholics, but Muslims as well. I’ve filmed lectures where Muslims have spoken about interfaith. I have had discussions with a Muslim student about the recent discrimination she faced in Israel. This was challenging to hear, especially given that my father’s family is Israeli. However, I am grateful that CTU offers a safe space where we can explore these issues.

Being at CTU is also a reminder of our similarities. I share CTU’s values of justice, love, and peace. At a recent work retreat, both a fellow staff member and I remarked that Jerusalem is one of our most cherished places. We both commented on the religious history and the sacred spiritual feeling within the walls of the Old City. I love Jerusalem; the city feels like home.

I feel truly blessed to be at CTU. This is a place of deep learning and growth. I look forward to continuing the interreligious dialogue as we all honor and respect our differences and similarities.

Ronit Bezalel | Webmaster/Media Manager |

Feb 15, 2013

Lent came early for CTU this year, just three days into our Spring Semester.  With all the sudden frenetic activity—welcoming new students, greeting colleagues and classmates we haven’t seen in weeks, reveling in new class material yet unburdened by assignment deadlines—it seemed incredibly unfair to contemplate entering this stereotypically somber season.  Or so I thought. 

When I woke up this Ash Wednesday, I honestly wasn’t planning to rebel, but I couldn’t help being…well…happy.  I moved through the day feeling energized, and while some attributed this to the ounces of coffee I consumed (not a wise way to fast, my friends!), I sensed something more at work.

“I just can’t get excited about Lent! I don’t want to be all gloomy in my sackcloth and ashes,” a typically vibrant student lamented to me.

“But you don’t have to be,” I gushed, with other-worldly/caffeinated energy.   “Lent is so exciting!  It’s a time of possibilities, for us to grow more fully into the people God invites us to be, which is our most authentic selves!”

Growth.  It’s a loaded word. It can indiscriminately become a euphemism for any painful and necessary process we would rather avoid, and I wished it hadn’t escaped my lips in that moment….until our Ash Wednesday Liturgy, when Prof. vanThanh Nguyen reminded us in his homily that Lent comes to us from the Old English word for spring.

Gloom or not, these weeks leading up to Easter are filled with slow awakenings and tentative shoots, as we cross over the threshold of an earthly season and prepare our hearts for a new season within.  On Wednesday morning, I noticed that my peace lily plant, which often chooses to remain flowerless for years at time, is preparing a bloom.  In the next weeks this white oval will emerge from its stalk, turn toward the sun, and slowly unfurl itself to its understated brilliance.

And there, a work of creation can catechize us further.

Whether we call it growth, conversion, or transformation, the work of Lent begins with the willingness to let God in – to be “petal-open,” as the author Zora Neale Hurston called it.  Admittedly, there have been times that this realization has made me wince.  This week it makes me smile.  Broadly.

Will we become “petal-open” this Lent?

Angela Paviglianiti | Director of Admissions |


Feb 11, 2013

This morning's news of Pope Benedict's resignation shocked the world. His bad health, he cites, is just too severe to carry on the responsibilities of the office.

Thank you, Benedict XVI, for your service and Catholic witness. Whether a fan or not, he committed himself to the cause. It's not an easy job, especially in today's increasingly complex world.

We pray, too, for his health. Retirement will allow him to better attend to his personal and physical needs. Be well, Benedict.

As you read pundits everywhere weighing in on today's developments, you can't help but ask, "What's next?" To be sure, there will continue to exist disagreements over liturgy and theology, ecclesiology and science, ethics and morality, dogma and tradition. Conservative and Liberal. Orthodoxy. Heterodoxy. And, everything in-between.

Will he be charismatic? A good communicator? Have the right vision? Pastoral prowess?

Depending on what's important to you, the questions abound. I know I've made a "short list" in my head of what I'd like to see in the next Pontiff. I imagine many are crafting similar lists. These things matter. It's important. Our faith - today, tomorrow, and in the future - depends on it.

Even so, let us not meet this moment with a hyper-intensity (and sensitivity!) that overshadows our reliance on the Holy Spirit's agency. In the end it will be the Spirit's in-dwellings, working in tandem with Cardinal electors, that will call forth and elect a new Pontiff.

The moment we find ourselves in - amidst conjecture and spin, news coverage and blogs, articles and radio segments - shouldn't only be about our human tendency to speculate and prescribe. The fanfare, hoopla, ornate caps, gowns, and shoes of it all will no doubt be reason to get excited. There's greater depth than this, though.

This is a moment for prayer. Reflection and contemplation. Discernment. Deep thinking. Recollection and remembrance. 

Our pause to do the inner work required of faith matters, too.

The Holy Spirit is beckoning us forward.

Are we listening?

Come, Holy Spirit!

Ryan J. Hoffmann | Senior Director of Enrollment Management | 

Jan 28, 2013

Recently the Enrollment Management team—Ryan Hoffmann, Kathy Van Duser, Angela Paviglianiti, Valerie Holloway, Karla Dawn Meier, Ronit Bezalel, and I—got together for a day-long staff retreat. We do this a couple times a year to schedule, strategize, and just plain get creative as we mull over ways to engage interest and communicate to potential students what a life-changing school CTU is.

Breakfast and lunch fed the scheduling and strategizing part. Twizzlers fed the creativity. I loved our “ice-breaker” exercise (thank you, Karla!). Each of us was asked to provide three clues to a favorite destination, and then name three people, living or dead, that we would invite to a dinner party at that location.

What a glorious exercise! It was a delightful conundrum to pinpoint that special place that our minds often wander back to because of the way its sheer beauty or meaning had imprinted itself upon us, and then try to select three people with whom we would share it.

Several different islands in the Caribbean emerged as a chosen spot, as did a mountain in Costa Rica, the northeast coast of Australia, and Jerusalem. Several of us were stymied with the dilemma of who to invite. Albert Einstein was a genius, but would he make for good dinner conversation? Picasso would be interesting but I’m not sure I’d like him.

Leaders, visionaries, and deceased loved ones were ultimately included in our little dinner parties. We giggled a lot, but I think each of us also honored that we were stepping “through the looking glass” both in imagining these unique get-togethers, but also in seeing the people and places that enriched, intrigued, or touched each one of our lives and imaginations. It was a lovely little mirror to look through on a Monday at CTU.

Me? I chose Jesus, Shakespeare, and Tina Fey for a wind-swept dinner at Warren Dunes in Michigan. I figured the conversation would be lively, intense, wise, colorful, and funny, and who doesn’t like a sunset at the Dunes? And if I didn’t get any eternally lingering questions answered? Well, Tina would, no doubt, keep me laughing uproariously for even thinking I would!

Dec 20, 2012

The Newtown Elementary school shootings have left us disheartened, to say the least. Perhaps fearful. Sad. For some, despairing. As Catholic Governor of Connecticut, Dannel Malloy, exhorted, “Evil visited this community today.” So it did. The violence perpetrated on children, and the deaths, shook us severely. Rattled us ruthlessly. The struggle to make meaning of it all persists.

Hopefully it motivates us, too. Out of crisis comes commitment. As we know from Scripture and our experience, times of despair cry out for God, not because it’s God’s fault, but because it brings us face-to-face with the rawness, ugliness, if you will, of humanity.  The underbelly isn’t pleasant. It’s messy. It’s complex. It is, yes, ugly.

Since the tragedy I’ve looked many places for comfort. For a rationale, an answer to the question why. I suspect you've been there as well. No simple rationale or easy answer exists.

God – a little help, please? Perhaps a clue?

I imagine God patiently and lovingly whispering in my ear, “I’ve already given you the greatest clue you’ll ever need – it is my Son and the Word – Jesus.” For Christians, Jesus is the primordial clue.

Jesus as primordial clue translates to Christianity as enduring peace. A man of nonviolence, amidst a world of severe violence, chose not to become an aggressor. Chose, in a sense, not fight nor flight. Alternatively, he chose nonviolent resistance. A third path. Dialogue. Relationship. Witness and testimony, parable and creed. Perhaps our response can be similar?

Jesus, Prince of Peace. A significant – transforming – clue. Jesus, triumphant over death, destruction, violence. Although not easy, in the face of persecution, he overcame.

He trusts we will, too.  It won’t be easy or expedient. It will take our human-ness engaging all of humanity.







Laughing, once again?

In the thick of darkness, the Prince of Peace illuminates the way.

Ryan J. Hoffmann | Senior Director of Enrollment Management | | 773.371.5523

Dec 14, 2012

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near (Philippians 4:4-5).

As churches across the globe enter into the third week of Advent this Sunday, the tone within shifts as quiet expectancy momentarily gives way to exuberant joy.   Even as a kid, I welcomed “pink candle Sunday.”  Not just because the presiders wore rose vestments or we sang a catchy “Rejoice” round in children’s choir, but because Christmas, and the beloved chaos that accompanied it—was not far away, but quite near.

Despite my efforts to keep the season, my “grown-up” self can’t help approaching “pink candle Sunday" with a bit of an inward groan.   Christmas can’t be that close.  There is too much left to do:   Gift ideas to be had, travel plans to make, work to complete.    “The Lord is near?”  At times, the evidence seems scarce.  We are hurtling toward the darkest days of the year:  The sun sinks long before I leave the office. On December 18, Old St. Pat’s Church will host the Chicago Homeless Persons' Memorial, remembering those on the street who have lost their lives, often in the most brutal days of winter.  And in the faces and voices of friends and family, I see and hear the pain, struggle, and loss which darken and chill hearts during holidays boasted to be “merry and bright.”  To obey Paul’s exhortation to “rejoice” seems disrespectful, a sacrilege.

It takes the growing light of the Advent wreath to improve my dim vision, so I can see the radiant smiles of students turning in finals, as well as the glowing faces of two dear co-workers awaiting infants to be born yet this month and in January.  And this weekend, I will share dinner with friends brought together by CTU.  I recall also that next week, I will share prayer and fellowship with a faith community eager to celebrate Christmas, despite their shared challenges of mental illness.  This Sunday morning, as my parish community lights that pink candle, and the subdued church lights are slowly raised, I will remark at how well we could still see one another, even before the light was full.

The antiphon for December 21, the darkest night of the year, begins: O Oriens – O Rising Sun – O Morning Star.  It is at once holy madness and Divine sense:

O come, Thou Dayspring from on high
And cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,

And death’s dark shadow put to flight.

As the sun sets outside my office window tonight, I know the Light is coming.

Angela Paviglianiti, Director of Admissions | | 773.371.5445

Nov 30, 2012

Gratitude and grace” – are words that seem to capture the essence of this time of the year. As we enter into Advent, we enter into a time when we “wait in joyful hope.”  Waiting with gratitude in our hearts, helps us to focus on our blessings with the hope of more to come.  Nancy Nickel started reflecting on gratitude in her blog and I’d like to continue by asking, “What are you grateful for?” 

I am grateful for family and friends, for loving between people, for my daughter and son-in-law as they care for their new daughter, for a son and his fiancé who will marry soon, for health, for a car that started and ran (check engine light went on this week), for the times people treat each other with respect, for hope that grows even in the midst of troubles, for a God who knows and loves us and who continually calls us into deeper relationship.

We at CTU are particularly thankful to God for our many blessings which include inspired, passionate students who are preparing to serve in a variety of ministries around the world, distinguished faculty, generous benefactors, a dedicated staff, and for another new scholarship fund that just became available for students.

Waiting seems to be a place somewhere between now and not quite now, a place where grace has an opportunity to catch us, to show up, to seep in, often in unexplainable, unexpected ways.  I don’t know about you, but I love to be surprised by moments of grace, like the little neighbor girl who blew me a kiss in the morning or the homeless person who offered me his apple. 

We can choose to be “grace-makers” in this time of waiting.  We can ask, “How do I make this time a time of mystery and surprise, a time of dreams and hopes, a time of generosity and kindness, a time of real grace?”  As we wait to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the grace-maker of God, we are invited to follow his example and be a healing presence where it is needed and to be generous of heart.

We look forward to hearing how you discover grace this Advent.


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