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Feb 04, 2013

The first month of the New Year has come and gone, where exactly did the month of January go? It seems like our spirits were so jolly a few weeks ago, we were drinking champagne and saying “Happy New Year” to everyone we came across (not me because I don’t partake in alcoholic beverages). Continuing on the theme of some of my previous blogs, what I aspire for the New Year, is to treat my fellow man or woman with respect and hope that they reciprocate and do the same. We started off the New Year here at CTU, showing how our love and respect for one another is still alive and well. We had a celebration for one of our employees, she is a fixture at CTU, and she has actually been with the CTU community for over 20 years. Her spirits were low and the community, which is CTU, noticed and put into motion a flash mob celebration. The reason I bring this up is because although initially this was for one person, we all ended up celebrating and remembering why we love CTU as much as we do. This was one of those real fuzzy moments that you hope would linger for more than just a few minutes, and it did – this was two weeks ago and we are all still talking about how much it meant to all of us. Remember, treat or at least try to treat your fellow man with kindness and love, it is really not that hard.


Valerie D. Holloway |  Enrollment Management- Assistant to the Director/ Enrollment Management Department-Administrative Assistant |   Catholic Theological Union  |  5416 S. Cornell Ave.  |  Chicago, IL 60615  |  USA

Office 773-371-5451 |  Fax 773-371-5452  |

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!

Jan 09, 2013

I love and dread the New Year’s season in equal parts. Love, because it’s a time to reflect on my life and to plan for the future. Dread, because it’s a time to reflect on my life and to plan for the future! You all know what I’m talking about! 

2013 feels like a major turning point for me. I’ve officially retired my student status and am out in the working world for the long haul. I’m no longer the child my family needs to take care of, but instead an adult who is contemplating having children of her own.  And I’m thinking about what meaningful things I can do for others, instead of what others can do for me.

It’s daunting to think about making this shift. But at the beginning of the year, I ran across this quote, which will sustain me.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Howard Thurman (1899-1981), an American author, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader spoke these words, and they completely flipped my future script. It’s not about figuring out what I’m “supposed” to do, it’s about continually discovering what I love to do, and then working with passion toward it.

After graduating from Morehouse College, Thurman served as the Dean of the Chapel at Howard University, among other prestigious posts. But in 1944, he left Howard to establish the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco, Calif. It was the first racially integrated, intercultural church in the United States. He followed his passion, and made a lasting impact in the process.

In the same way, I feel very fortunate at the start of 2013 to be a part the CTU community, which is building interreligious and intercultural bridges — one of my biggest passions — every day. One of my goals this year is to expand my limited view of the possibilities in my life. To try new things, to courageously make mistakes, and hopefully discover what makes me come alive. I am confident CTU will be a launching pad for this year of discovery.

Karla Dawn Meier, Marketing and Communications Assistant. Reach me at or 773.371.5416.

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

Dec 10, 2012

This question was posed to me a couple of weeks ago by a CTU student. I stopped and thought to myself, “How do I answer this question?”  I wondered whether I would be able to articulate my feeling and thoughts in a way they would reveal my true self.  The truth to that question was, “of course.”

Some would think that this is a loaded question, but in reality it is a simple one. I walk with my spirituality every day by consciously treating my fellow man or woman the way that I want to be treated. It sounds so easy but it can be a struggle sometimes.  We are so busy with our everyday lives that we do not see each other; I mean really see each other. Think about this: we all have encounters daily that irritate us and sometimes we do not react in the Christian way. The thing is, we know better. We know how to love our neighbor but we don’t always display that. We look at TV and see the hardship of someone we don’t even know and we exude sympathy and empathy for them, but we cannot treat the people we stand next to every day with kindness and love.  

For me, walking in my spirituality is knowing that this thing we call life is a privilege and it should always be treated that way. It is my inner path, the place I feel the safest, and where my spiritual well-being lives. I am not saying we should all walk around like Pollyanna, but the truth is, would it be so bad?

 Stop and ask yourself: “How do I walk in my spirituality?” See what answer you give and then go deeper and ask yourself whether you live this spirituality every day, some days or never? There is no wrong or right answer; just something for all of us to ponder.

Valerie D. Holloway |  Enrollment Management- Assistant to the Director/ Enrollment Management Department-Administrative Assistant-773-371-5451 or

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

Nov 16, 2012

Hmmm….my week to write the blog. Thanksgiving approaches. I know – I’ll write about gratitude!

An obvious choice, a worthy topic. But as I think about all that I’m grateful for in life, which includes my life at CTU, my thanks cannot be spoken in a breezy, “ain’t life perfect” kind of way. It’s more complex than that. Can you relate?

My gratitude, for example, ranges from simple appreciation for such things as reasonable traffic on Lake Shore Drive to a deeper and more seasoned thanks for the health and well-being of my loved ones, for adversity weathered, for the giving and receiving of love.  That gratitude comes with a capital “G.”

Shortly after I started my new job at CTU seven months ago, two valued employees in Marketing and Communications needed to pursue new callings. Talk about a learning curve that I didn’t expect!  I was overwhelmed and a little scared, but thank God, I received such care and understanding from the CTU community and my colleagues in Enrollment Management. Today, I have the good fortune to have two new colleagues, Karla Meier and Ronit Bezalel, who are enormously creative and talented. I am so grateful and excited about what we’ll accomplish together.

Learning that President Donald Senior would be retiring in June set me thinking again about the nature of gratitude.  One of the reasons that I came to CTU was because of my great admiration for Fr. Senior.  Soon, Fr. Don won’t inhabit the office down the hall, or walk by each morning with a warm “Hi Nancy!” on his way to responsibilities more numerous than I can imagine.

And yet, what I have learned from him by example is that to face new challenges is to embrace new life, new excitement, and the possibility of new gratitude born of victories and, yes, even losses, great and small. To feel gratitude is to engage life in all its phases.  We at CTU have so much to be grateful for, so much to give, and so much to look forward to as the future unfolds.

I think Fr. Don will forgive me if I “lift” the ending of his recent Scripture reflection: “Some well-intentioned Christians spend time trying to calculate the end of the world; others think it is best to ignore a world that is doomed for destruction and prefer to live in anxiety and fear of the doom to come... Instead, we should continue to be fully alive and alert, ready for the moments of grace that may come our way unexpectedly. “

I have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. May you enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving, too, filled with life and cherished moments of grace!

Nancy Nickel, Director of Marketing and Communications,

Nov 13, 2012

This weekend, I had the privilege to represent CTU at the National Call to Action Conference in Louisville, KY.  Each year, this conference gathers some 1500 participants from across the country committed to promoting justice in the church and beyond.  In many ways, the demographic of conference attendees resembles that of CTU with its mix of multi-generations, religious and lay persons, professional ministers, volunteers, and seekers.  I thought, What an ideal place to “spread the word” about CTU!

After a short time on the exhibit floor, I soon learned that CTU was already at work among many of the conference attendees—and for them, needed no introduction.  Countless times, I was greeted like an old friend by alumni I had never met.  I had to begin to use my notebook to record the messages I promised to deliver from old friends to members of the CTU community.  Harrietta Halloway, our receptionist (and listening ear), was mentioned with reverence on more than one occasion.  There were also students who studied elsewhere but had been inspired by visiting faculty, such as Fr. Don Senior.   One gentleman had returned from our Holy Land trip last month and was still glowing.   Several expressed gratitude for the ministry CTU members perform in their “free time,” such as Mark Schramm and Steve Bevans, who preside at the St. Giles Family Mass.    An author in the booth across from me spoke admirably about his long time written correspondence with the late Barbara Bowe, treasured to this day. 

I entered into the weekend prepared to do outreach and educate others on the opportunities of a CTU education. I was humbled each time someone approached me and gave witness to the impact of CTU on his or her life and ministry because I was not prepared to likewise receive.  “Thank you for being here,” people said to me, again and again.  My “No, thank you,” felt insignificant in return.

But I say it again.

Thank you.  Thank you for enriching CTU by your presence.  And thank you for carrying CTU with you as you enrich our church—and the world.

Angela Paviglianiti, Director of Admissions | | 773.371.5445

Nov 05, 2012

    Reading week has come and gone. I am hoping that your time away was spent catching up on reading that you had for your classes and or taking some well deserved time off to reflect. Many of you have 2, 3 4, and even 5 classes.  I have one class—one, that is all. So clearly I really have no reason to have lost my mind a few weeks ago. Here is a funny story that some of you might be able to relate to. But if you can’t no worries I could not either, I am just hoping you have a good laugh.

I first met Melissa last year when she came to CTU for a visit with her friend. I gave them a tour, and they both went to sit in on a class taught by Professor Laurie Brink. Now Melissa is a new student here at CTU, and also working with our Enrollment Management department. Melissa is working with me and in her role as our department assistant, Melissa is awesome, funny, intelligent and most of all a great worker. Melissa sometimes helps me with filing. On this particular day she came to me and said that she could not find files for a few people.  I looked at one of the documents and said to her, “Oh, I know where this person’s file is,” and then I got to the final few and I said “Oh, Melissa Carnall, She decided not to come.” This is where it became clear that I was not dealing with a full deck of cards. To those of you who are paying close attention I was talking to Mellissa Carnall! I looked at her and saw a grin on her face. I saw this and I said “Oh, you know her?” The grin now became a full smile-- then I proceeded to say, “Oh, she is a friend of yours?” Melissa just looked at me.  This time her brow was furrowed and she was laughing. I looked at her and we both just fell over laughing. She thought I was playing but I was serious, very serious. We both repeated the story and again just kept laughing at the sheer disbelief that all of that had taken place. We were both bent over in a belly crunch screeching laugh. We then decided to take this comic show on the road, and headed to find Angela. I knew that Angela would see my plight and know that I was not crazy. We told Angela the story and she too laughed. We realized that I had a momentary brain lapse.  Angela quickly put it all into prospective and said, “Valerie, you just have too much on your mind!” I appreciate Angela and her words but even today, I’m not so sure! While we take our studies seriously at CTU, moments like this remind us not to take ourselves too seriously!

Valerie D. Holloway | Enrollment Management- Assistant to the Director