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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?   http://www.ctu.edu/academics/master-arts-justice-ministry

Kathy Van Duser, Director of Recruitment | kvanduser@ctu.edu | 773-371-5450

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:  http://ctu.edu/summer-institute

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 | kvanduser@ctu.edu | 773-371-5450

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
http://learn.ctu.edu/content/ctu-welcomes-president-elect-rev-mark-r-francis-csv  and YouTube - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmVA9oy-Yao&feature=youtu.be

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 learn@ctu.edu 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 | kvanduser@ctu.edu | 773-371-5450

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 | kvanduser@ctu.edu| 773-371-5450

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 | kvanduser@ctu.edu | 773-371-5450

Oct 22, 2012

The Israel Study and Travel group just returned to CTU this week.   For our students, it was a time of study and exploration of biblical and historical sites in Greece, Turkey, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Jordan.

Seven years ago, I had the opportunity to go on a CTU trip to Israel and Jordan.  There is nothing quite like being in the land, walking the paths, hearing the sounds, smelling the scents of flowers and spices, feeling the intense heat of the sun, or relaxing in the cool of the evening.  One night we were doing just that, relaxing at the Mount of the Beatitudes overlooking the Sea of Galilee.  Typical of new-found friends, we were laughing and joking when one of us remarked, “I wonder if this was what it was like for Jesus and his friends?”  Immediately, the group fell silent, and the silence continued for 30 minutes or so.  The reverie was broken by the coo of a dove.  Then one of us wondered what it would take for peace to prevail on this planet instead of the chaos we often face.  We began to reflect on deeper questions.  The trip was life-changing for me as it was for many others. 

We didn’t have to be history buffs as the professors on the trip laid out the history of the places we visited. They read Bible passages and other writings as we journeyed through the land.  It was remarkable how similar the land looked as compared to the Biblical descriptions.   We were given special tours of archaeological digs and plenty of time for prayer and reflection. 

Having had a taste of the land that is home to many religions, where people passionately live their beliefs, I must admit, I long to return.   

At CTU, we have a unique opportunity in the January Term.  The course, Abraham’s Children, is being offered as a graduate, theological traveling seminar which is designed to introduce some of the basic elements of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faith traditions through the lens and dynamic of interreligious relations and understanding.  It is open to participants from any faith or philosophical background.  The course will feature visits to some of the holiest sites of the three traditions and provides an experiential setting which highlights the relevance of history and theology to important contemporary global realities; participants are afforded the opportunity to build interreligious relationships with faculty and colleagues of all three faiths.  The course is being co-taught by Prof. Rabbi David Sandmel, Prof. Scott C. Alexander, Prof. Inamul Haq, and Prof. John Pawlikowski, O.S.M. 

You may have questions about this trip or other travel opportunities at CTU, or you may want to begin to dream about what it would be like to go on such a trip.  If you want to learn a bit more about this opportunity and check out the itinerary, please go to http://www.ctu.edu/abrahams_children.  You can also contact me for more information on any of our travel programs.

 

Kathy Van Duser, Director of Recruitment | kvanduser@ctu.edu | 773.371.5450

Sep 26, 2012

Kathy Van Duser

Blog:  Sept. 26, 2012

One of my friends challenged me to live this Rumi quote during the year, “The door is round and open. Don’t go back to sleep.”  The quote set off a number of thoughts and feelings in me.  I began to ask myself some questions, “What opportunities am I being invited into?” “What is life-giving for me?” “How do I live life fully?  “Is the way I conduct my life, life-giving to others?”  “What am I passionate about?”  “What would I like to do?” “How is God calling me?” “When do I tend to go back to sleep?” 

In my work as Director of Recruitment, I meet with people on a regular basis, listening to their stories, hopes, and dreams, and then helping them to discern their particular call.  Some know deep down what they’ve been invited to step into next, but delay out of fear and the ever popular, “have to do first list.” We’re adept at finding ways to avoid, and we sometimes just go back to sleep.  Others aren’t sure what in particular they’re being called to but know it has to do with theology and ministry.  Still others know what they’re being called to do and charge boldly forward.

What about you?  If you’ve been thinking about exploring the possibility of education for theology and ministry, what if you don’t go back to sleep, but this time sign up for a CTU Open House event?

There are a number of benefits in registering for a CTU Open House:  you’ll learn about career opportunities in ministry, have an opportunity to meet faculty and students, you’ll understand how easy it is to access and complete the admission process, you’ll learn about scholarship and other financial aid opportunities that are available, you’ll participate in a tour of the school and you’ll get your questions answered.   

To register for an Open House event click,  http://www.ctu.edu/admissions/visit-ctu-open-house-opportunities .    My challenge to you will be the one my friend made to me…  “The door is round and open, don’t go back to sleep.”