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Oct 31, 2013

More than 400 guests attended the inauguration of President Mark Francis, CSV, on Sunday, October 27, at the beautiful and historic KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation in Hyde Park.



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.

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.

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  |

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!

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,