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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.

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

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 |