In October of this year, we will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. That Council, which brought together in Rome bishops from around the world, would turn out to have a profound effect on the life of the Catholic Church, touching virtually every aspect of the Church’s life – from the style of our liturgical prayer to the ways of exercising authority and our way of conceiving of the Church’s mission to the world. Safe to say, the Church is still sorting out the meaning of the Council and still debating its implications.
Catholic Theological Union itself is a direct consequence of the Council. In 1964 one of the Council’s leaders, Cardinal Leo Josef Suenens of Belgium, was invited to speak at the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel and his topic was seminary life in the wake of the Council. In his speech, he stressed that it should be urban based (close to the people instead of in a remote location), located in the context of a great university (to prompt academic excellence), and ecumenical in spirit. As a direct result of that speech Dr. Gerald Brower, then the Lutheran Dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School, invited Catholic educators to consider a location in the Hyde Park university neighborhood. The rest is history; in 1968 CTU opened its doors for its first class of students.
CTU is called a “union” because it began as a merger of three independently existing seminaries run by the Franciscans, Servites, and Passionists. They dared to bring together their faculty, student bodies, and libraries to create something new, something greater than any one of them could do separately. Forty-three years later that original coming together has grown into the largest Roman Catholic graduate school of theology and ministry in North America with twenty-three religious communities as a part of the union, together preparing seminarians and lay women and men to serve the Church in various capacities.
That desire to come together in alliance with others has been part of the ethos at CTU since the beginning, and we are at it again, as this issue of Logos reports. This October CTU and DePaul University announced an educational alliance between our two institutions. CTU has enjoyed a friendship with DePaul from the very first days of our founding. Fr. Richardson, C.M., then president of DePaul, offered our graduates academic certification while CTU was awaiting its accreditation. Since then CTU has always had a representative from DePaul on our Board of Trustees and our two institutions have conducted a number of common programs and events. Now, while retaining our mutual independence as schools, we are forging an even closer collaboration – such as providing the opportunity for graduate level theological training for DePaul students, mounting interdisciplinary courses that take advantage of each other’s strengths, and expanding our mutual repertoire of overseas educational opportunities. We know that our two Catholic institutions can do more together than we could ever do separately.
And now we are expanding our collaboration to Rome! This past year we also forged an alliance with the highly respected Lay Centre in Rome, a residential program for lay men and women pursuing doctoral programs at Pontifical universities. The Lay Centre, too, began its life during the Second Vatican Council, originally serving as the residence for the Protestant observers at the Council. With that mission successfully completed, the Lay Centre has flourished as both a residential program (which, by the way, includes Muslim and Jewish students studying in Rome) and as an educational resource. The Centre provides continuing education courses for people living in Rome and conducts expert briefings on the Vatican and Rome for university boards and other groups. CTU is honored to be associated with the Lay Centre and its programs. Our graduates who intend to pursue doctoral studies in Rome can find a safe haven there, and we intend to mount a number of collaborative overseas educational programs with the Lay Centre.
For us at CTU, these new alliances with outstanding Catholic institutions offer us a chance to strengthen and expand our mission of serving the Church worldwide, without losing any of our own specific character and purpose. At a time when many institutions are floundering because of financial pressures or because they are confused about their own goals and mission, we at CTU are very grateful to be able to come together with others as we did from the beginning and thereby find renewed life and sure hope for our future.
Fr. Donald Senior, C.P.