The CTU Story
“Catholic Theological Union bears powerful witness to a special kind of ecumenism, the ability of religious orders to compose differences, to cooperate in common work and to live in harmony, despite variations in background and training. This has not been done on this scale and in this way in the history of the American Church.”
– Paul Bechtold, C.P., Founding President of CTU, 1968
The year 1968 was turbulent. The United States witnessed the assassinations of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, as well as the escalation of the war in Vietnam. The 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago turned into a riot, and much of the city was set aflame as citizens looked on wondering with great fear what the future would hold. It was in the midst of these uncertain and frightening times that Catholic Theological Union was born.
After the close of the Second Vatican Council, three religious orders (Franciscans, Passionists, and Servites) decided to take a chance. Filled with hope and the desire to participate in the renewal of the Church, these orders took a risky move and closed their individual seminaries. They decided to work together, to share their resources – libraries, professors, staff, and finances – to create a seminary that would be based on a model of collaboration. The name Catholic Theological Union describes the very nature of CTU.
To enable their future priests to learn in an ever-changing and diverse world, they moved from their rural settings to an urban center – Hyde Park. To heighten the academic training of these seminarians, they moved near a major university (University of Chicago). And to ensure that a spirit of ecumenism would be a part of the students’ formation, they became neighbor to other seminaries. Such an experiment had never before been undertaken, but they believed they could create a new way of training men for the priesthood.
It would not take long, only a few years, for CTU to open its doors to lay students. Almost since its founding, lay men and women, religious sisters and brothers, and seminarians have studied alongside one another, preparing to serve God’s people.
CTU has grown to be one of the largest Roman Catholic graduate schools of theology and ministry in the United States. Students from all over the world, of every age and vocation, study together. They learn about the Catholic faith as well as how to dialogue with other Abrahamic faith traditions – Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim.
With a distinguished and world-renowned faculty, CTU is a place where students are challenged, mentored, and prepared for whatever they are called to do next with their lives.
Today, CTU is sponsored by 24 men's religious communities, as well as other communities who send students to CTU. In any given academic year, there are a few hundred lay students from the United States and many countries throughout the world preparing at CTU. With more than 4,000 graduates serving in the United States and in 60 countries worldwide, CTU has brought, and will continue to bring, God’s hope and love where it is most needed.