This story represents excerpts from the National Catholic Register’s article by Stephen Beale. To read the full article please visit m.ncregister.com/daily-news/going-the-distance-online-catholic-university-marks-35-years#.W1c4FdJKjIV. Reprinted with permission from the National Catholic Register © 2018 EWTN News, Inc.
Catholic Distance University, the country’s first and — perhaps still only — exclusively online Catholic university is marking its 35th anniversary this year. This is a testament to the role it continues to play in the landscape of Catholic higher education. Marianne Mount, the president of Catholic Distance University (CDU), said the anniversary has focused the school’s attention on its distinctive mission and identity. “Now, in the words of Pope Francis, CDU is able to reach the peripheries,” Mount said.
Catholic Distance University was founded in 1983 by Bishop Thomas Welsh of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, who recognized a need for the formation of the laity after Vatican II’s teachings on the universal call to holiness and witnessing to Christ in the world.
Today, the school boasts 900 students, four degree programs between the undergraduate and graduate levels, continuing education, certificate programs and a little more than 30 faculty members. Everything comes together on an innovative virtual campus, complete with a digital cafe, where students can meet, and an online chapel, where they can post prayer intentions.
While clergy and lay leaders are well represented in the online campus, the majority of students are business executives, doctors and other professionals who want a better understanding of their faith — contrary to the stereotype of long-distance schools as being only for those whose educations are incomplete. On fire and inspired, 9 out of 10 of CDU’s MA grads use their knowledge to serve the Church.
One current graduate student, Lan Nguyen, is hoping to use her degree to teach the love of God to children in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. She says the courses are both solidly faithful to Church teachings and convenient.
“I was excited to find that CDU has developed a very convenient and flexible online program with a great support system. Each course has introduced to me a different piece of the Church’s doctrine and God’s word, where I then find the truth and authentic love,” Nguyen said. “The thing I love most is having access to my coursework anytime and anywhere, and the staff is wonderful.”
Professors, like students, are busy professionals in roles from Catholic TV commentators and editors to major Catholic organization managers. They are spread out not only all over the country, but across the world. One is a guide at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Another is the founder of a biblical and catechetical institute in the Archdiocese of Hobart in Australia.
“I find CDU has a vibrant learning community that genuinely reflects the universality of the Church,” Nguyen said.
CDU’s faith-filled mission continues unabated. Dr. Peter Brown, the academic dean and a professor in Scripture and biblical languages says: “The 35th anniversary represents not a look back, but a look forward. We’ve grown from a small apostolate that mailed paper courses to curious Catholics to a cutting-edge online university.”