August 2021 has been noteworthy at CDU not only because of our 38th Anniversary on August 22nd, but in particular because of the press release issued by the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education on August 3rd: Vatican Releases Rules for Online Learning for Ecclesiastical Universities.

We at CDU knew that the Congregation for Catholic Education was preparing recommendations for Pope Francis regarding the use of distance education in ecclesiastical universities. During a brief visit to Rome in late November 2017, I met with Archbishop Zani and his staff to share our expertise in online teaching pedagogies and student support. I am sure that the continuing developments in distance learning at the Vatican reflect the positive contributions of CDU.

Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Constitution Veritatus Gaudium (December 8, 2017), reflects his commitment to educating the peripheries including prisoners, migrants, the homeless, monks and contemplative nuns, and even busy bishops. This echoes CDU’s mission to serve the underserved and to educate the hearts of those who serve them. Those of us privileged to work at CDU for many years have marveled at our inclusive learning community and the students who find their way to us. The first graduate degree awarded by CDU, around the Jubilee Year 2000, went to a French woman in Paris who uses a wheelchair for mobility and has since earned her doctorate. CDU has awarded bachelor’s and master’s degrees to prison inmates through our correspondence curriculum and educated a number of contemplative nuns, brothers, and priests through our online MA degree program in Theology. Today we have a growing pastoral MA degree program for Catholic educators and directors of religious education that is offered completely online and in service to dioceses, especially the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Holy Spirit Institute.

In the words of Archbishop Zani, “There are many professionals who would like to acquire some theological, philosophical, or anthropological formation, and they are knocking on the doors of our institutions; we can’t ask them to attend like young students who are just beginning their academic journey.”

CDU is at home in the digital world. We congratulate our students and graduates who accepted the invitation to be pioneers with us in Catholic higher education. They reflect the power of CDU’s theological education that educates the human person with rigor and holistic formation, yet offers the freedom and flexibility that is essential today.