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FAQs about CTU

Q. What does the name Catholic Theological Union mean?

A. The name Catholic Theological Union describes the very nature of CTU. In 1968, inspired by the spirit of Vatican II, three men’s orders, the Franciscans, Passionists, and Servites, decided to unite their respective theology schools. To reflect this innovative union of people, resources, and purpose, they called their new school Catholic Theological Union. In time, more religious communities joined the Union, and today there are 24 members. They form the Corporation that governs the school.

Q. What is the difference between a religious order priest and a diocesan priest?

A. A religious order priest is a member of a religious community (e.g., Franciscans, Society of the Divine Word, Claretian Missionaries). In the United States alone, there are 25,000 vowed priests and brothers in 317 religious communities, each with its own founder, history, ministries, and unique identity. They typically take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Religious orders are not connected to the diocesan church structure, but are bound in obedience to their general superior. Engaged in ministries worldwide, they serve in universities, secondary schools, parishes, healthcare organizations, prisons, and missions.

Q. How does Catholic Theological Union relate to the Archdiocese of Chicago?

A. Located in the city of Chicago, CTU has an important relationship with the Archdiocese. As a Catholic school of theology, CTU is pledged to follow Catholic teaching and pertinent archdiocesan regulations, and work cooperatively with the Archbishop. CTU collaborates with the Archdiocese on several programs, particularly those preparing lay men and women to serve in the Archdiocese. The religious communities sponsoring CTU have a significant presence in the Archdiocese, staffing many of its parishes, schools, hospitals, and service agencies.

Q. Why does CTU have such a strong mission orientation and inter-cultural emphasis?

A. Several of CTU’s governing religious are missionary orders that work primarily abroad and share Gospel values with various peoples, cultures, and religious traditions. Since CTU’s founding, Catholic mission has profoundly influenced the curriculum and shaped the student body. It is now a distinguishing attribute of the school. In fact, CTU arguably has the strongest missiology program of any Catholic theological school in the United States. Because of its commitment to preparing ministers for the global Church, CTU has attracted a student body that is one-third international.

Q. In what kinds of ministries do CTU lay graduates work?

A. Many lay graduates work in jobs previously filled by priests and women religious - such as parish managers, pastoral associates, religious educators, and liturgy directors. Others hold leadership positions as directors of non-profits, managers of publishing concerns, administrators of theology schools and university religion departments, and department heads for diocesan offices. Still others work in a wide range of positions such as campus ministers, hospice and prison chaplains, lay missionaries, theology professors, high school teachers, retreat directors, young adult ministers, formation ministers, social workers, and youth ministers.

Q. Lay people have generously volunteered in the church for years. Why do they now need to have a theological education?

A. Good will and generosity of spirit reside at the heart of all ministry, but today the Church cannot rely on the theological expertise of priests and religious women and men alone. As lay people increasingly assume leadership positions in the Church, they need appropriate training and credentials. Catholics depend upon the qualified pastoral leadership of all Church ministers, whether ordained or lay.

Q. In times when the Catholic church has seemingly lost its credibility, why would young people want to prepare for ministry?

A. Young adults have great ideals and hopes for the Catholic Church. Many have been positively influenced in their Catholic college or university experience. Many have participated in dynamic lay volunteer programs sponsored by a diocese or religious order. Young men encounter inspirational role models in the priesthood and seek to emulate the lives that have touched theirs. Despite the struggles within the Church, young people demonstrate remarkable enthusiasm for ministry and for shaping the future of the Church they love.

Q. How are needs of the Black and Latino/a Catholic communities in Chicago being met?

A. CTU offers the Augustus Tolton Pastoral Ministry Program and Oscar Romero Scholarship Program in cooperation with the Archdiocese of Chicago to address the ministerial needs of Chicago’s Black and Latino/a communities. Through these programs qualified lay women and men receive full scholarships and in exchange commit to at least three years of service in the Archdiocese after graduation.

Q. Because most CTU graduates work in modestly paying ministry jobs, where does CTU get its financial support?

A. The men’s religious communities of the governing Corporation provide significant support to CTU. In addition, CTU is blessed with many generous friends – Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian, who believe in its mission and find hope in its vision. Faculty who belong to the sponsoring communities also give a portion of their salaries as contributed services. Tuition revenue and scholarship support are also important income sources.

Q. What is the Bernardin Center and how is it related to CTU?

A. Founded with the blessing of Cardinal Bernardin himself, CTU’s Bernardin Center for Theology and Ministry advances his signature issues of peacemaking and reconciliation, interreligious dialogue, and the consistent ethic of life. Through a portfolio of initiatives including Catholic-Jewish and Catholic-Muslim studies, the Peacebuilders Initiative (for high school students), Catholics on Call (for young adults), and the Catholic Common Ground Initiative, the Bernardin Center has become a vital part of CTU and the public face of the institution. The Bernardin Scholarships draw outstanding men and women from around the world who are inspired by the example of Cardinal Bernardin and desire to serve the Church.