WTU To Cease Operations a Year Earlier Than Planned

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

WASHINGTON — Encouraging students to continue to walk their spiritual paths and to follow the call that led them to Church service, Fr. Frederick Tillotson, O. Carm., president of Washington Theological Union, announced last week that the school will close all but one program next year.

The WTU Board of Trustees voted on Dec. 13 to cease regular WTU operations as of May 2012, a year earlier than the graduate school of theology had announced this summer. The school is more than 40 years old.

“After reviewing current figures, it was decided that regrettably, all master- and certificate-level classes of the WTU must cease at the end of the spring semester,” in May 2012, according to a Dec. 18 letter from the president to WTU students. “This decision is the result of new information about a reduction in student numbers and projected income from tuition for the 2013 fiscal year.”

The WTU doctor of ministry program, however, will continue until Dec. 31, 2013.

“This is because the doctoral program has enough students to be self-sustaining,” Fr. Tillotson said. “The Union, as an institution, will continue granting master’s degrees and certificates as students complete their requirements until Dec. 31, 2013.”

Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, a member of the WTU board since 2005, said in an email message to HNP friars, that because the doctor of ministry program is, for the most part, an online program and financially self-sustaining, it would continue until all enrolled students complete their degrees. John said, “The board voted to terminate the other degree programs at the end of the current academic year, rather than in 2013 as originally projected, because it was evident that the WTU could not financially sustain itself for a second year of teach-down operations.”

Earlier this year, the WTU had announced that it would continue until the end of the 2012-13 school year. Enrollment was closed to new students after last September. HNP friars who are currently at the union will complete their degrees at The Catholic University of America in Washington. 

“These are difficult times for the Union, but the faculty and staff have stayed the course and are dedicated to assisting our students,” said Fr. Tillotson. “We remain committed to an orderly and just transition that places the good of our students first. Every student will receive a facilitated and manageable course of studies to complete his/her degree in a reasonable time span. I ask that you remember the WTU community in your Christmas prayers this year and know that we appreciate your help and support.”

“I encourage all students to continue to walk on the path that they have embarked upon and to follow the call that led to such needed service and ministry in the Church today,” Fr. Tillotson said in recent messages to the WTU community.

John said: “This is indeed a difficult moment for our Province, as the WTU has served us well and has provided an excellent academic and pastoral formation for our students for some 40 years. Additional details about the sale of the building and the transition of our men to another graduate school of theology will follow in the weeks ahead.”

Events at the Union
As plans are being made for a smooth closure, the school held its final Advent events.

tillOn Dec. 4, its Advent Lessons and Carols celebration took place. Alumni, students, friends and former WTU faculty members took active roles in the service, according to the school’s Dec. 18 e-newsletter, ePistle. Photos of the event can be found on the Washington Theological Union Facebook page.

Next month, the WTU and the Paulists will offer an evening celebrating the Paulist charism. The Jan. 18 event will include an ecumenical prayer service, film presentation and panel discussion.

More information about WTU events, including photos on a Flickr photo album, can be found on its website.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

Editor’s note: The rear photo, courtesy of Catholic News Service, shows Fr. Frederick in the WTU’s library.