WTU Celebrates 40 Years of Education

Will Heaton Features

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The commencement of the 2008-2009 academic years marks the 40th anniversary of the Washington Theological Union.

Forty years ago, the founding religious orders, including the Holy Name friars, inspired by the renewed vision of church and ministry arising from the Second Vatican Council, pooled their seminary and academic facilities in an effort to offer the best education to their students. 

As they continued to share their aspirations and goals, the members of this coalition of religious seminaries created a common theological curriculum that would respond to the needs of the contemporary church and merged their institutions into one school. The WTU was incorporated in 1969, immediately becoming one of the largest Roman Catholic schools of theology in the country. Holy Name Province continues as one of the founding corporate communities, and maintains a strong commitment to WTU.

Today, WTU welcomes men and women, religious and lay, as students. One of its unique traits — religious and lay students studying side by side for collaborative ministry in the church — remains a central tenet of WTU’s mission.

This fall, WTU welcomed 56 incoming students. Their backgrounds and lifestyles vary greatly.

Some students have come from countries such as Vietnam, Nigeria, Canada, Dominica, Colombia, Mexico, and India. WTU has Franciscans, Carmelites, Redemptorists, and Josephites. It also has members of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, the Sisters of Loretto, the Vincentians, the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and the Congregation of Bon Secours. 

WTU welcomed individuals with degrees in engineering, organizational development, theology, systems management, communications, psychology, biological or chemical sciences and two with doctoral degrees in other areas.  There are three writers of poetry or free verse, and others whose art is music.  Several are also full-time residents in WTU’s dormitory and have already infused new character into student life.

Staff Update

The faculty also welcomed three new members to its ranks. Colt Anderson comes to WTU from Mundelein Seminary in Illinois in Indiana and will teach in the spirituality department. Father Jon Kirby, SVD, has a wealth of missionary and cross-cultural experience and  is the new associate professor in the cross cultural studies department. Jose Aguilar comes to WTU from Fordham University, and teaches in the sacred scripture department.Russel Murray, OFM, shown in photo, has also become a full assistant professor in the department of systematic and moral theology.

Since 2007, Gregory Jakubowicz, OFM, has been on WTU’s staff as chief operating officer, a key leadership role. He oversees the non-academic support area of the WTU and supporting initiatives that have an institution-wide inmpact.

WTU launched two new online programs over the summer and both have students starting this fall. The doctor of ministry in the Christian spirituality program focuses on classical spirituality, its relevancy for contemporary forms of ministry, its transformative role in the life of the minister, and its potential for influencing social systems. WTU also offers an online graduate certificate in Franciscan theology and spirituality. The program has enrolled several students across the country. Ilia Delio, OSF, leads the program and will teach courses.

WTU President Welcomes Students
John Burkhard, OFM Conv., began his first full year as president this month.

At the recent Mass of the Holy Spirit, WTU’s traditional welcoming Mass, John said: “I am elated with the size of the new incoming class. Their enthusiasm compliments our returning students well, and I anticipate strong academic achievements from our students. WTU has always been an institution at the forefront of religious education and I am energized by the influx of new faces I see as I walk around the WTU halls.”

In this year marking its 40th anniversary, WTU continues its reputation as an education leader in theology and ministry. WTU’s community stretches around the globe and is blessed with countless alumni supporting its ongoing mission and efforts. 

Visit www.wtu.edu to read more about WTU’s 40th anniversary and upcoming events throughout the year. 

 Will Heaton is WTU’s director of communications.  Each week, he publishes the weekly Pulse e-newsletter.