About Catholic Theological Union at Chicago
You have come to a different sort of place. This is not your average seminary. It's not your average university, either. And it's definitely not your average theological school. Our new 95,000 square foot, five-story Academic and Conference Center located at 5416 South Cornell Avenue was completed in August of 2006. This new facility brings spacious classrooms, a state-of-the art library, and expanded meeting and assembly spaces. The new building will accommodate the steadily growing student body as well as a portfolio of public programs and events, affording greater opportunities for learning and living.
Our primary facility at 5401 S. Cornell where the school began in 1968, is now in process of being restored to its original purpose as a residential building with refurbished rooms, a new full-service dining room, and expanded offices. Other CTU buildings provide residential units, offices, and a few classrooms.
When the campus renewal project is completed, the new and the traditional will blend into a modern campus that enlivens and enriches this lakefront neighborhood. Beyond the bricks and mortar, CTU is building our future while making a place for faith.
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“Catholic Theological Union bears powerful witness to a special kind of ecumenism, the ability of religious orders to compose differences, to cooperate in common work and to live in harmony, despite variations in background and training. This has not been done on this scale and in this way in the history of the American Church.”
– Paul Bechtold, CP, Founding President, CTU, September 1978
The year 1968 was turbulent. The United States witnessed the assassinations of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, as well as the escalation of the war in Viet Nam. The 1968 Democratic Convention hosted by Chicago turned into a riot scene and much of the city was set aflame as citizens looked on wondering with great fear what the future would hold. It was in the midst of these uncertain and frightening times that Catholic Theological Union was born.
After the close of the Second Vatican Council, three religious orders decided to take a chance. Filled with hope and the desire to participate in the renewal of the Church, these orders took a risky move and closed their individual seminaries. They decided to work together, to share their resources – libraries, professors, staff and finances – to create a seminary that would be based on a model of collaboration.
To enable their future priests to learn in an ever-changing and diverse world, they moved from their rural settings to an urban center – Hyde Park. To heighten the academic training of these seminarians, they moved near a major university (University of Chicago). And to ensure that a spirit of ecumenism would be a part of the students’ formation, they became neighbor to other seminaries. Such an experiment had never before been undertaken, but they believed they could create a new way of training men for the priesthood.
It would not take long, only a few years, in fact, for CTU to open its doors to lay students. Almost since its founding, lay men and women, religious sisters and brothers, and seminarians have studied alongside one another, preparing to serve God’s people.