Regnum Christi

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Divine Mercy University Graduates: Changing the Culture

Imagine you are a highly educated professional in a job that helps people in need.  Maybe they are people in a personal crisis. Perhaps they are just teenagers going through the traumas that beset most teens.

Your work isn’t exactly academic, but it relies on your training and experience. And dealing with people in need, you sometimes wish you had the knowledge of psychology that would help you unlock the keys to meet those needs. You have a Christian outlook on the world and want to change the culture by helping one soul at a time.

You don’t want to pack your bags and go off to college, contemplating theory behind ivy-covered walls. You don’t have time to leave you job to study – in fact, you want your studies to make you better at your job.

Divine Mercy’s online Master’s Degree in Psychology is designed to serve your needs if this description rings true in your head and heart.  DMU is equipping professionals to excel in the real world.

The university is sponsored by the Legionaries of Christ and many members of its affiliated lay movement, Regnum Christi, have played a key role in the founding and growth of this institution dedicated to forming what Pope Francis calls “missionary disciples.” That doesn’t mean all the graduates, faculty, staff and students are Regnum Christi members. In fact, those involved come from a wide range of religious traditions. But all are dedicated to presenting a better way, a Catholic way, to the world.

Participants of the program apply what they learn in a remarkable variety of roles. Several recent graduates of the program share how the program makes them better equipped to make a difference in the lives of individuals and the world. They are just a sample of the DMU grads having an impact in a culture that needs change. Three of the four participated in the online program that grants a MS in psychology.  One – Michelle McLaughlin – attended the “in-person” program at DMU that grants a MS in clinical psychology.

MARY WILLIAMS

Accompanying Teen Girls Through the Challenging Years

I was born and raised in Clarkston, Michigan, spent some time discerning a vocation to consecrated life in Regnum Christi, then got a BA in Mathematics and Secondary Education at University of Detroit Mercy. I’ve worked at Everest Collegiate High School & Academy, Clarkston, since the beginning of January 2010.

After years of working with adolescents and traveling my own personal journey and seeing the importance of the field of psychology as a complement to spiritual formation, my spiritual director asked me, “When you go back to school what would you like to study?” I thought it was a bit presumptuous that she thought I would be pursuing another degree, but as usual, she was right. I told her I was interested in studying psychology but I just didn’t know how or where. My dream had always been to study at DMU but I was in Detroit and for the moment it didn’t seem that I was meant to relocate to the DC area. She told me that they had just opened an online program and I think I applied within the month.

I didn’t pursue a degree from DMU in order to change careers but rather to complement my current career. I have the opportunity to work with many middle school and high school students, and I wanted more resources to be able to help them navigate these critical years of their lives.

Michelle C. McLaughlin

Guiding Victims Through Traumatic Times

I come from a Catholic family with two older brothers and two younger sisters.  I was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but Dad worked for the government so I grew up all over the world, moving every few years for a new position.  My early years were spent in Karlsruhe Germany where I attended kindergarten. My elementary school years were spend in Texas and Pennsylvania. My first job was picking strawberries on a farm near our house in PA.  I graduated High School in Texas and went to College in South Carolina, but graduated from the University of North Carolina (Wilmington) with a BA in Communications. My work history includes Hospital Administration, being a US Army Medical Service Corps Officer, and working as an Emergency Medical Technician.

Upon moving to Virginia with my husband and two sons after his retirement from the Marine Corps, I wanted to find a job but was not sure where I wanted to work. I started volunteering with my church (St. Agnes in Arlington) and also with their homebound ministry taking communion to the shut-ins nursing homes, and hospitals. I really enjoyed working with the elderly and the joy of bringing them communion was very special.

A few years prior to our move to Arlington I had a “reversion” of faith and was deeply motivated to learn as much as I could about my faith and how to live accordingly. So when IPS (former name of DMU) kept coming up, I went to adoration to pray about it.  I also picked up a book on St. Ignatius and followed the structured path of discernment.  I felt God was calling me to go to IPS and to become a therapist who could have faith as part of the healing.

My interest in psychology came late in life (I was 50 when I started IPS) and it’s really a second career after I retired from the Army.  A year before I started thinking about IPS, I was asked by a close military friend to help her write a paper on the effects of deployment on reserve military members.  She had deployed multiple times and came back different, she was feeling many effects of PTSD and did not feel like she was getting adequate care. Since I was a part of the Army Medical Department I had access to the research and literature on current treatment of PTSD.  We co-authored the paper and presented it to the Armed Forces Reserve Board, where many of our recommendations were accepted.

Currently I am working full-time for the Federal Government in emergency management, medical policy and synchronization. I am part of a working group addressing prevention of workplace violence, suicide/ domestic violence and other threats to personnel safety. I work with other Psychologist and Mental Health providers in the context of National Security professionals.

I am currently pursuing my certification in Traumatology through DMU’s Trauma Program. DMU showed me what the integration of faith into work should be. It’s more than just being able to mention God in a therapy session but also the unspoken words and respect for the dignity of another.  To see what God has created in our human-ness and our purposes to serve him through caring for others. My faith can’t be separated from my work.  I start each day in prayer and reading, trying to bring God close before I start the work day.

Sr. Okechi Njoku

Healing Hearts in the Wake of Ebola

I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, and attended grammar and secondary schools in that city. My college education was at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra – and I did my post-graduate work at Montessori College. London.

I’ve been a head teacher at two schools and supervisor of the CARITAS schools in Sierra Leone.  Today, I’m director of the Holy Rosary Counseling and Peace Centre in Sierra Leone. Our order has been in the country since 1948, helping people through every sort of crisis from civil war to the Ebola epidemic.

I enrolled in the DMU program because I felt I needed something more to add to my understanding of a human person in order to help humans to flourish. I like the DMU understand of the Catholic-Christian vision of a human person.

I am engaged in teaching psychology in my center and offering professional help to clients. From the DMU work I have learned to be more understanding, empathetic, and compassionate. My faith helps me to instill hope and encourage my clients no matter what their problem. I identify with their innate dignity, and respect them accordingly.

After my DMU studies, I treat my workers, those around me and myself with more respect.  I am more patient with myself and others. I work as a transformational leader nowadays.

Mary Monette

Unsticking Souls so They can Flourish

Even though I’m a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi, I didn’t choose DMU because of its affiliation with our Movement. It was because the program was what I needed.

When I starting thinking about graduate school, I was working at a school in Guadalajara, Mexica. In fact, I’m been working in schools for 20 years. I thought I would go to a campus to study, perhaps Anahuac University in Mexico City, or the University of Dallas.

Then I was transferred to Pinecrest Academy in Atlanta, and the idea of going away to grad school was on hold. Still, I knew there were online programs, so I started doing research and discovered DMU had just what I was looking for.

Another new assignment sent me to the Holy Land, first to Jerusalem, then to Magdala. But with the online program, I could continue my education which doing my job. And throughout my life as a consecrated, a big part of my job has been providing spiritual counseling to people – something I knew the DMU degree would help me do even better.

The key at DMU is the faculty.  They are nice people, qualified in the science of psychology, and have the faith fully integrated into the program.

My idea is to know more to help more – I have a responsibility to give to people what they need.

I want people to flourish. Often people have one “stopper “that keeps them from being what they could be. They just need a little help to bring out their best.

The Program

The Master’s in Psychology is a 36- credit hour, 100 percent online graduate program that is designed to be completed in two years of enrolled study. The online masters in psychology program provides professional competency in psychology while developing an integrative understanding of the human person in application to service delivery. This online masters in psychology program seeks to exhibit advanced professional skills such as communication, interpersonal, leadership skills, budgeting, program evaluation, and cultural awareness in order to enable growth as a transformational leader in a service-delivery setting.

Through DMU’s unique curriculum, students become a transformational leader, strengthened by Catholic-Christian teachings on human dignity and informed by foundations in modern psychology. DMU specializes in a psychology curriculum that roots every course in a Catholic-Christian understanding of the human person. How will this online masters in psychology program impact your career or vocation.

By understanding the whole person and not just their behaviors, participants are prepared to:

 

  • Help people to flourish in their personal vocations and daily life.
  • Build and maintain relationships with clients, manage cases, and facilitate groups.
  • Act effectively in situations where de-escalation, negotiation, and crisis intervention are needed.
  • Examine in-depth theory and research associated with the diagnosis and treatment of common psychological problems.
  • Recognize the integrity and dignity of each person you encounter.
  • Recruit and lead a volunteer team.
  • Integrate research and program evaluation data to improve your practice and the delivery of services.

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DMU Graduate Writes Book on Self-Care

Julia Marie Hogan, MS, LCPC, a mental health therapist in Chicago, recently published a book on self-care called It’s OK to Start with You. An alumna of Everest Academy in Lemont, IL, and Divine Mercy University, Julia has been active in ECYD and Regnum Christi. We asked her about her new book.

What led you to write a book about self-care? It isn’t the first topic many people would think about. What excited you about the topic?

Julia: I think that’s a good point: this topic isn’t talked about a lot, especially in Catholic and Christian circles. Also, popular media uses a different definition than I would. At the same time, as a therapist, I saw the impact that not taking care of yourself could have. This combination led me to this topic.

You need to take care of your physical, emotional and mental health, your relationships, and your spiritual health. I’ve seen how not taking care of all those areas can really impact your quality of life: you’re at an increased risk of stress, and your self-confidence takes a hit. And I think it can lead you away from what you’re called to do.

It isn’t a topic that jumps to mind for a book, but I think it’s a topic that should be talked about more. I saw writing this book as a way to get the message out there.

What kind of things would count as self-care? Generally and also, for Catholics, specifically?

Self-care is the external expression of how we feel and think about ourselves internally. As Catholics and Christians, we believe we are loved by God, and He loves us as we are right now. That means He loves us even when we’re making mistakes. He’s not withholding His love for us. It’s not conditional.

When we recognize that God loves us how we are right now and that He wants the best for us, then we express that in how we act externally, with other people and with ourselves. If we don’t like ourselves very much and we see ourselves as unlikeable and unlovable, then we treat ourselves in a way that matches that. That means not getting enough sleep, not eating healthily, not getting enough exercise, being in unhealthy relationships, ignoring our spiritual life or being immersed in anxiety and worry.

On the other hand, if we see ourselves as lovable because of God’s love for us, then that means – especially as Catholics and Christians – immersing ourselves in a strong prayer life, that means taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and in our relationships. A concrete example of that is practicing gratitude: it brings together emotional health and spiritual health, too. Other examples would be getting enough sleep, eating properly, exercising, and setting boundaries in relationships so that they’re heathy.

Can you give me a picture of what the reader would expect picking up your book?

My book has two parts, which I’ll summarize.

For the first half of the book, I explore why self-care matters. I talk a lot about how it’s the external expression of how we think about ourselves internally and how it is a response to God’s love for us. I think everything should be a response to God’s love for us. If we really recognize that and we see self-care as a way of living that out, then it makes sense to focus on self-care.

I talk about the misconceptions about self-care, such as that self-care is selfish. It actually isn’t – if you take care of yourself first, then you can be the best version of yourself in serving other people. A small example of that is my work with my clients. If I didn’t get enough sleep the night before, then I’m feeling tired and I’m not focusing on my clients, I’m not being the best therapist for them. If I make sure I get enough sleep, I am a better version [of myself] for my clients. Since this is what I’m called to do, it is a way of fully living out my vocation.

The second half of the book begins with a self-care self-assessment. The reader can go through and see the different areas of self-care, with different questions, so they can get an idea of what they’re already doing well and what they can focus on. Then I walk through each one of those areas, and I talk about why it’s important, pull in some research, and give examples of what it might look like. I conclude with making your own self-care plan.

What do you think a Regnum Christi member or an active Catholic could get out of your book?

I know that, for someone who is in Regnum Christi or someone who’s an active Catholic, the spiritual life will be the driving force and an important factor of what they do. It fits naturally into self-care. When you take care of yourself, you’re better able to live out your vocation in every area and nurture the talents that God gave you. My book shows you in a concrete way to take care of yourself without going on a weeklong vacation to the beach. My suggestions are crafted in a way that someone can fit them into their busy schedule and see the benefits. We can’t all run off and be hermits.

How has your formation at Everest Lemont and at Divine Mercy University helped you prepare for this book and for your life as a psychologist now?

My education was foundational. It allowed faith to be part of my life from a young age, when it was integrated into school, where we’d have religion class and we went to Mass. It seemed like a natural fit.

For undergrad, I went to the University of Dallas. I knew that I wanted to be a therapist, but I [also] knew that I wanted to continue to incorporate the faith, so Divine Mercy was an excellent fit when it came time to choose my graduate school.

What makes DMU unique – and what makes Alpha Omega Clinic, where I did my internship, unique – is that they seamlessly incorporate the faith into psychology. I can’t edit the faith out of someone’s life when they’re my client, when it’s the foundation of the way that they live. DMU trained me to incorporate the faith with psychological theories, strategies and resources. DMU is really the only place that does that.

One important thing that Divine Mercy taught me was the concept of human flourishing. In therapy, our goal is to eliminate negative symptoms but also to help the human person flourish. Human flourishing is achieving your highest potential through your vocation, your spiritual life or in relationships. I really loved that added layer, because it means we don’t stop at making you less depressed or anxious, but we also want to help you live a full life. What does that look like for you? How can I help you get there?

You’re currently a therapist in the Chicago area. Where are you located and what are your specialties?

I work in Park Ridge, just outside Chicago and right down the street from Relevant Radio.

I specialize in faith-based counseling: a lot of my clients specifically want to incorporate their spiritual life into therapy. My other focus is working with people struggling with anxiety – it’s so common. I really enjoy being able to provide people tools to be able to manage their worry and anxiety. Once you learn those, it’s very freeing and it’s exciting to see those changes in my clients.

People ask me how I can sit and listen to people talk about their problems all day. I think it’s something that you’re called to do; to me, it’s so meaningful.

If Divine Mercy University sounds interesting to you, they offer a 25–50% tuition reduction for Regnum Christi members. Find details here.

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Divine Mercy University Celebrates Graduation with Cabinet Member

On May 18, 2018, Divine Mercy University celebrated the graduation of 45 students at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. The Keynote Speaker was Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

The ceremony began with a Mass presided over by Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.

Fr. Charles Sikorsky, LC, president of Divine Mercy University, preached the homily. He spoke of the parable of the vine and the branches, reminding the graduates to remain attached to Christ. “If we remain attached to the vine,” he said, “we can overcome all human limitations. Today’s Gospel gives us great reasons to trust in the Lord.”

Fr. Charles also told the story of a graduate whose psychological training now helps him serve patients in a hospital where 80-90% of those cared for have suffered some form of abuse. He left the graduates with two exhortations: “Never forget the why” and “Do everything with love.”

Dr. Ben Carson received an honorary doctorate. He began his speech by saying, “I’m greatly humbled by the dedication of this university to its mission, and by the commitment of graduates that embody that mission, seeking to ensure the moral resolve with which we should go forward in our professions to serve others in a Christian way.”

“I think God gives each of special talents,” Dr. Carson said, adding that discernment of his own talents helped him determine which branch of medicine he would go into. Addressing the graduates directly, he continued, “There’s something each one of you is better at than everyone else here. And one of the things that really leads to great success is recognizing what it is.”

The HUD secretary also addressed the needs of our culture, saying, “We have enormous challenges with mental illness in our country, and we need to be healers.”

Dr. Carson concluded, “You’re all going to have tremendous spheres of influence. Can you imagine how many people will be impacted by what you do, what you say, how you act?”

This year, Divine Mercy had 29 Master’s graduates in General Psychology, seven Master’s graduates Clinical Psychology, and nine Doctors of Psychology. These join others to make a total of 255 Master’s graduates and 60 Doctoral Graduates. The university hopes to add Master’s degree in Counseling next year.

Dr. Peter Martin, PsyD (class of 2009), received the distinguished alumnus award. Dr. Martin explained to the graduates, “You will learn more about your calling to heal than your academic training could have possibly equipped you [for] before today. Embrace the sometimes challenging years of transformation to come in your work with your clients, and grow in wisdom and virtue in the Lord as his faithful disciple.”

Afterwards, Fr. Charles described the ceremony as a “great event.” Commenting on a recent letter from the California Bishops seeking to reduce the stigma of mental illness and to take away the fear of coming forward, he noted, “Churches can play a major role in that.” He also explained, “Faith and science need to work together to heal a person; a holistic approach of body, mind and spirit is so important, and that’s what we’re working on at DMU.”

You can watch a video of the graduation on Facebook or YouTube, and you can see a collection of social media about the event on the DMU blog.

Divine Mercy University offers a 25-50% tuition reduction for Regnum Christi. Find details here.

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Alex Kucera

Atlanta

Alex Kucera has lived in Atlanta, GA, for the last 46 years. He is one of 9 children, married to his wife Karmen, and has 3 girls, one grandson, and a granddaughter on the way. Alex joined Regnum Christi in 2007. Out of the gate, he joined the Helping Hands Medical Missions apostolate and is still participating today with the Ghana Friendship Mission.

In 2009, Alex was asked to be the Atlanta RC Renewal Coordinator for the Atlanta Locality to help the RC members with the RC renewal process. Alex became a Group Leader in 2012 for four of the Atlanta Men’s Section Teams and continues today. Running in parallel, in 2013, Alex became a Team Leader and shepherded a large team of good men.

Alex was honored to be the Atlanta Mission Coordinator between 2010 to 2022 (12 years), coordinating 5-8 Holy Week Mission teams across Georgia. He also created and coordinated missions at a parish in Athens, GA, for 9 years. Alex continues to coordinate Holy Week Missions, Advent Missions, and Monthly missions at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Cumming, GA.

From 2016 to 2022, Alex also served as the Men’s Section Assistant in Atlanta. He loved working with the Men’s Section Director, the Legionaries, Consecrated, and Women’s Section leadership teams.

Alex is exceptionally grateful to the Legionaries, Consecrated, and many RC members who he’s journeyed shoulder to shoulder, growing his relationship with Christ and others along the way. He knows that there is only one way, that’s Christ’s Way, with others!