U-Mary Appoints Coordinator of New Catholic Studies Program

Matthew Gerlach Coordinator of Catholic Studies
Bismarck, ND-When the University of Mary, America's Leadership University, set out to find a coordinator for its new Catholic studies program, it was seeking a teacher, scholar and communicator. Beyond that, the ideal candidate would be enthusiastic, committed to a high degree of interaction among faculty and with students, and have a deep respect for Catholicism and education in the Benedictine tradition. Matthew Gerlach fills the bill and then some. This fall, he will bring his knowledge, skills and passion for learning and teaching to bear in helping to launch a Catholic studies program at U-Mary.

Gerlach has an extensive background and avid interest in Catholic culture and the humanities, and has found his calling as an educator. A Twin Cities, MN, native, he holds a Bachelor of Arts in Catholic studies and philosophy, as well as a Master of Arts in theology from the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN. He is in the process of completing a Doctor of Philosophy in religious studies from Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI. Gerlach also studied at Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH, and at the Loyola University Chicago John Felice Rome Center and the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, in Rome, Italy. He most recently served as adjunct professor of Catholic studies at the University of St. Thomas, where he was previously a visiting professor. (See accompanying biography.)

As coordinator for the U-Mary Catholic Studies program, Gerlach will teach Catholic studies, philosophy, and theology courses, while initiating conversations with administration, faculty, and students about the Catholic intellectual tradition and ways to collaborate and integrate the Catholic faith into the curriculum.

"One of the essential initiatives of a successful Catholic studies program is to invite and encourage collaboration among faculty and students in different fields of knowledge," says Gerlach. "I look forward to helping facilitate the creation of a program at U-Mary that is Catholic in depth and interdisciplinary in breadth, one that will incorporate best practices from Catholic studies programs elsewhere and will draw heavily from the riches of the Benedictine tradition. Catholic studies is more than just an academic program; it is meant to foster community, service, and spirituality, values that already clearly distinguish the University of Mary and the education it provides."

"We are pleased to welcome Matthew Gerlach to the University of Mary and are excited about the knowledge, experience, and energy he has to share," says Father James Shea, president. "We are confident in his commitment to creating a program that is both outstanding in its quality and authentic to the university's roots in service to the people of the prairie."

In offering a Catholic studies program, the University of Mary will become one of fewer than 50 colleges and universities across the United States and the only institution of higher learning in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming to do so.

"We look forward to working with Matthew Gerlach in the ongoing development of this innovative initiative," says Dr. Diane Fladeland, vice president of Academic Affairs. "It is an exciting opportunity for enhancing the university's Catholic identity and deepening the knowledge of Catholicism's rich and living heritage among students of all faiths, and across all disciplines."


Matthew T. Gerlach is a Twin Cities native who has dedicated his life to learning and teaching. Born in Minneapolis, MN, he grew up in the northwestern suburbs and attended St. Stephen's Catholic Elementary School. While taking confirmation classes, he was awakened to his faith, and a humanities course at Anoka (Public) High School sparked a fascination with the development of Western civilization from a Christian perspective.

After starting college majoring in humanities and Catholic culture at Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH, Gerlach transferred to the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN, to enter St. John Vianney Seminary. Double-majoring in Catholic studies and philosophy, in 1997, he was one of the first graduates of the school's new Catholic studies program. Gerlach went on to complete a Master of Arts in theology from St. Thomas, and he is currently completing a Doctor of Philosophy in religious studies from Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI. Gerlach's interest in the intersection between faith and culture also led him to study in Rome twice, once in 1996 as an undergraduate, once in 1998 as a graduate student while helping establish the Catholic Studies Rome Program.

Gerlach's teaching experience has paralleled his academic career. After completing his master's degree, he became an instructor of theology at the recently opened Holy Family Catholic High School and coordinated a collaborative RCIA program. Having taught in a new high school theology department for three years, Gerlach then entered his doctoral program at Marquette University, where he also served as a teaching assistant. His academic journey came full circle when he accepted an appointment as visiting professor of Catholic studies and stayed on as adjunct professor of Catholic Studies at St. Thomas through the 20092010 school year.

Gerlach is married to Michelle, and the couple has three daughters and one son. He enjoys camping, hiking and picnicking with the family and looks forward to enjoying the North Dakota outdoors as he gets to know the University of Mary and Bismarck-Mandan community.