January 24, 2011
From its earliest days, Newman Theological College has emphasized the integration of study and worship

WCR FILE PHOTO

From its earliest days, Newman Theological College has emphasized the integration of study and worship

RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

From an uncertain beginning when it was established as a degree-granting institution in 1969, Newman has thrived and grown into a significant centre of theological learning recognized throughout North America.

The college, located in a new two-story building just a few metres north of St. Joseph Seminary on the Catholic Pastoral Centre grounds, is responsible for the intellectual formation of seminarians and has provided hundreds of lay people the opportunity to grow in faith. It has become a reliable supplier of lay leaders and ordained ministers for the Church in the Canadian West.

Over the past 42 years the college has granted hundreds of degrees and many of its graduates hold important positions of service and leadership in the Church and society.

Some serve as professors at Newman itself or as administrators in the Catholic school system. Others are involved in catechetical work, adult education or parish ministry. Many have become chaplains in prisons, hospitals or the armed forces.

College staff has also had an impact on the Church in the West. Several faculty members have been ordained bishops. The most famous is Sulpician Father Marc Ouellet, a former Newman professor and seminary rector, who now serves as head of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops.

In the early 1990s Oblate Father Gerald Weisner was named bishop of Prince George while serving as Newman's acting president. A couple of years later, Father Eugene Cooney, a past rector of St. Joseph Seminary, was appointed bishop of Nelson, B.C. He is now retired.

In the 1970s, Father Adam Exner was teaching at Newman when he was named bishop of Kamloops, B.C. He later served as archbishop of Winnipeg and archbishop of Vancouver.

PASTORAL ASSISTANTS

A great number of the pastoral assistants in parishes in the Edmonton Archdiocese have had their training through the college. Then there are a number of people in smaller towns who have had the opportunity to take some of the college's extension courses.

Currently there are about 200 students, including 27 seminarians, studying at the college.

From its earliest days, Newman Theological College has emphasized the integration of study and worship

WCR FILE PHOTO

Newman was established in 1969 as an adjunct to St. Joseph Seminary to provide theological education for lay people. Until a couple of years ago, it shared red brick buildings with the seminary on Mark Messier Trail, just south of St. Albert. The building was sold to the province and demolished to make way for the Anthony Henday ring road.

In the first semester of 1969 the college had about 14 full-time seminarians and six or seven full-time religious women and laity.

At the time, the curriculum reflected the needs of seminarians. But as lay people started to attend in greater numbers and the needs of the Church began to change, so did the curriculum. It went beyond basic theological education to include religious education and more advanced theological programs.

In 1992, the college joined the big academic leagues of North America when it was granted accreditation by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada.

MASTER OF DIVINITY

The heart of Newman's program is the master of divinity program, a professional degree for the formation of professional lay and ordained ministers. The three-year degree aims at giving students a general introduction to the major areas of theological inquiry.

Newman also offers a master of theological studies program, a graduate program designed to assist students in developing an understanding of theology that will inform their personal and professional lives. This program introduces students to the main areas of theological study as well as providing the opportunity for some in-depth study in one area.

Professional competence

The college's master of theology program is a graduate program intended to give students a specialized or professional competence in theology and the religious sciences.

Such graduate study aims at preparing students for the ministry of teaching theology and offers them theological training needed for various specialized ministries in the Christian community.

Newman's master of religious education program is designed for specialists in the areas of teaching, research, administration and curriculum development. The graduate diploma in religious education program is designed specifically for teachers.

In early 2008 the college, driven by financial and other concerns, restructured into a graduate-studies only institution and consequently discontinued the bachelor of theology and other undergraduate programs. The college's popular Summer School in Liturgical Studies, in place since 1991, held its last graduation in July 2008.