Assisted by Deacon Paul Croteau, Archbishop Richard Smith blesses the library at Newman Theological College March 8.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Assisted by Deacon Paul Croteau, Archbishop Richard Smith blesses the library at Newman Theological College March 8.

March 21, 2011
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

EDMONTON - The archbishop of Edmonton would like Newman Theological College to honour its patron saint - Cardinal John Henry Newman - by becoming a community of disciples that helps people draw close to the Lord.

Archbishop Richard Smith expressed this desire during the blessing and official opening of Newman Theological College March 8.

While representing the Canadian bishops last September at Newman's beatification at the Birmingham Oratory in England, Smith visited the chapel and the library where Newman spent most of his time.

As he prayed where Newman prayed, stood where Newman stood and touched what Newman touched, Smith said he felt himself connecting with a fellow disciple who is very close to the Lord.

"In other words, I experienced the Church as a community of pilgrims here on earth touching the community of saints and in this mutual touch being drawn closer to the Lord who is the heart of it all," he said in his homily.

"This, in the final analysis, is what I want Newman Theological College to be - a community of disciples.

"Here we pray and study and we do so not as individuals but as members of the Body of Christ, called to share with one another our friendship with the Lord as we grow in our love for him and our desire to serve him in his people."

Nearly 150 people took part in the ceremony, including Premier Ed Stelmach and his wife Mary, who is a member of the college's board of directors.

"This college is of great benefit to our Catholic community; it's a place of learning, a place of peace and of faith," Ed Stelmach said.

BEAUTY, SERENITY

"What you have created is an unparalleled (place of) beauty and serenity. To see it is to experience the true joy of God's creation. I can't imagine a more beautiful place to study and be inspired by God's word."

Assisted by Deacon Paul Croteau and Father Paul Kavanagh, Smith performed a unique blessing.

With his hands outstretched, he prayed, "O God, it is by your gracious favour that today we inaugurate this new college dedicated to theological formation, and that we confidently place it under the patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman.

Fr. Stefano Penna, dean of Newman College, stands next to a painting of Blessed John Henry Newman.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Fr. Stefano Penna, dean of Newman College, stands next to a painting of Blessed John Henry Newman.

"We entreat you to bless those that will come here as teachers, as students, as staff, as visitors and volunteers."

Next, as the Litany of Saints was being sung, the archbishop sprinkled the congregation and then the entire building with holy water, entering every room, office and classroom.

SEALED BY THE SPIRIT

"This is the seal," an excited Father Stefano Penna, Newman's dean of theology, said of the blessing. "The blessing is that sacramental encounter that says, 'This building, this community is now sealed by the Holy Spirit as being a holy place for a holy people.'"

Most of those in attendance were people closely associated with Newman, including alumni, financial supporters and students.

"This is an extension of what Cardinal Newman started," said former Newman board member Sir Russell Irwin Cherneskey. "What a magnificent facility!"

PRAYER AND STUDY

At the centre of Newman's life were a chapel and a library - prayer and study. "We have the same here (at the college)," Smith said in his homily.

"Following the example of our patron, we see in these the expression in symbol of the heart of our endeavours here and the foundation of all we are called to do in ministry to the people of God."

Like Cardinal Newman, the archbishop said, "We dedicate ourselves here to the pursuit of truth and to the encounter with light so that through our own personal encounter with light and truth with Christ we can reflect that light to the uncertain gloom of our world today."