Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
March 10, 2008
WCR Letters to the Editor
Newman changes mourned
Re: Newman College begins to phase out baccalaureate degreeWCR Feb. 25
As a graduate (1997) of the bachelor of theology (BTh) program at Newman, it was with great sadness that I read this article. It is a program that has served the Church well over the years with both lay and ordained graduates ministering in a variety of settings.
The loss of the certificate programs will also be felt because these are the men and women who could be counted on to assist with sacramental preparation and RCIA teams, liturgy communities, music ministry and in innumerable ways.
It is difficult to see how St. Joseph's College or such institutions as Providence Centre could take over these programs since the former does not grant degrees and, for Providence Centre, this would mean hiring new staff and taking a different direction from its current spirituality-centred programming.
A number of statements made in this article beg for a response but I would like to comment on one in particular. Mr. Kulmatycki states that: "The BTh was developed mainly to serve the internal needs of the college."
In the late 1990s, Newman received a grant from the Lilly Foundation to develop a Master of Divinity (MDiv) program geared to forming lay people for pastoral ministry and which could be offered partly by distance education. I was on the steering committee for that program.
As we recruited candidates from across western and northern Canada, one of the realizations that we came to was that many good and capable candidates especially from our more remote dioceses, did not and could not meet the MDiv requirement of having a previous degree.
As the "Lilly MDiv" drew to a close, we made the recommendation that the bachelor of theology degree add a pastoral stream more specifically geared to ministry and which could largely be offered through distance education. In this way, men and women who could not have been otherwise able to study theology and prepare themselves for ministry were able to do so.
The whole issue raises a bigger question. The bachelor of theology degree has, for the most part, been populated by lay people. Over the past few years, the number of lay students studying at Newman, whether in undergraduate or graduate programs, has been steadily declining.
I once heard Archbishop Collins say that the Church needs both ordained and lay ministers. Seminary numbers are up but where have all the lay people gone?
Many of us are nearing retirement or have retired and there are very few coming up to replace us.
Has the college made a real effort to attract lay people in preparation for ministry? It seems that the vision of Archbishop Jordan who founded the college in the wake of Vatican II has gone by the wayside. We are the poorer for it.
How did we get to this place? And how long will it take to recover?
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