Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 1, 1999
Newman ready for the future
College's new library, seminary residence a boon to students, future priests
By LELLA BLUMER
Special to the WCR
A new library and seminary residence are getting rave reviews from students and faculty at Newman Theological College and St. Joseph Seminary.
The library is "accessible, welcoming, and it's bright and open," says Kevin Smith, president of Newman's students' association.
"What I'm hearing from students is that they're finding it a place where they can actually sit and study," Smith says.
That's a big improvement, considering the library was formerly housed in four different classrooms on the lower level of the college. Finding resources involved a lot of walking back and forth between the rooms, and there was no seating or study space available.
The new library, which opened after Christmas, is housed in a 10,000 square foot addition to the main college building. It has enough room for double the 25,000 volumes it currently holds, and includes a media room, computer workstations and meeting rooms. Large windows provide a view of the college's natural surroundings.
Newman's dean of theology, Oblate Father Martin Moser, says the timing of the project allowed the college to integrate the latest technological developments into the library, including the ability to join the NEOS consortium, which links 21 Edmonton and area libraries.
That means students and faculty at Newman and St. Joseph will have access sometime later this year to approximately four million items held by the consortium, and a new on-line public access catalogue which displays its holdings on the Internet, says librarian Rita Jandrey. There are also plans to offer Internet access through the library.
There are currently 196 on-campus students at Newman College, which has a total enrollment of 255. Moser says enrollment is expected to rise through the expansion of programs to help train lay people for parish ministry, made possible with a recent grant to Newman from the Lilly Endowment Foundation.
"This is a service we've wanted for a long time," Moser says, adding that a full library has been in the plans since the college opened in 1969, but the funds were never available.
The same is true for the seminary residence, says Bill Lerner, executive director of the Foundation for Newman and St. Joseph's.
A $3 million donation by the Sopchyshyn family of Edmonton made both projects possible.
Wilfred and Helen Sopchyshyn, their son Clinton and his wife Geneva, have called their donation "a small contribution for those who are willing to dedicate their lives to the work of Christ."
Lerner says the family's donation reflects their interest in encouraging vocations to the priesthood as well as providing for the formation of lay people to be leaders in the community. It is the largest single donation ever received in the Edmonton Archdiocese.
The funds covered construction costs for the library and the residence, while an additional $1 million was designated to cover furnishings, landscaping and fees. The total cost of both projects comprises half of the $8-million capital campaign undertaken by the foundation. The remaining $4 million is earmarked for an endowment fund to ensure the future of the college and the seminary.
Lerner says the college also received a donation of $75,000 from the Catholic Women's League to cover the cost of automating the cataloguing of books.
Father Jean Papen, rector of St. Joseph Seminary, says the new residence provides needed extra space, "but above all, it offers a more homey atmosphere," compared to the institutional nature of the former residence.
"It also offers a chance to build community," he adds.
The new residence is structured around common "pods," with individual rooms opening off a shared central seating area and small kitchenette. Each resident will have a private washroom.
The new building also provides much-needed meeting and storage facilities, while additional office space for faculty and staff was created by converting the old bedrooms into offices.
"We build for the future," Papen says, noting that the new facility can house up to 46 seminarians. Right now, 20 seminarians are in residence, and six in internships.
The residence is not only a home for seminarians, Papen says, but "something which will serve the Church." There are plans to make it open to the public during summer months for use by summer students at Newman. It could also be used for programs still being developed, such as an introduction to theology for high school students, Papen says.
The new library and residence will hold an open house on March 7 to allow the public to tour the new facilities. Archbishop Joseph MacNeil will celebrate an opening Mass and officially bless the facility in the evening.
The Sopchyshyn family will also take part in the opening of the new library and residence, both of which will be named in their honour.