Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 6, 2000
Catholics in a Lutheran college
Concordia University College teaches twice as many Catholics as Lutherans
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Concordia University College, a Lutheran institution, has become the college of choice for many Roman Catholics pursuing a liberal arts university education.
Roman Catholics make up the largest single denomination on campus with 24 per cent of the student population of 1,400. Lutherans claim 12 per cent of the population and non-Christians 30 per cent.
What attracts Catholics to Concordia is a combination of factors ranging from smaller class sizes to the Christian atmosphere of the college. Some say it has helped develop their spirituality and deepened their understanding of their faith.
"I believe one of the reasons we have as many Catholic students as we do is that there isn't a Catholic university in this area," says Wayne Stuhlmiller, the dean of student affairs.
"If there was one, many would go there; consequently, Concordia appeals to some of these students because of its Christian character and also because it's a small university, it's very personal, and the emphasis is very much on teaching."
Founded in 1921, Concordia University College of Alberta offers students a liberal arts education in a Christian setting. It has two campuses, the main one at 7128 Ada Blvd., overlooking the North Saskatchewan River.
In addition to offering training for Church professions, which include courses in parish services and parish nursing, Concordia welcomes all students interested in studying on a small university campus. Concordia currently offers degree programs in arts, science and an after-degree program in education.
In addition, Concordia's Continuing Education Division provides special session university credit courses, an after-degree program in environmental health, university preparation and high school upgrading programs as well as various non-credit extension courses.
All students must take religion courses. Concordia's strongest religion areas include Old and New Testament studies as well as Church history and doctrine. It also offers courses in world religions.
Sarah Hoffman, a 19-year-old Catholic from Kinuso, is completing a bachelor of science at Concordia. She came to the college "primarily because it's a good alternative to the University of Alberta."
Because of the college's size, she gets personal attention from professors and many opportunities to get involved. She currently takes part in the student council, science association and various sports.
"There is a very happy environment here," she says. During her three years at Concordia, Hoffman has developed a good understanding of her faith and that of other churches. She used to think Lutheran and Roman Catholics were very different. "Now I'm amazed at the similarities," she says.
Amanda Bachand, 18, is in her first year of arts. "What attracted me to Concordia was mainly the small atmosphere and the Christian morals," said the member of St. Dominic Savio Parish.
Being at Concordia has strengthened and expanded her faith. "Now I'm more aware of the other dimensions of my own faith as well as the Lutheran faith and the other denominations," she says.
"I like the professors here. They incorporate the Christian values into their teachings and that helps emphasize the Christian belief."
Oe'Livia Chasse, an Edmonton educator and magazine publisher, enrolled at Concordia in 1986, right after completing the ministries formation program at Newman Theological College. She graduated in 1989 with a bachelor of arts in religious studies and psychology.
"What attracted me to Concordia was the small, intimate feeling that this college gave me that the university didn't," Chasse said.
"What kept me here and what keeps bringing me back 10 years after graduation is the Christian environment that was provided."
You don't come to Concordia just for one thing, according to Chasse, a member of St. Patrick's Parish. "You get a package deal when you come here." The package includes lasting friendships, faith development and spiritual growth.
"And my faith was very well received here. It didn't matter that I was a Catholic in a Lutheran College. I was very welcomed. And so we really had some wonderful conversations and learning opportunities."
At Concordia, the main concern is to develop the universal catholic faith.
"I teach religious studies and one of my goals is to develop the community of believers and I, as much as possible, try to undermine differences or distinctions between groups," Stuhlmiller said.
"I believe the body of Christ is one and that's something we try to reinforce. And I think for the most part our students feel that they are not identified by denomination or affiliation. They are part of a Christian community."
Tony Norrad, dean of admissions, says Catholic high school guidance counsellors refer students to Concordia because of its Christian environment, its personal approach and the values it promotes.
"I think the vast majority of students are choosing to come to an institution like Concordia because it's small and dedicated to teaching."
The college's motto is The Spirit of the Lord is the Beginning of all Wisdom. "This means that spiritual growth remains at the heart of the Concordian community," Norrad said.
Jennifer Kinsella, a member of St. Albert Parish, struggled in high school and when she tried to enter Grant MacEwan Community College she was rejected because her marks were too low.
Concordia accepted her three years ago and now she is completing her bachelor of arts, majoring in psychology. Upon graduation, she plans to enroll in the after-degree education program.
"Concordia has been a real place for me to succeed," the 23-year-old said. "It has given me a real opportunity to practise and share my faith."
Kinsella appreciates the fact she is required to take religion classes. "I've found that it really gave a well-rounded education. I like the fact Concordia places so much emphasis on the spiritual aspects because that's such a big part of our lives."
At Concordia, students participate in daily worship in the gym and are encouraged to pray alone in the small chapel.
Owned and governed by the Lutheran Church of Canada, Concordia's original purpose was to prepare young men for the preaching and teaching ministries of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Co-education, general courses of studies, and an accredited high school program were introduced in 1939.
In 1967, the University of Alberta approved a first-year university program at the college. A second-year program followed in 1975.
Concordia became a degree-granting institution in 1987, offering three-year baccalaureate degrees in arts and science.
In 1991 the formal affiliation with the University of Alberta came to an end by mutual agreement. The college now offers four-year arts and sciences degrees and a bachelor of education (after degree).