Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 6, 2000
A Catholic home on campus
St. Joseph's College offers students everything from classes to Masses
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
In the heart of the University of Alberta campus, among the grey administrative looking buildings and parkade, is a nostalgic three-storey brick building that dates back more than 80 years.
It houses a chapel, campus ministry headquarters, student residence and classrooms for courses from bioethics to Christian culture.
The diversity of uses for St. Joseph's College makes it more than just a pit stop for students.
"It's a community here," said Father Timothy Scott, president of the college.
Its interior is not like your stereotypical university building. It resembles an old schoolhouse more than an industrial-looking post-secondary institution.
No high tech computerized machinery floods the desktops or hallways. It's a quaint and simple environment.
A study area, student lounge, stained glass chapel and tiny but resourceful basement library are part of what makes the college a separate entity. And yet, it still remains very much part of the university.
The college was established in 1926 by the Christian Brothers and is now run by the Basilian Fathers. If the real estate motto "location, location, location" rings true, then the college's site is as good as an ocean view property.
It is viewing distance from the student union and administration buildings and the Butterdome. There's even a city transit stop just around the corner from its front door.
And the college's size makes its students less anonymous to their peers and professors.
"(Professors) have the potential to have that interaction with their students," Scott said. "It's much more community-centred here. It's not like those classes that are 200, 300 students, (where) it's like a zoo. This is much more human."
The college has a prominent Catholic atmosphere, but it's far from a school run by nuns and priests. The staff is a mix of religious and lay people.
The need for the college has increased over the years, said Scott. Located in a city with a strong Catholic tradition, which includes a school district and hospital group, the college's courses draws students from several faculties, particularly education and science.
Students planning to teach in the separate school system often find it necessary to take religion courses at the college before the district will hire them, said Scott. Science students also find the courses helpful in understanding the metaphysics of their chosen field of study.
"There's also students who just want to know more about their own faith," Scott said. "Or those who are just curious."
For the college's 1,100 students, the courses are more than your typical World Religions or Religion 201 options. They deal with issues true to the times we are living in, Scott said of classes like ethics and economy, faith and reason, human sexuality and science and religion.
"There was a time when we said if it was scientific, it can't be religious," said science and religion professor, Denis Lamoureux.
But those times are changing and the increasing popularity of Lamoureux's course proves that.
"I have science students who go back to their (science) classes and look at it from a very different perspective," he said. "They tell me this course has freed them from the dichotomy.
"People think to be scientific you have to be atheistic. But people don't realize how much science is in the Bible. You can attach (science) to God or you can attach it to the atheistic view."
Something as complex and minute as a strand of DNA, said Lamoreux can be understood either as a series of molecules coiled together or a creation of a higher being.
"If that doesn't make you twitch a wee bit about who made that. I think people don't want to think about who is behind that. I think people don't want to think about the reason behind it because they don't want God."
St. Joseph's is also a haven for expression of one's faith, said Lamoureux, something he wouldn't have been able to do if he was teaching in the university's religion department.
"Here, we are faith, faith is here. Over there (in the religion department), we are the science of religion studies."
Unlike the university's religion department, the college is a place of faith 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Part of that atmosphere derives from the chapel on the south side of the building, which is always filled to capacity for Sunday Masses.
It also offers a place of solace for students during those exam crunch times. Part of the faith comes from the Basilian Fathers who teach and live at the college. And a good part of that continuous faith comes from the 50 male students living on the second and third floors of the college.
Director of residence, Father Patrick Fulton, chuckles when he thinks of the residence's reputation in the community.
"There's an impression from the Catholic community that these are a bunch of seminarians. They think there are 50 seminarians here every year. We wish!"
But the residence does offer a community feel.
Students who live at St. Joseph's do so for a variety of reasons. Some come because their fathers or brothers were past residents. Some come here for the faith community appeal. With five Basilians living on site, the house has a different feel and expectations than other university residences.
"It's a small residence," Fulton said. "There's a very high energy lifestyle here; we're very community oriented.
"This is the last bastion where people learn to live together, especially in this world of individualism.
"We have computer geeks, the jocks, we have people who are shy or the extroverted ones. We have a variety. They work hard together, play hard together. Everyone participates hard together."
The participation is apparent, as the house has won the award for highest participation in campus recreation activities for the past few years.
The size of the college plays a significant role in what makes the college unique. The Catholic aspect also adds to its distinctiveness, said Fulton.
"We're not just an apartment for you to hang out in," Fulton. "There's a different feel here than in other residences."
In the residence, there are rules and then there are Catholic rules. The big one has to do with sex, said Fulton. Unlike other campus residences, female guests are not encouraged after hours. But if the occasion does call for a female friend to stay over, she will sleep in one of the rooms, while the resident sleeps elsewhere.
Fulton said some campus residences like Lister Hall have programs designating "sex seniors" who provide residents with condoms. Ideas like that are simply not considered at St. Joseph's.
"We don't do that," Fulton said. "We have a foundation here that we live by. Once you understand that foundation, those things (sex) are not givens.
"In the other residences there's little cohesiveness, there's little connectiveness. We don't have that here. If someone says I live at Lister Hall, you can't tell. But when our boys go out, they're identifiable. They're Joe's boys."
The residents are proud to be part of the St. Joe's Rangers, as they call themselves. They can often be seen wearing their hockey jerseys with their nickname printed on the back. Fulton was called Porridge his first year in residence and Pretty Boy the next. Now he's simply F.P, as in Father Pat.
It's not say that Joe's boys are perfect angels. They blast their music and some may cuss when they get upset, but "I've never been told 'You guys should be better,'" Fulton said.
St. Joseph's is also an ideal environment for students to see the clergy in a different capacity, as someone more than just Father so-and-so celebrating Mass.
"Many of these guys have only seen priests in a liturgical setting," Fulton said. "Here they are living with them, being taught by them. Some of the priests themselves are fairly young. The priests and students talk to each other on a different level," Fulton said.
"If they come home late at night and I come out to talk to them in my housecoat, yes priests wear housecoats . . . or if I'm testy because I have an exam . . . for them to see that is important. It gives them a new perception of priests."