Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 4, 2002
Catholics at The King's
Young woman says she found her faith at evangelical college
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
Renata Malczweski is a Catholic young woman who enjoys being at The King's University College and thanks God she was led there to study.
"It was God who brought me here," Malczweski told the WCR.
The 22-year-old woman wanted to take a year off when her grades did not qualify her for admission to a bigger university.
"But God brought me here instead and that's how I found my faith, that's how I found the Holy Spirit."
Malczweski described her experience at the college as amazing and said the people are wonderful because it's an environment where one can express his or her faith.
A fourth year environmental science major, the enthusiastic student admitted when she first came to the college, she didn't know it wasn't Catholic.
"And it doesn't bother me at all because no one forces their own faith on me. I express myself totally. I talk to people about the Catholic faith."
She also shares in the college's expression of faith by taking part in its liturgical dance club.
Teachers are friendly, helpful, always available whenever students need them and they interact really well with the students, according to Malczweski.
College president Henk Van Andel said the college is known for two things - its Christian philosophy of education and its one-on-one approach to education.
"The King's is a Christian institution and it operates under a Christian statement of faith," Van Andel said.
Founded by the Christian Reformed Church, this college shows its 557 students what a difference faith makes in how they approach various issues in life, academic questions and different disciplines.
"We want to be a Christian community for the students so we can provide them the opportunity to live their faith in the college in terms of chapel, community events of various kinds and being there for one another as a Christian people," said Van Andel.
Catholics make up the second largest denominationat the college. The King's does not require students to be Christians and has a wide variety of non-Christians
"We don't stress denominational differences here," said Van Andel. "We stress the evangelical view of Christianity, which is broad-based. We stress things that unite us as opposed to the things that might divide us in terms of the different denominations."
In its educational process, The King's focuses on more on the task for Christians in the world, and less on what ecclesiastical doctrines one should espouse, said Van Andel.
Every student, faculty and staff is guided by the principle of what it means to be a Christian in the world, to serve the Lord and serve one's neighbour in accordance with generally accepted Christian principles.
"I think that allows us to serve a wide variety of denominational backgrounds," the president said.
Charles Stolte, a Catholic faculty member and music teacher, believes "it is the education centred on Christ" that sets this institution apart from others.
In all classes, the precepts of being Christians are given weight.
With the Christian flavour of education at The King's comes the personal attention and one-on-one nature of education. Classes are small and there's a "superb professor to student ratio."
So the college is not only Christ-centred, but also focused on student-centred learning.
"The doors of the faculty are always open and we always give personal attention to students," said Stolte.
Also an alumni of the college, Stolte stated, "When you're an undergrad, I think it is so important to have some mentoring, to develop friendship, to have a community of learning as opposed to being an isolated student in a class of 250 struggling to have your assignments done and then you don't have any idea why you're doing it."
At King's, Stolte says students get prompt feedback from their professors on a regular basis.
And discussion among peers comes easy because it's a small community.
Ecumenism is highly regarded in this institution and is readily witnessed when students and staff of all faiths gather in the college's chapel to worship together.
Given the wide variety of denominations, it is crucial to emphasize ecumenical services so students and staff can worship as a community instead of as a specific Church group.
Citing an example, Stolte said they celebrated Ash Wednesday, traditionally a Catholic service.
College services always try to balance reading from the Bible, praising God through different types and styles of music and student participation.
"So the more contribution we have, the more ecumenical we become and the richer the experience of everyone becomes," Stolte said.
A member of Holy Family Parish, Stolte said while it's a wonderful challenge to try to balance everything, this is the challenge of the Church too - to be Christians together. And this is why King's is such an exciting place - because it's a Christian community in a microcosm.
When conflicts concerning traditions come up, talking, discussion, input, sharing and listening are the only things allowed to take place.
"And then of course some kind of a decision (is made) in the end, but not before the discussion takes place," said Stolte. "It is important to listen, so that we can understand where everyone is coming from and not only reacting against it."
Simon Flynn came to The King's planning to become an Oblate priest. "I think it's the same as every other college, except that I get the whole picture of what it is to be a Christian."
When he decided to leave the Oblates, he came back to the college. For him, being at the college lets him see what other Christians are like and, at the same time, what his Christianity is like.
Flynn said he grew up in a strict Catholic family who regarded Protestants as the enemy. When he came to The King's, he learned they are not the enemy. "They just have a different way of seeing things and being with other Christians is like being with long lost brothers and sisters."
"It's probably been some of my best years studying here."
Being in a Christian college is important for the 25-year-old Flynn given the ever growing secularism in the world. "I thought that being involved in a secular college will open more chances to being secular."