Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 18, 2002
Studies anchors theological careers
Traveling different faith paths spices academic life
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
Father Huy Nguyen cast his mind back over his studies at Newman Theological College and said, "It's quite challenging studying here because you meet people from different faith traditions. You have to be open-minded."
And although there are people from other denominations at Newman, Nguyen believes he received "sound Catholic teachings.
Nguyen made his comments as the college held its graduation Nov.9 in which 33 students received their diplomas and degrees.
"Some professors gave us the general things that we should know and then allowed us to do our own research and widen what we know," said Nguyen. "It prepared me to be open to different views in ministry."
Of all the courses that he took at the college, the Calgary priest believes pastoral theology to be one of Newman's strong points.
Their faith paths are varied, yet the new Newman graduates agree their studies have prepared then for their ministry.
Some 33 graduates were given diplomas and degrees in theological studies, graduate religious education, bachelor of theology, master of religious education, master of theological studies and master of divinity at the Nov.9 ceremony.
The college, which works in partnership with St. Joseph Seminary, has a program for pastoral internship. In this program, students are given pastoral placement in different places to gain hands on experiences in ministry.
After the pastoral placement, students are then invited to do a course on reflections of their pastoral experiences. Students at Newman who are from the seminary spend a whole year in pastoral internship.
"It was really helpful because it gave us first hand experience of what it's like to be a parish priest and work with people," Nguyen said.
"When we came back from internship, we did a lot of theological reflections, so in a way, we get half from the seminary and half from the college."
His fellow student Natalie Ann Augruso commented, "Studying at Newman has really solidified my faith and gave me a real good foundation."
At the moment, Augruso is a volunteer chaplain at U of A Hospital. She has also started mentoring with the Faith Awareness Society of Edmonton and is attending St. Stephen's College for her master's degree in pastoral psychology.
As a chaplain, she can combine studying theology, while at the same time applying it to life situations. Given her knowledge of theology, Augruso tries to bring the presence of Christ to people she is ministering.
Newman's distance education program through correspondence and the Internet has widened students' opportunities and registrar and Christian ethics teacher Donna Marie Bouchard took this off-campus opportunity.
"It's been a tremendous opportunity, even though I took distance education and summer schools."
Though she was only on campus during the summer intercessions, she was able to build relationships with other students.
"My courses in theology and scripture have given me a better foundation upon which to teach teenagers today."
School chaplain and teacher Matthew Hoven said what made the difference for him was being with the school community every day in the Holy Eucharist.
"All of the areas of theology are so important, but when I meet face to face with somebody, it's the pastoral formation that comes into play," said Hoven, who works at John Paul II High School in Fort Sask.
Cathy Maginel, pastoral assistant at Fort Nelson, B.C. also singled out "the sense of community" at Newman.
And Oblate Jose Allan Roy Laudenorio, pastoral assistant at St. Albert Parish liked how the professors challenged them to be critical minded, open minded and more sensitive to the people.
Class valedictorian, Rev. Mr. Ain Leetma of Whitehorse Diocese, told the people, "One of the biggest lessons I've learned is to know that everyone has a story to tell to everyone who is willing to listen."
Nguyen, who now serves at St. Mary's Cathedral in Calgary, is this year's recipient of the Joseph MacNeil Outstanding Achievement Award for his participation both in the college and seminary life.
"I did not think I was a front figure here at the seminary and at the college. I just did what I am supposed to do as a student," said the award winner.
Nguyen served as co-chair of the committee on liturgy.
He also played the guitar and mandolin at the daily Mass and represented the college and the seminary off campus to talk about vocation.
"I receive this with humility as I continue to serve the people of God," Nguyen said.