Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 3, 2003
Newman College educates the Church of the West
Edmonton college planning to offer doctorate in Theology
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Newman Theological College is planning to offer a doctorate in theology sometime in the not-too-distant future.
"We can start thinking about it seriously in about five years or so," said college president Christophe Potworowski. "We have to increase our faculty resources before we do that but the desire certainly is here and the quality of the faculty that we have is certainly capable of doing that."
The doctorate would be the pinnacle of Newman's wide array of programs at the Edmonton Archdiocese's own Catholic school of theology.
Newman prepares lay people, religious and ordained ministers for service and leadership in Western Canada.
"We are the only institution of Catholic higher learning in all of Western Canada and most of our degree programs require a previous (university) degree," Potworowski said. "However, we also have a number of diploma programs (that have no prerequisites)."
From its uncertain beginning when it was established as a degree-granting institution in 1969, and despite continuous financial constraints, Newman has thrived and grown into a significant centre of theological learning recognized throughout North America.
The college, which shares a red-brick building with St. Joseph's Seminary on St. Albert Trail and is responsible for the intellectual formation of seminarians, has provided hundreds of people the opportunity to grow in faith and has become a reliable supplier of lay leaders and ordained ministers for the Church in the Canadian West.
Over the past 34 years the college has granted more than 1,000 degrees and most of its graduates hold important positions of service and leadership in the Church and society. Some are serving as professors at Newman itself or as administrators in the Catholic school system. Others are involved in catechetical work, adult education or parish ministry. Many have become chaplains in prisons, hospitals or the armed forces.
College staff have also had an impact on the Church in the West. Several faculty members have been ordained bishops or have served as superiors of their orders in the past 34 years. The latest is Father Marc Ouellet, a former Newman professor and seminary rector, who was recently appointed archbishop of Quebec.
In the early 1990s Oblate Father Gerald Wiesner was named bishop of Prince George while serving as Newman's acting president. A couple of years later, Father Eugene Cooney, a past rector of St. Joseph Seminary, was appointed bishop of Nelson.
In the 1970s, Father Adam Exner was teaching at Newman when he was named bishop of Kamloops, B.C. He has since served as archbishop of Winnipeg and is now archbishop of Vancouver.
Potworowski said the contribution the college has made to the Church in Western Canada is important. "First of all, the priests of Western Canada have had their education at the college," he noted.
"Secondly, a great number of the pastoral assistants in parishes in the Edmonton Archdiocese have had their training through our college. Then there's a number of people in smaller towns who have had the opportunity to take some of our extension courses that we offer in places like Red Deer or North Battleford."
According to registrar Sharon Gauthier, 384 students from several Christian denominations are enrolled in Newman's various programs. The figure includes some students training for the Anglican priesthood.
The heart of Newman's program is the master of divinity program, a professional degree for the formation of professional lay and ordained ministers. The three-year degree aims at giving students a general introduction to the major areas of theological inquiry.
Newman also offers a master of theological studies program, a graduate program designed to assist students in developing an understanding of theology that will inform their personal and professional lives. This academic program introduces students to the main areas of theological study as well as providing the opportunity for some in-depth study in one area.
The college's master of theology program is a graduate program intended to give students a specialized or professional competence in theology and the religious sciences. Such graduate study aims at preparing students for the ministry of teaching theology and offers them theological training needed for various specialized ministries in the Christian community.
The bachelor of theology program is an undergraduate degree in theology intended to give students a basic understanding of theology and religious sciences. The diploma in theological studies is designed for adults who seek a deeper understanding of the Christian faith. It provides an overview of Christian teaching while, at the same time, allows students the flexibility to pursue in-depth individual interests in the areas of theology, spirituality or pastoral practice.
Newman's master of religious education program is designed for specialists in the areas of teaching, research, administration and curriculum development. The graduate diploma in religious education program is designed specifically for teachers.
The certificate in theological studies program is an off-campus program designed to offer basic courses in theology for lay people and religious educators in the context of the parish and the school. The program provides an opportunity for a deeper understanding of the faith for personal enrichment, as a preparation for lay ministries in the parish, and for teachers of religion in both the school and the parish.
Newman also offers the Summer School in Liturgical Studies, a program that provides opportunities for personal and spiritual growth and for developing skills for parish ministry. It offers practical courses in many areas including liturgies with children, art and environment and Christian initiation of adults and children. This program is held during the month of July and usually attracts about 100 people.
The college's Formation for Pastoral Service Program trains volunteer lay ministers to assist the pastor in the parish. This two-year program offers theological foundations, spiritual development and pastoral formation. Students meet one weekend a month for 10 months of the year, for a two-year period.
"Slowly also the college is moving into the area of distance education not only by sending our teachers out there but through the Internet," Potworowski noted. "We are becoming more and more conscious really that our service is to all of Western Canada and so we will be developing much more the Internet presence so that people in remote corners of the Northwest Territories can also take their courses here."
Newman is also developing closer relationships with the bishops of Western Canada with the idea of developing courses and programs that meet the bishops' needs, Potworowski said.
The college president also spoke of the need to offer in the future continual formation both for seminarians and lay people who have a degree and are already out in the field. "And I think the Internet will be very helpful in that because these people have very demanding schedules and the Internet sometimes is the only way for them to access these courses."
Those studying at Newman have only nice things to say about the college. They especially enjoy the college's unique atmosphere, one where lay students, religious, seminarians and staff share a common life of studies, daily worship and social activities.
Preparing for priesthood
Calgary seminarian Dwayne Fernandes, 34, likes the fact he can mingle with laymen and women on a daily basis. That's excellent practical preparation for the priesthood, he said.
"Studying at Newman has been a really good experience for me," said Saskatoon's Claire Rolheiser, 25, a second year master of divinity student. "We have a good community here. Being here has helped me grow in my faith."
Jeanne McKay, 22, also from Saskatoon and Rolheiser's friend and classmate in the master of divinity program, said she is having a blast at Newman. "I'm loving it here," she said. "I love the life, the environment, the (ethnic) variety (of the students) and the brilliant professors."
St. Albert's Irene Wilson, currently in her third year of the master of theological studies program, also enjoys studying at Newman. "It's a wonderful place to be," she said. "I can't wait to come here every day."
As a private Catholic institution, Newman receives no government funding and relies on tuition fees, endowment funds and donations from the Christians community. "We have to raise roughly two-thirds of our ($1.7) million budget every year through fundraising," Potworowski noted.