Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 27, 2003
Grads go forth to serve
Newman graduates recognize solid faith foundation
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Whether scaling the highest point on earth admiring God's creation, or descending deep into your soul before asking your family for sacrifice, graduates of Newman Theological College say that achieving their goals was done one step at a time.
Thirty excited men and women donned their black caps and gowns, waiting restlessly for their photo Oct. 18 in the college chapel entrance where the convocation was imminent.
Valedictorian William Hann, a seminarian from B.C., now with a master's degree of theological studies, considered his time at the college a revelation of the human spirit.
"In a word, the experience has been wonderful. It is truth professing love," he said. "There is a great sense of community here. This is a great theological program. The people here are supportive - and challenging - of those of us in formation for ministry into church.
Hann came to Newman from the Diocese of Victoria in Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. Currently in his pastoral year, Hann is en route to ordination. He plans to return to Edmonton next year for a residency program at the U of A hospital.
"Any time someone takes the time to pray and reflect and study, great changes take place within, in terms of how you serve God and serve his Church," he said.
Such changes were a mechanism which Father Pius Peter Schroh used to compel himself through moments of doubt. From the Diocese of Saskatoon, Schroh was ordained three months ago and now has a master of divinity degree.
"It's been fantastic. It was an amazing stretching experience. I found that the theology I received here has been very solid. It's helped me in my preaching, RCIA - with everything that I have to do. I found the professors here to be very dedicated, giving and concerned with each student. There is a prayerful atmosphere here. The students are outgoing as are the seminarians," he said.
Master of religious education graduate Dave Rodney, from Yorkton, Sask., certainly knows how to raise a person's spirits.
Not only is he a touring motivational speaker, he is the only Canadian to successfully scale the summit of Mount Everest, twice. "In many ways, completing my master's was every bit as difficult as climbing the highest mountain in the world."
Rodney began taking classes towards his master's with the satellite program in Calgary in 1994, completing them in 1997. But because of a number of changes in personnel at Newman and with a number of changes in his life personally and professionally, he was asked to do three different reports as his masters thesis.
One was on sacred spaces. The next was on two World Youth Day presentations he did in Toronto. The last was about his journey as a mountaineering religious educator.
"My experience on Everest was that I was meditating every step of the way. I would often chant sort of an east-west mantra just to keep me going. I mean, if I'd kept saying to myself, "One more step, one more step" I would have lulled myself to sleep.
"I actually used their word for one, which has many connotations, including we are all made in the image of God. They say, "Om." So my left foot would signify the east and I'd say om. And to bring me back to cold reality, that I had to watch every step of the way, I would say one. It was back and forth, sort of like the dichotomy we have with our Everests everyday, whether they are physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, cultural - you name it," he said.
"It's made me much more critical in the most constructive way possible, of our Church, our politics, our economics and all the other major issues we are faced with," he said.
For Karen Ziegler, her challenge included having to ask her husband and five children to support her decision to obtain her bachelor of theology degree.
Maintaining her full-time work as hospital chaplain in Regina, Sask., Ziegler used the Internet to become the college's first long-distance graduate.
"The Internet can never take the place of a classroom setting," she said. "That's why it was great to come in the summer and bond with the students. The daily prayer times in the chapel, and just sharing theology with everyone - I just couldn't get it in Regina.
Anne VanderHoek received an ecumenical experience from a different basis while obtaining her master of divinity degree. "I'm not Catholic. I'm Christian Reformed," she said. I found the college very ecumenically focused. The professors were very good to me, letting me do papers in my own focus, about my own traditions," she said.
"If I'd gone to a seminary of my own traditions, it would have been like it was fed to me on a plate. But this way, I had to figure out a lot of things on my own about what I believe which, of course, is not the same as what I've been taught since this is taught from a Catholic perspective.
"The challenge has helped me to grow," she said.