Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 26, 2004
Unique school is 20 years old
Small town school far exceeds founder's dreams
By BILL GLEN
"We are a place of formation for the laity."
- Ernie Chauvet
"I think people were searching for meaning and to discover their talents, or if they were called. Now, they learn they aren't perfect - big deal. They see they have gifts and they develop the confidence to use them. People become relaxed when they can be transparent," Chauvet said.
"Society demands us to be perfect all of the time. But here, and within the Christian mentality, you don't have to be perfect. Combining these factors instills inner-confidence. When the graduates go back to (a secular) school, I have so many stories I could tell about how high their marks jump, from average to above average, to honours."
Teresa Skarlicki attended the school's opening year when she was 29. Working in nearby Vilna as a lab and x-ray technician in the hospital, it was from her co-workers that her awakening came.
"I was raised Catholic on a farm near Vilna. But I wanted a deepening of my faith," Skarlicki said. "I think we all have an innate hunger for God. The nurses at the hospital had it."
Skarlicki read about the proposed Radway school in a local newspaper ad. Ten years of listening to her friends at work convinced Skarlicki to look into the program.
She describes her experience at the Bible school as a honeymoon with God. She felt safe and secure in discovering something wonderful and new.
"My Catholicity was so important to me, to my full depth. I really wanted to discover the treasure of the Church," she said.
"I first thought I had no time for something like that. I was much too busy. But I was so hungry. I had been looking for something like this for so long in the Catholic Church, to find Scripture and to deepen my faith. Then all of the doubts I had disappeared and nothing else mattered," she said.
"When I went to Radway and saw the sign 'Catholic Bible School,' that did it for me."
Skarlicki said the school exhilarates people, putting them on a quest. Twenty years ago, there were far fewer avenues in the Catholic Church to explore. She travelled around some, living in retreat houses, meeting several people on similar journeys. But something was amiss. She felt she wasn't living her faith fully enough, until she returned to university.
"Eventually, I completed my B.A. Then I got a bachelor's degree in social work and I became a counsellor. I'm working in cancer care at the Cross Cancer Institute. For me, it's a way of living it out. A few co-workers think it's just doing your job, but I think it's a form of ministry," Skarlicki said.
Radway is the only Catholic Bible school in North America. Chauvet thinks it might even be unique worldwide.
"Historically, religious orders have a place of formation for their order. We are a place of formation for the laity," he said. "There are schools of theology and educational institutions that are residential. And they are very good and they are needed. But we are a place of formation. In other words, what we teach has to make sense in daily living."
During the year at the two campuses, (Radway and Hinton) people experience some 55,000 hours of prayer. In May, they have their retreats. With both programs, about 12,000 people are reached every year.
And in years of non full-time service in terms of parish readers, counsel ministers or music ministry, Chauvet conservatively estimates that since Radway first opened, graduates have performed 1,200 years of service.
He believes another 500 years can be attributed to full-time service, such as priests, graduates who then entered the seminary or people who have gone on to perform missionary work.
Chauvet has noticed that students respond more to witness than to teachers. Information can move the emotions, but Radway speaks more about meaning than about theory.
"To forgive, or to help your neighbour takes on a new meaning," he said. "It isn't just theoretical because we put it into practice. It transfers into the person an emotional aspect. How they see the world changes. When they leave here, there is an impact. There is a transformation of life.
"To be honest, when people leave here, they will struggle with sexuality and relationships; with their job or their self-image. That's life. We don't claim to be the beginning and the end. The thing is, they have tools to deal with the issues as Christians."
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