Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 25, 2004
Exultant graduates anticipate their promising futures
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Claire Rolheiser was beaming Oct. 16 as she graduated with distinction from Newman Theological College and received the Archbishop Joseph MacNeil Award for outstanding achievement.
"I was so honoured and so touched," she said following the graduation ceremonies in the Newman chapel. "I was very happy to have been chosen for the award. I felt a real sense of accomplishment. It seems like all the hard work paid off."
Rolheiser, 26, is one of 15 who graduated from the master of divinity program and one of 45 students who received diplomas and degrees at the convocation.
The three-year master of divinity program is a professional degree for the formation of professional lay and ordained ministers. The degree aims at giving students a general introduction to the major areas of theological inquiry.
Convocation speaker Janet Somerville, a Catholic theologian and writer who was recently made a member of the Order of Canada, told graduates the Christian community is hurting and their role as Church leaders is to "help develop a sustainable, effective but humbler kind of ministry in the communities of faith."
Strive for unity
Somerville spoke of a ministry that respects and tolerates ideological diversity and brings people together.
"So my grandmotherly advice to you is: be gentle with the bruised and battered body of Christ in North America today. And if you are patient and at peace with the mother and father of Christ and if you project that peace and patience, people will be able to relax and they will be able to accept each other as sister and brother."
Rolheiser had been working toward her degree for the past three years. In between, she worked part-time in a group home. Now she is completing a residency year as a chaplain at the Royal Alex Hospital. Even though she graduated with distinction, Rolheiser found the program challenging and at times found herself wondering whether she should continue.
What kept her going was her determination, the college community and God. "I really felt that this is where God wants me to be and this is what I want to do and I always found the inspiration to continue."
But make no mistake; being a full-time student with a part-time job is not easy. "It's a lot of pressure when you have to pay your rent, do your grocery shopping and take care of your home. It's very busy. "
Pressures aside, Rolheiser will miss the college and its nurturing environment. "Newman was a life-giving place," she said.
Following the residency, she plans to seek work as a chaplain somewhere. "I'll like to continue (working) in pastoral care and counselling at least for a little while."
"But my future is wide open. I would love to do a PhD some day. I don't know."
Teresa Kellendonk enrolled at Newman in the late 1990s to learn more about her faith, but faculty and staff encouraged her to go for the master of divinity program.
Now, like Rolheiser, she is completing a year-long residency as a chaplain at the University Hospital and is hoping to work in hospital ministry.
It took Kellendonk, a mother of one, five and a half years and a lot of sacrifice to complete the program. "It was a balancing act," she admitted. "You try to give equal time and balance to home, school and employment, but it didn't always work. And my family gave up a lot of time with me. It was always a paper to do or an exam to study for."
Kellendonk worked full time as pastoral associate in two Edmonton parishes while attending college. But it was all worth it, she said. " I love the community spirit and I love the availability of the professors."
Jane Ethier, who graduated with a diploma in theological studies, agrees that Newman is a good place to be. "There is a huge emphasis on being there for each other and supporting one another and each others' endeavours."
Ethier, 22, came to Newman two years ago from the Prince George Diocese because "I wanted to know more about who I was as a Catholic and Christian" and because she heard good things about the college from others in her diocese who had studied at Newman.
Any challenges? " The complexity of theology can become overbearing at times to say the least," Ethier quickly replied. "And so there are times when you start to question why am I here, is it really worth pursuing it any further if it drives you this insane with the amount of work that you have to do? But the community brings you back and it helps you to realize your grassroots, why you are here and who you are here to help."
"Be gentle with the bruised and battered body of Christ in North America today."
- Janet Somerville
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