Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 27, 2008
Newman must stay focused on providing theological education
Former president cautions against being caught up in a wave of nostalgia
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"Lay enrollment at Newman has dwindled considerably over the last few years.”
- Fr. Don MacDonald
From the beginning, Newman College’s biggest challenge has been to uphold the value of theological education, especially high quality theological education, MacDonald said.
“There have been pressures both from without and within to lower standards and to adopt measures that would aim at mere qualifying instead of excelling,” he said.
“The Church today is in such dire need of ordaining lay ministers who are able to think Christianly and to communicate the Christian message in a vibrant and intelligible manner. This is especially the case when so many aspects of our secular culture render the understanding and acceptance of that message so difficult.”
Cardinal John Henry Newman, after whom the college is named, said the role of colleges like Newman was “the Christian enlargement of (the) mind,” not the mere providing of qualifications for ministry.
The cardinal also said a university must be a place that “offers the chance of community and friendship between teacher and teacher, teacher and taught, and taught and taught,” MacDonald noted.
“In close to 40 years of existence, Newman College has been faithful to such an ideal.”
The Franciscan also praised the truly great advantage of the college’s multifaceted learning environment which features the presence of both religious and laity.
However he expressed concern about the declining number of lay students.
“With the exception of religious education students, lay enrollment at Newman has dwindled considerably over the last few years,” he lamented.
“It is time to stop pointing fingers and blame at those we think responsible for this decline. It is also time to lay aside the naiveté of those who think that the pool of potential lay students, other than teachers, has run dry.
“It is time, rather, for us to get as creative as possible in attracting lay people to come to learn with us the loving ways of the God of Jesus Christ.”
To achieve this “we must convince them that they will be welcomed and respected and that their contribution to the life and the mission of the college will be appreciated,” he said.
“The future location of the college (on the grounds of the Catholic Pastoral Centre in Edmonton) will, I believe, facilitate this task of drawing more lay students to us.”
This was the last convocation held at Newman’s Mark Messier Trail location. “At this last convocation in this place we should neither be all that sad nor all that hyped up to think that our redemption is near at hand,” MacDonald told his audience.
“Instead we should be grateful that despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles at every moment of our journey, God has been with us and brought us to this moment.
“Why then should we be presumptuous enough to doubt that he will be with us as we move with open trust into the future in another location?”
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