Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 13, 2009
Newman's bags are packed
Theological college prepares for big move with words of farewell
Fr. Don MacDonald
Franciscan Father Don MacDonald, a faculty member who has been with Newman College right from its start in 1969, put things in perspective.
"As we move to another location it is not the construction of a new building that is the most important thing." Rather, it is the rebuilding or continuing to build the Catholic spirit of Newman College and the seminary that counts the most, MacDonald said.
The college and seminary will relocate to the site of the Catholic Pastoral Centre on Edmonton's south side near downtown. The move was brought about by the Alberta government's purchase of the current site to complete the Anthony Henday Ring Road.
The goal of the new seminary and college is to be part of the archdiocesan plan to develop an integrated Catholic campus in the heart of Edmonton.
The moderate construction delays on the new seminary are not expected to interfere with the preparation of men for the priesthood.
Classes for seminarians and other students at Newman Theological College will begin as scheduled on Sept. 1 at the interim location of the former Lakeland College in Sherwood Park.
It's not the first time St. Joseph Seminary has been moved.
The first theology faculty was set up in 1917 at the Oblate Immaculate Conception Scholasticate in St. Joachim's Parish in Edmonton. Ten years later, the Oblate Fathers moved to Saskatchewan.
The Edmonton Archdiocese took over the building and called it St. Joseph Seminary, which became the formation centre for the seminarians.
In 1957, the seminary moved to St. Albert where a new building was erected on vacant farmland.
Father MacDonald provided a synopsis of Newman College's past 40 years.
"There were three major reasons for the opening of Newman Theological College. The first was the termination of the philosophy program at St. Joseph Seminary in the mid-1960s, and with that the dwindling number of seminarians.
"The second was the entrance of women in religion and having a theological centre in Western Canada," said MacDonald.
The third and most important reason was to fulfill the desire of then-Archbishop Anthony Jordan, who was looking for ways to address the role of the laity in the Church.
Jordan wanted a college that provided solid theological formation for seminarians as well as being open to laypeople. Therefore, all those interested in theology were invited to share the facilities in St. Albert.
In 1969, the theology faculty of St. Joseph Seminary became Newman Theological College by an act of the Alberta Legislature.
"Some of us on faculty wondered whether Newman was really an appropriate ecumenical name for a Catholic theological college, but Archbishop Jordan insisted. Time has proven him right," said MacDonald.
He shared some amusing anecdotes about the good times at Newman. "
To make our courses more attractive, in the early years we scheduled our classes in the late afternoon and evening, from 4 to 10 p.m.
"It was not easy to persuade Archbishop Jordan to agree to this. He was worried about what the seminarians would do all morning and early afternoon. I won't tell you what I told him," joked MacDonald.
"Over time he realized that it was a necessary means to draw laypeople to our classes - and it worked."
The relation between Newman College and St. Joseph Seminary is the story of a vibrant community for faculty, staff, students, seminarians and laypeople working, worshipping and socializing together.
He mentioned the lay professors who dedicated themselves to the seminary in the 1970s.
"These people were so devoted that they were willing to teach for years at barely subsistence salary without having behind them the support of the religious community as I and others, for example, did."
He also praised the college for allowing non-Catholic professors and students.
"Up until a few years ago, our relationship with the Edmonton Anglican Diocese was particularly close.
"At one time there were 18 part-time or full-time Anglican students here, most of them studying for ordination in their Church.
"I never witnessed in all those years the slightest sign that their presence here posed a threat to the Catholic faith of either professors or students. Indeed, in some cases, it was quite the opposite."
MacDonald's conclusion: "Despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles during these 40 years, God has been with us and seen us through to this point.
"What reason could we possibly have to fear that he will fail to remain as our guide and continue to be our principle sustainer in the years ahead?"
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.