Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 26, 2009
Newman grad combined studies, motherhood
Leading students attracted to Edmonton by what college has to offer
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Theresa Robinson is excited about the future. She now has what she needs to be a prison chaplain or a university chaplain.
Robinson, 28, is one of six who graduated from the master of divinity program at Newman Theological College and one of 39 students who received diplomas and degrees at the college's convocation ceremony Oct. 17.
"I hope to do chaplaincy work," she says. Nevertheless, Robinson is not rushing to find a job. For now, she is happy doing a most important ministry - raising her two little children: Clare, 17 months, and Isaiah, four.
"Right now I'm just going to stay home with the kids until they are in school and then when they are in school I'll probably look for a ministry."
Seminarian Matthew Hysell, 32, was the only one to graduate with a master of theology. He was also the valedictorian at the convocation ceremony.
The partially deaf seminarian was planning to return home to San Jose, Calif., after graduation to become a priest when Archbishop Richard Smith made him an offer he could not refuse.
"The archbishop invited me to stay here and I decided to accept his invitation," Hysell said, a wide smile crossing his mouth. He is currently doing his pastoral internship at St. Theresa Parish in Edmonton.
HUSBAND GRADUATED TOO
Robinson and her husband Jordan, a school vice principal in Leduc, moved to Edmonton from Victoria when they got married five years ago. Jordan was awarded his graduate diploma in religious education and Theresa was presented with the Joseph N. MacNeil Outstanding Achievement Award at the convocation.
"We moved here for Newman," Theresa said with a smile. "It's one of few Catholic universities in Western Canada where you can get your master's and it has a good reputation."
The program normally takes four years to complete but it took Robinson five "because I had babies," she explains. "When I had a baby, I would take a bit of time off but then I would go back fulltime."
When Robinson started the master of divinity program, she planned to do university chaplaincy. After high school she spent a year doing youth ministry with a National Evangelization Team and wanted to continue on that path.
But at Newman she did her practicum at the Women's Institution. "I really fell in love with prison ministry so one of my dreams would be to do prison chaplaincy," she said in an interview.
"(People in prison) are just like you and I," she said. "They are very real and honest. I enjoyed (establishing) relationships with them and being able to share faith with them, especially to learn about their faith and to share my own."
For Robinson, the best part of being a Newman student "was the faith formation and the community experience, being able to celebrate Mass every time I was at the school, getting to know the professors and then also just the quality of education."
What was the most difficult part? "Juggling being a fulltime mom and being a fulltime student," she said matter-of-factly. "That was the hardest part - making sure that my family still got 100 per cent of me and at the same time being able to devote time and attention to my studies."
Hysell studied philosophy at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley and came to Newman in January 2008 to complete his MTh and to work with the Catholic deaf community at Providence Centre.
"I came specifically to go to Newman because in the United States there are very, very few Catholic schools that would offer an MTh degree," he said.
The fact that the archbishop speaks sign language is another factor leading Hysell to want to come to Edmonton. "I know if I work with the deaf community I would also develop a good working relationship with the archbishop who speaks my language."
Hysell is happy the archbishop invited him to stay. "Even though Edmonton is a big city there is a small town feel to it," he said. "People are very, very friendly and I find the Church in Edmonton to be very personable."
Learning was fun but also challenging for the seminarian. Hysell can hear 70 per cent with his hearing aid in his right ear. Through his left ear he can't hear anything.
During classes, professors wore a special device around their necks to amplify their voices so Hysell could hear.
Did Hysell do well? "I think I met my expectations," he said. "I loved it here. I love Newman's mission and vision of training both lay and ordained people for ministry. That's exactly what Cardinal Newman wanted. Cardinal Newman wanted an educated laity."
The best part of being at Newman is having made people more aware of deaf Catholics. "They never thought about sign language at Mass. It just never occurred to them to celebrate Mass in a language that you don't speak.
"So I was able to get people to think more about people who live at the margins of the Church."
Hysell is doing his pastoral internship at St. Theresa Parish "because the archbishop wants me to have experience with the broader community and it's a good thing because I'm learning things that I would have never learned working with the Catholic deaf community."
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