Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
June 14, 2010
CWL's $1 a week produces $1.2M for St. Mary's College
New chair will foster Catholic Identity
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
CALGARY - After two decades of work the Catholic Women's League has raised $1.2 million to fund Western Canada's first chair of Catholic Studies at St. Mary's University College.
Bernice Thomas was all smiles as she signed an endowment agreement on behalf of the St. Mary's CWL Chair Foundation at the college June 3.
"We wanted to help get a Catholic university established in Calgary," said Thomas. "We hope it will encourage young people coming to university to take courses in Catholic Studies, to provide a better background for Alberta teachers and teachers across Canada."
College President Terry Downey was also on hand to sign the agreement.
"This is a historic day for us," he said. "It's our first endowed chair and we hope we'll have many more in the future. It demonstrates the kind of support we're getting from the Catholic community."
In 1992 five CWL members envisioned if each CWL member in the Calgary Diocese gave $52 a year or one dollar a week they could raise a million dollars within five years.
"But, of course, many people can't afford $52 or you forget and time goes by," said Thomas. "In 2004, we reached a plateau. It had been going on forever and everybody was tired of it. It seemed like it was going to be impossible. Interest rates were down and things were just not going well."
Yet, the CWL held a vote at one of their conventions and it was decided to carry on.
Downey got involved and put the CWL in touch with the Renaissance Fund, an Alberta matching grant for individual funds. Through fundraisers in each separate council and personal donations the league finally reached its goal.
"It's just a wonderful testimony to what people can do when they are united by a dream and vision and they're willing to stick with it in a persevering way," said Bishop Fred Henry.
Henry said the fact the St. Mary's first chair is in Catholic Studies speaks volumes about the university's priorities.
"We would like to see our Catholicity permeate everything that we do so that we clearly understand who we are and what we are about. We would like to see religious studies expanded and become a degree program, but we are not there yet," he said.
St. Mary's recently started a bachelor of education program and Henry envisions many graduates will go on to teach in the Catholic school system.
"This can be the sort of thing that help us ground our Catholic school system providing adequacy of formation and information for teachers," said Henry.
Downey expects to hire a senior scholar knowledgeable in theology or philosophy for September.
"We are going to appoint a high profile person who's an excellent teacher and has research standing. This is a gift not just internally, but to the local Catholic community and the broader community," said Downey.
The chair will give an annual public lecture, guest lectures and publish regularly.
The university will only use the interest on the $1.2 million principal, so while the donation is a victory for the 3,000 CWL members of the Calgary Diocese they will be encouraged to continue to give.
"Quick mathematics tells you in today's economy it's not enough to pay a salary for a professor in today's world, so it will probably have to be subsidized by the university for a couple of years until the funds grow some more," said Thomas.
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