February 21, 2011


Fr. Shayne Craig, rector of St. Joseph Seminary and president of Newman Theological College, tells the story of the stained glass windows adorning the seminary’s main chapel.


Hundreds of curious Catholics from across the Edmonton Archdiocese turned out for the second open house of St. Joseph Seminary and Newman Theological College Feb. 12.

“This is absolutely phenomenal,” said Theresa Coupal, part of a 25-member group from Olds who were bused to the Catholic Pastoral Centre grounds. “You can spend a week looking around here.”

Theresa’s husband Bob Coupal said the architects and the electricians should be commended for such a remarkable job. “The lighting is incredible,” he said.

Event organizers estimate some 2,000 people went in and out of the facilities during the three-hour open house. Another 1,300 took part in the first open house two weeks earlier.

“It’s absolutely beautiful. I like the openness and the light coming in,” said Leslie Gentile, a parishioner and lay leader from Annunciation Parish. “I love the stained-glass windows in the seminary chapel; I think they are absolutely beautiful.”

Gentile attended with husband Cesare and two other Annunciation parishioners. “I’m very, very impressed,” she said, sitting at the seminary cafeteria. “It’s it a good investment for our world.”

Gladys Brown of Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Fort Saskatchewan was equally impressed with the new seminary and college. Her parish is contributing $50,000 to pay for the facilities.


“I like everything about it: the chapel at St. Joseph Seminary, the stained glas windows, the altar,” she said. “I love the natural light. It’s just beautiful.”

Brown, president-elect of the archdiocesan council of the Catholic Women’s League, noted the CWL contributed most of the funding for the smaller seminary chapel, Our Lady of Good Counsel. She plans to take some courses at Newman College in the distant future.

“This place is magnificent,” said Vince Reyes of St. Theresa Parish. “It’s very simple, very functional and very beautiful.” Reyes attended the open house with friends and family, including wife Ruby and daughter Stephanie.

Fr. Stefano Penna, dean of Newman Theological College, speaks to visitors in the college chapel.


Fr. Stefano Penna, dean of Newman Theological College, speaks to visitors in the college chapel.

Visitors received materials about the new seminary and college and seminarians and faculty guided them through the facilities. Father Stefano Penna spoke about the features of the college and its small chapel, saying, “This is your facility; you paid for it.”

Seminary rector Shayne Craig and Father Stephen Hero, a member of the seminary formation team, took turns speaking about the seminary and its magnificent main chapel.

“The reactions have been overwhelming; very, very positive.” Craig said in an interview. “A lot of people have commented on how they find the buildings prayerful as well as inspiring. It has far exceeded any expectations that I had.


“The turnout couldn’t be better and the spirit among the people is one of great excitement. They’ve really embraced the college and the seminary, the importance of its mission in the Church in preparing future leaders for the Church. I think it’s just wonderful.”

Melanie Mitchell, coordinator of the Cornerstone of Faith Campaign at St. Joseph’s Basilica, proudly reported her parish had already surpassed its goal.

“Our goal was $110,000 and to date we’ve raised $138,000. It’s not over four years for us. We are already done. But many parishes have already raised above and beyond what they were supposed to raise.”

Mitchell said she attended the open house on her own out of curiosity.

“I was curious about the buildings. I took a formation course at (the old) Newman College so I just wanted to compare the two and I think it’s absolutely beautiful,” she said. “It’s very spacious; it’s very bright and cheerful and it’s very conducive to learning.

“The location of this place is just incredible. So I’m very happy for the seminarians and the teachers; it’s just a great place for learning.”


Mitchell said she might take some courses at Newman in the near future. “I’m interested in anything to do with ministry.”

Some of the roughly 2,000 visitors to the open house congregate outside the college library.


Some of the roughly 2,000 visitors to the open house congregate outside the college library.

Jim Hawley, a non-Catholic, attended the open house to check out the library. “I came to see what they have and I’m very impressed,” he said.

After touring the rest of the facilities, Hawley said he liked what he saw. “It’s beautiful. I like what they did with the stained glass.”

What impressed the retired social worker the most was the response of the Catholic people to the facilities. “They are supporting this with tremendous amounts of financial resources and that conveys the message that this is very important to them.”

St. Anthony’s parishioner Tony Maydonik said the open house was announced at church the prior Sunday “and I just wanted to see.”

Maydonik had an opportunity to look at the drawings before they started building the facilities and was not impressed.

“I really didn’t like the looks of it, to tell you the truth; it looked a little bit too slick,” he laughed. “But once you get here and look at it it’s very, very beautiful. It’s really impressive, especially the chapel.”

Maydonik also liked the Newman College library and all its reference materials. He may consider taking some courses at Newman in the future.


Bill Williams of Assumption Parish attended the first open house Jan. 29 but felt he had to come back for more.

“Superb,” he said of the facilities. “I think there was a lot of thought put into it and I think the location is ideal and it is a showpiece for the archdiocese.”

Williams might not be prepared to take courses at Newman for now but he said he is certainly eager to use the library, which charges a membership of $15 a year.


Bernadette Kimmerly of St. Andrew’s Parish is happy to see the college and seminary were “resurrected” on the grounds of the Catholic Pastoral Centre. “This is a sign of progress,” she said gesturing towards the seminary chapel.

“What impresses me the most is the vastness; it’s huge. I also find it calming and peaceful.” Like Williams, Kimmerly doesn’t know if she will take courses at Newman “but I will definitely use the library.”