November 3, 2014

Sask. teacher received 'blessings beyond money'

Tom Saretsky

Tom Saretsky

His brother led his way. Thomas Saretsky came from Saskatoon to visit his brother at Newman Theological College while his brother was discerning the priesthood at the college.

"I fell in love with it," said Saretsky. "They (teachers) were never self-righteous and were accommodating, open minded and so much fun."

Saretsky, a high school chaplain in Saskatoon, wanted to be an academically qualified chaplain. But there was no school in his own province to give him the needed instruction.

He tells his story following his graduation from Newman College after receiving his graduate diploma in religious education at the Newman College convocation Oct. 18.

The diploma took its toll. The father of two children, Saretsky had to take the bulk of his coursework online.

"They were hard, really, really hard," he said of his courses. His studies included road trips and flights to Edmonton. All of the expenses were paid from his own pocket. He took a class a semester.

"But it was important to me and gave me great blessings beyond money."

Saretsky began his online courses while the college was in its original location near St. Albert.

"It was a mythical place. I remember them showing me around, the smell of the chalkboards. It was the most inspiring, faith-deepening experience I have ever had."

While many university and college students grumble about profs, papers and tuition, Saretsky flourished with praise long and loud about the courses and his teachers.

The courses were "of fertile soil so rich you could not help but grow," he enthused. "The professors were so nurturing and demanding, you came out battered and bruised. Their expectations are very high. It is no walk in the park."


Also a writer for The Prairie Messenger, Saretsky's day-to-day interactions with students and staff were not judgmental. "It allowed the envelope to grow and flourish and we did not cower into institutional thinking."

"It made me proud," and let him blaze his own trail. "It gave me spirit, courage to act and speak out."

Now with his graduate diploma in religious education, Saretsky feels empowered, confident in what needs to be expressed.

But his memories of Newman sing in his heart. "I found people so fantastic."


She came from B. C. to be a prison chaplain

Angela Veters

Angela Veters

One wonders why Angela Veters would chose such a challenging career as prison chaplain. But the choice came gradually. She volunteered at Matsqui prison in Abbotsford, B.C.

It began from curiosity, and when she realized, "this is something I could do, everything came together."

As she came to her vocational awareness, she discovered Newman Theological College was the closest place she could get the education she needed to become a chaplain.

This did not come without complications. It meant Shawn her husband, an inspector of fire systems, and their young daughter would also have to move. The decision was made and Veters enrolled.

"Having made it my goal, I finally had the good sense to follow God's plan."

When she moved to the Newman campus, she felt a sense of adventure. "There was a good atmosphere from the beginning." She also had another baby in the midst of her studies.

Veters was a Trojan while at Newman. Along with caring for her children, she spent four years on the student council, including a term as president, and managed to achieve high marks in her courses, graduating with distinction.

She volunteered at almost every college social event and, at the convocation, was presented with the Archbishop Joseph MacNeil Award as the most outstanding student.

Now that she has earned her master of divinity, she works part-time on a team with social workers and five chaplains at the Remand Centre. She says she'll do that until "the end of June and see what happens after that."

Most of the men in the Remand come from troubled lives. So what can a chaplain do to help them heal?


An assured look comes over Veters' face as she replies. "There is a seed planted at some time in their life – a grandmother, someone encountered along their journey. They remember it and at some point they desire it to grow."

"It's a slow process. So much is not measurable. I hope very much that a part of their faith brings them comfort during that time."

Veters came to this point because of hard work and an open heart.

Asked how she made such a success of her studies and life, her smile becomes radiant as she replies, "My good husband."