Sr. Zoe Bernatsky has been appointed academic dean of Newman Theological College.

WCR PHOTO | LASHA MORNINGSTAR

Sr. Zoe Bernatsky has been appointed academic dean of Newman Theological College.

May 30, 2016
LASHA MORNINGSTAR
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Sister Dr. Zoe Bernatsky brings a multitude of talents to her new role as academic dean of Newman Theological College.

One of the most notable is her attitude.

"It's been exciting," she said in an interview. "I love to learn, love to pray, love to work with people. And I have had great mentors along the way and many, many blessings and opportunities."

Her bouquet of skills and academic knowledge are enhanced by her collegial and co-operative attitude.

Bernatsky's eyes dance as she says, "I want to discover their (faculty and staff's) gifts, remove any obstacles, clear their paths and let them run efficiently."

The new dean said she wants to "listen to their wisdom. That is how the Spirit works."

While the academic dean is an administrative position, Bernatsky will still be able to teach. She signed a one-year contract that she described as being "comfortable" for her.

As dean, she replaces Jason West who is also the college president.

Her office décor is relaxing with shelves of books lining the walls and a visitor's chair and lamp in the corner much as one might find in a living room.

The myriad of books that fill the shelves include the expected theological treatises alongside secular works such as Emotional Intelligence, The Art of Listening.

A book, The Orthodox Way written by Father Kallistos Ware, is half read and lies turned over on the desk.

A Ukrainian Catholic, Bernatsky is a Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate and has extensive experience in hospital administration.

Her journey to this new post is an interesting one.

OVERWHELMED BY GOD'S LOVE

As a teenager, Bernatsky went on a number of retreats and was "kind of overwhelmed by God's love, that he wanted to be noticed in my life." But she wanted to "test it to affirm it."

So she became a registered nurse. But she still went on retreats and met with the sisters.

The call to religious life won, and Bernatsky has been a sister for more than 30 years. She also maintains her nursing qualifications.

Bernatsky based her doctoral dissertation on conscientious objection - "moral theology that integrates into our practices of daily life."

Bernatsky is asked her opinion of the physician-assisted suicide controversy playing out in Canada's public court of opinion.

CONCERN FOR THE VULNERABLE

She said she is worried about the impact it will have on the most vulnerable, that there will be no advocates for the poor, the elderly.

"I worry that their wishes will not be respected, that they might not have all the information needed to make an informed decision, whether their interests are being served."

One answer, she said, is to "educate people so they can act according to their conscience."

Returning to discussing her new position at Newman College, she said she expects she will draw from her background as a bioethicist, work in moral theology, pastoral theology and administration so as to be "able to bring my gifts and experience to the work and I'll still be able to learn. . . . God has been the leader, making my path."