WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Newman president Fr. Shayne Craig presided at the graduation
EDMONTON – Always with an eye towards their futures, graduands of Newman Theological College saw many changes – both interior and exterior – during their formative college studies.
Many of them started their degrees at the now-dismantled campus along Mark Messier Trail and concluded at a temporary campus in Sherwood Park. Beyond the physical trek, it was also a journey from the head to the heart and back again, said Father Shayne Craig.
Craig, the college president, said he hoped to welcome graduands and guests to the new Newman campus, beside the Catholic Pastoral Centre, but it is not yet ready to accommodate a convocation ceremony.
Seminarian Kristopher Schmidt emceed the 41st annual Newman College convocation ceremony, held Oct. 16 at St. Joseph's High School. He also read aloud The Pillar of the Cloud, a poem by the college's patron, Cardinal John Henry Newman.
Archbishop Richard Smith said the construction of the Anthony Henday Ring Road forced the college to move from its previous location. Everybody associated with the college went into a period of transition.
Transitions are seldom easy, particularly when they involve movement from one place to another and when promised timelines are not met, said Smith. However, God can bless the most unpromising circumstances, lead us forward by means of our mistakes, and convert our mistakes into a revelation.
"Our college patron, Cardinal John Henry Newman, would invite us, as members of the Church, to look beyond the normal worldly reaction to difficulty, and to consider what God might be teaching us with these most recent challenging situations," said the archbishop.
Everyone associated with the college underwent dislocation and had their own plans upended. What might one learn from this experience?
"By his death on the cross, Jesus teaches that the way to life is surrender to circumstances not of our own making, but of God's," said Smith.
Father Craig told the graduands, "God has created you to do a definite service. He has committed some work to you, which he has not committed to another. You have permission to be a part of a great work. You are linked in a chain, a bond and connection in persons. God has not created you for naught. You shall do good, you shall do his work."
Newman knew the importance of faith formation for all the people of God. Education was Newman's whole life. He also realized that the truth of the Gospels has been upheld through the centuries not as a system, not by books, not by argument, not by temporal power, but by the personal influence of people.
"Newman knew to not only rely on intellectual formation, although that was always important and never to be downplayed, but also to find understanding of the mind in relation to the heart, a vision of education of the whole person, education as transformation, a vision our college continues to carry on," said Craig.
Archbishop Smith shared three important lessons that the graduands could learn from Newman. The first arises from his profound reverence for the mystery of God's grace working uniquely in the heart of every individual.
"God has a particular mission for each and every man and woman. His grace works within us in ways perfectly adapted to each unique person. He calls us each to glory," said Smith.
Second, Newman teaches that this discernment and its exercise cannot take place apart from the Church. Religion without dogma was unthinkable to Newman.
"A visible Church is necessary to safeguard and transmit the traditional teaching to men and women. Graduands, what Newman would say to you is, 'Love the Church and trust the Church. Participate fully in her life and mission. Trust and surrender to her teachings.'"
Third, Newman insisted on the inseparability of three dimensions of the Christian life: prayer, thought and action. Right beliefs and right actions are not enough to make us Christians. A personal relationship with Jesus is necessary, and that relationship is nurtured through prayer.
The convocation ceremony celebrated the graduations of 44 individuals. Winner of the Joseph N. MacNeil Outstanding Achievement Award was Faith Nostbakken.