WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Elisabeth Denise MacDonald, left, Alger Jay Corbett Libby and Chris Lynn Kuly all graduated with their master of religious education degree
EDMONTON – There are many facets to college life at Newman Theological College.
Much like other colleges, the students are educated, they socialize, their faith grows, and they learn through academic studies. What is most important and different at Newman is that the graduands encounter Jesus in a unique and intimate way.
"These elements of faith and academic study, when combined, will surely make for some of the strongest possible witnesses to the beauty of the Gospel message," said Father Dean Dowle, the 2010 valedictorian.
Dowle, who was ordained a priest earlier this year, graduated with a bachelor of theology. By virtue of our Baptism, he said the Christian faith calls all people to be theologians in some respect.
"The need to seek God is part of our human nature. The existence of our very souls provides us with the capacity to believe in God and, therefore, to know Christ," said Dowle. "If we aren't striving to understand our faith more deeply, we aren't theologians."
Those who enter the hallowed doors of Newman College are given what they seek: knowledge, insight, counsel, wisdom, camaraderie, community, and the love of Christ. These new gifts will help them through tough times in the coming years.
"True, certain roads ahead may be rough or harrowing, but in what we have been taught and in the formation we have received, we will have been amply prepared and very able to assist others we will encounter along the way," said Dowle.
Billy Isenor, a Franciscan who recently made his final vows, has been attending classes at Newman College for five years. He received his master of theological studies, and might continue taking classes at the college depending on his vocation.
He is still in the process of discernment about the priesthood. If he goes that route, he will likely continue at Newman to fulfill his ordination requirements.
"If you think of most people's Catholic faith, our formal education stops at the end of catechism and when you're confirmed, in terms of understanding your faith and who God is, and how this plays a role in your life," said Isenor.
He said it's been an honour to go through the process of attaining his master's degree.
"That's how I would describe the experience - intellect and heart coming together," he said.
Returning to school at Newman College was a shock in some ways because Isenor, a chef by trade, had to relearn God from an adult perspective. As an adult, having a relationship with God was different from the basics he had learned as a child.
"I was challenged to think about God in a very intelligible way, and in an adult way, instead of in a childlike way," he said.
Taking college classes, he was blown away by learning about something that was incredibly complex.
"What I thought I knew about God, I realized that I knew nothing. Walking away now with this degree, I have to say I still only know a smidgeon."
Even if he opts not to pursue priestly ordination, Isenor might continue taking theology classes because he loves the subject matter so much. He still has an appetite to learn.
"It's like having sand in your mouth and it scrapes. You don't like it at first because all of a sudden you're thinking this is not the vision of God that you had in mind. It challenges you to re-conceptualize what your relationship with the divine is," he said.