ESTEVAN, SASK. – "Just one semester."
Those were the words of the late Regina Archbishop Peter Mallon and Oblate Father Heinrich Sicking when they encouraged Marian Huber to take courses at Newman Theological College.
Huber, chairing her local parish council at the time, had just completed a lay ministerial formation program with the Archdiocese of Regina.
While taking the program she discerned a call to hospital ministry. The requirements for chaplaincy in an acute care facility were completion of a certain number of units of clinical pastoral education and a degree in theology.
Mallon and her parish priest, Sicking, encouraged her to go for a semester.
"My friends often joke about my 'one semester,' which turned out to be three years for bachelor of theology and another three for my master's," said Huber.
Now she has both a bachelor of theology and a master of theological studies. Her education proves helpful in her work as director of spiritual care at St. Joseph's Hospital in Estevan.
Many times she was in awe of how blessed she was to study under the gifted professors at Newman.
"Sometimes I find myself saying I wish I had paid more attention to these professors," Huber told the WCR.
She left Father Don MacDonald's classes feeling "fed at many levels, and knowing that I could never hope to possess even a fraction of his knowledge."
Caroline Nolan's knowledge of the Old Testament has been helpful in her hospital ministry. Determined not to take an Old Testament course, Nolan showed her the importance and relevance of these Scriptures. To her surprise, her studies in this area proved practical.
"Sometimes I'd be sitting in class thinking, 'Why do I even need this stuff?' Then I'd get into the hospital setting and people would actually be having discussions around the things we had discussed in class," said Huber.
She sacrificed time away from her family and friends to attain her degree. A heavy course load, coupled with work commitments, proved difficult at times.
Besides the emotional and family sacrifices, finances also added to her worries. The diocese paid for three months, but the rest of her tuition had to come mainly from working. A few bursaries helped alleviate her financial concerns.
Finding affordable housing was a challenge. Working full-time, being on call at the hospital and meeting paper deadlines were sometimes a challenge too.
She studied at Newman during a time of transition, such as the demolition of the old college and changes in professors, deans and presidents.
"Processing and dealing with those changes required a certain amount of contemplation and time to find out where and if I fit into the new era of Newman College," said Huber.
With her studies complete, she now has a greater appreciation for theologians, philosophers, academics and the magisterium.
"I would say because of my studies I am more aware of the importance of balance, respect and collaboration."
Would she consider just one more semester?
While she has no intentions of pursuing a doctorate, she said she does need to study clinical pastoral education for her work as a chaplain.