Newman, seminary enter new reality

January 24, 2011
The stairway to the second floor of Newman Theological College symbolizes the assent of the college and St. Joseph Seminary to a new and better home.


The stairway to the second floor of Newman Theological College symbolizes the assent of the college and St. Joseph Seminary to a new and better home.


St. Joseph's Seminary and Newman Theological College were relocated to the Pastoral Centre grounds after the old buildings on Mark Messier Trail were bought by the provincial government and then demolished to make way for the Anthony Henday Highway.

Despite initial concerns, the move ended up being a blessing because the seminary and college acquired state-of-the-art buildings for a little more than it would have cost to repair the old structures, which were in poor condition and needed millions of dollars in repairs.

"We were the only structure in the entire circle around the city that was in the way of the highway," recalled Father Shayne Craig, rector of St. Joseph Seminary and president of Newman Theological College. "So for the government to move the highway to go around us was actually more costly and would bump into the neighbourhood, creating a problem for the neighbourhood."

Craig thanks God that the province decided to buy out the seminary and college.

"We were very, very blessed to have this incredible property given by the sisters to the archdiocese that the Pastoral Centre sits on. It's just perfectly situated in the heart of the city, near major transportation routes, that allows us to be near the heart of the diocese, the archdiocesan offices, the archbishop's office, near the priests' retirement centre.

"It's a great location for the college and the seminary."

Except for some newer additions, the old seminary/college building was 50 years old and in great need of repair. Among other things, it needed to replace the boilers and to comply with an order to tie the out-of-date septic system into the municipal sewage system.

"All told, we would have had to put $6 million into the old building simply to make it livable," says Craig.

The new buildings at the Pastoral Centre cost about $57 million. In the beginning, the archdiocese thought the $42 million it received from the province for the old seminary/college would be sufficient to relocate the facilities.


Fr. Shayne Craig is president of the college and rector of the seminary.

But at the time the construction industry was hopping and construction prices were increasing rapidly.

As architectural plans for the seminary progressed, it became apparent that in addition to the high construction costs, there were extra costs for pilings to give added strength to the land. A total of $57 million was necessary to complete the project.

In addition to the $42 million from the province, "the archdiocese also received $4.2 million from the federal government's infrastructure program, which left it with approximately $11 million to raise," Craig said.

"When you think about it, we had to put $6 million into the old building and still we would have had a 50-year-old building. So for an extra $5 million we get two state-of-the-art modern, functional buildings. That's pretty cheap.

"I think the Catholic community can be very proud of the deal the archdiocese was able to achieve with the governments."


Through its Cornerstone of Faith campaign, the archdiocese has raised about 90 per cent of the funds needed to cover the extra costs. Parishes, Church organizations, individuals and corporations have contributed to the campaign.

The seminary entrance is a common sight for men studying for the priesthood.


The seminary entrance is a common sight for men studying for the priesthood.

Another factor that brought up the cost is the quality of the buildings, Craig said. "We didn't build buildings that are cheap. We built buildings of great quality that will stand the test of time and that will ultimately be sustainable."

The 6,000-square-metre seminary accommodates 60 seminarians from across Canada as well as their formation team with an on-site residence. The residence has the capacity to expand to 90 rooms in the future.

The 3,000-square-metre Newman Theological College is a private Catholic academic institution that offers graduate-level programs and classes in theology and religious education. It provides the academic component of the formation of the students at St. Joseph Seminary.


The centre point of both buildings is the seminary chapel, which is a cast-in-place concrete chapel surrounded by architectural steel and glass.

According to project manager Garnet McKee, the new buildings are on the silver level of the LEEDS program, which is a national certification program for environmentally friendly buildings. "They are designed to conserve energy and they are what they call 'green buildings,'" he said.

The story spread that the project used sand from the Riviera "is strictly a rumour," said McKee. "The material we used, though, is very high quality material. We have very high quality buildings that will last for a long, long time. The archbishop wanted a building of the same kind of quality the basilica is."

Craig is excited about the new features. "We have special climate control so the energy isn't wasted," he said. "The temperature will automatically go down at night, etc. The lighting is all low energy lighting. If you forget to turn off the lights somewhere, 10 minutes after there is no activity, the lights automatically go off."

Car plugs in the parking lot come on for just 15 minutes every hour. And they only turn on when it's -10C or colder.