EDMONTON — Both Newman Theological College and St. Joseph's Seminary have gone through tremendous change lately. What remains constant is their undying support from two Catholic organizations, the Catholic Women's League and Knights of Columbus.
True to their motto, "In solidarity with priests and bishops," the Knights of Columbus deem both Newman and the seminary of utmost importance, as evidenced by their successful fundraising efforts for the Cornerstone of Faith campaign.
"We had this drive last year to get donations and pledges over $1 million. We succeeded in doing that, and we reached our goal. In addition to that from the Alberta and Northwest Territories Knights of Columbus, the supreme council donated another $100,000," said Neil Gannon, state deputy for the Alberta/NWT Knights of Columbus.
The greatest support for the college and seminary came, not surprisingly, from Knights in the Edmonton Archdiocese.
"We got support from right across the province, but most of it was from Edmonton and area. We still got some support from the Peace River area and southern Alberta, the Lethbridge area and Calgary," said Gannon.
Aside from monetary assistance for the facilities, the Knights have always arranged transportation for priests and bishops attending important meetings, and will continue to do so.
Father Michael McGivney, a curate from New Haven, Conn., founded the Knights in 1882. The tower in the new seminary is named after him. Knights and their families have always held reverence for the animator of their lay movement.
Fran Lucas, CWL provincial president, said the CWL donated money to the Cornerstone of Faith campaign in 2010, and will continue contributing every year until the campaign goal is reached.
"We've also been involved with the enculturation of the new priests that come to the seminary. We've had the opportunity to go there and speak to them about the CWL and what it is we do and how they can be involved, and explain their role as spiritual advisors if they happen to become pastors at a parish that has a CWL," said Lucas.
In addition, the provincial council contributed financially to the documentary being made about the historical significance of the seminary.
"The CWL has been very receptive to the college and seminary, more so in our Edmonton diocese because we're right here. We certainly know the impact that it has on the West and the rest of Canada as well. We have been making our contributions to it personally, as well as each diocese doing something," she said.
CWL members of the Edmonton archdiocesan council contributed a significant amount for library upgrades and about $35,000 towards kitchen renovations in the old seminary. Helping the new seminary remains a high priority.
"Now with the new seminary the ladies have been asked to support the new chapel, Our Lady of Good Counsel, which is named after our patroness," said June Fuller, Edmonton archdiocesan CWL president.
"Councils are already donating towards that, and we'll try to make that an ongoing commitment. We have also been asked to look after the bookstore in Newman Theological College and to help in the library."
The bookstore will be named after the CWL. As well, CWL will sell some of their own supplies, and be able to encourage female college students to join the women's organization.
"I truly believe that women love to serve," said Fuller. "When we have definite projects like this, where we're more hands-on and can do things, it really seems to get more ladies out."
The CWL does not have a specific goal for college and seminary fundraising. However, at its zone meetings and diocesan meetings, they have a collection at Mass and later vote on where to donate the funds. Lately, those collections have been going to the Cornerstone of Faith.
The CWL has sponsored the Adopt a Seminarian program for at least 15 years. It began as a way for individual CWL councils to select a seminarian and pray for him throughout the year, invite him to special occasions, and send him cards on his birthday. Some councils give gifts and/or money to their adopted seminarians.
"The CWL supports them during their time in the seminary. It works for us because the seminarians get to know what we're all about, and this benefits us when they eventually become ordained," said Fuller.
With all of the excitement surrounding the two new institutions, Fuller says the support from the CWL has increased.
"I think it's going to be exciting with our new seminary. It's a place where we can help out, something we can support in a very tangible way," she said.