WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Twenty-five Catholics from Olds, including this group, attended the Feb. 12 open house at Newman Theological College and St. Joseph Seminary.
Distance normally prevents Catholics from St. Stephen’s Parish in Olds from taking part in activities centred in Edmonton, the seat of the archdiocese.
Not this time. At the request of longtime parishioner Gerry Wiper, the 300-family parish rented a bus and brought 25 interested parishioners to the open house of St. Joseph Seminary and Newman Theological College Feb. 12.
They were among roughly 2,000 people who attended the Saturday open house.
“I came because this lady (Wiper) called me and asked me to organize something so that we as a parish community could come together to the open house,” related Alice Arie, head of the youth advisory committee. “Anything that builds community builds our parish so it was a good project.”
“I really felt that this would make us feel more a part of the archdiocese,” Wiper said in an interview.
“We are at the very southern end of the archdiocese. I have never even seen the cathedral and I just decided that since (the seminary-college) was a new place I really wanted to see it,” she said.
“I never went to the old one and so this was a real opportunity,” she continued.
“We are so far away it’s really hard to feel part of this and I felt with the Cornerstone contributions that we are making and the newness of all this that it would help us to understand more about being part of the archdiocese.”
What does Wiper think of the new seminary and college? “Oh, this is magnificent,” she replied. “What a bright, beautiful place. I’m very impressed.” Wiper may even take some online courses at Newman. “I’m not an online person but I would love to take the online courses.”
According to Deacon Jim Scott, who accompanied the group, St. Stephen’s has raised $10,000 for the seminary and college out of a suggested $30,000 over four years.
“We are interested in these facilities because our future priests are going to be coming from the seminary,” Scott said. “And we wanted to see how beautiful it was.”
Furthermore, “I think we should see anything we are contributing (money) to,” added Arie. “Plus, our young people will probably come here eventually.”
Will Arie take courses in the future? “I’m looking at some but I have nothing in mind right now,” she said. “It’s a two-hour drive here. Calgary is an hour. We are at the far end of the Edmonton Diocese.”
For Maureen Gustafson, chair of the parish pastoral council, missing the open house was out of the question.
“The seminary has been a part of my life since I was in high school,” she said.
“I used to go to the old one for youth rallies and then one of my friends was the rector there for many years and then I took my formation program at the old seminary and through Newman.
“So it’s interesting to see the new facilities. And I hope that I’m here to take courses in the future. I’m interested in certificate programs.”
But Gustafson agreed few people from Olds will ever come to the college for courses.
“We live at the very south end of the archdiocese so it’s amazing how few people come to Edmonton. We are more oriented to Calgary so organizing a bus is an easier way for people to come and see more about the archdiocese.”