WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Eliza Holst, centre, receives her master of religious education degree from Newman Theological College chancellor Kevin Feehan (left) and college president Fr. Paul Terrio (right).
October 22, 2012
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Delving deeper into their faith, forging lasting friendships, and loving Jesus in a more profound way are just a handful of the benefits for graduates of Newman Theological College.
Father Miguel Irizar started his first year of theology in 2007. He graduated with a master of divinity degree at the Oct. 13 Newman College convocation.
"Newman is a beautiful college. They have wonderful professors and staff helping the students achieve their goals. We are very blessed in this archdiocese to have an institution like Newman," said Irizar.
Another graduate, Eliza Holst first experienced Newman while she was living outside of Edmonton. She decided to take some Internet courses.
"I don't think people realize the value of Newman. They don't know that Newman offers Internet courses. I remember with one of my first courses, one of the students was actually in South Africa," said Holst, whose younger sister completed her master of divinity at Newman.
"Newman is not just a national college, but more of an international one, due to the Internet offer."
Upon her return to Edmonton, Holst completed her graduate diploma in religious education and on Oct. 13 was awarded her master of religious education degree. She also has a bachelor in religious studies.
"I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I was well treated. It was one of my life experiences that I will treasure," said Holst.
She is a substitute schoolteacher, and now, with her additional education through Newman, has more employment opportunities in ministry. She is also the equivalent of a student chaplain in the military. She is a lieutenant in the reserves and wears the chaplain hat badge.
"I came to Newman wondering about my faith, but going there really deepened it. I learned that I needed to keep on learning more. Life is a growing experience and life is a learning experience. Newman has given me the tools to explore life," said Holst.
As did other seminarians, Irizar took five courses per semester. He took courses for two years at the old location, served on a parish internship, and then completed his final two years at the current Newman campus, adjacent to the archdiocesan Pastoral and Administration Offices and the seminary.
"A building can really create a unique atmosphere. The new Newman has beautiful architecture, and symbolism within the building. The atmosphere allows for community to create itself very naturally," said Irizar.
Ordained in July, he now serves as associate pastor at St. Joseph's Basilica.
Much of what he learned in class and the ensuing discussions became tangible in his everyday life. Everything that he was learning he took to prayer, and applied those Christian principles to his daily life.
The camaraderie among students is wonderful, he said, as seminarians are in the same classes as laypeople seeking to learn more about their faith. The students interact and share fellowship at class breaks.
Fr. Miguel Irizar
"Many of the people who took classes with me, we got to know each other well and we became good friends. You also create friendships with the staff at the college, the professors, and the other wonderful people who work there," said Irizar.
Holst agreed that through working with others on class assignments, she made lasting friendships, some of whom she still chats with through social networking sites. She stayed active in college life via student council.
"Newman is not just a place for people to deepen their faith. It's also a business, and you have to be realistic. Courses must be offered because there is a demand at that moment in time," said Holst.
A necessary requirement for Irizar was to write a brief synthesis of all the theological disciplines.
Even early on, while taking courses or doing smaller assignments, the larger project was always on his mind. A stipulation of the project was that it be based on original ideas and not reference other works too much.
"This project was very important in my years at Newman. Throughout those five years, I was always keeping in mind this project that I was expected to complete at the end of the program. I chose the theme of loving obedience," he said.
Irizar's synthesis was about 30 pages. Completing the project gave him a broader perspective of all theological disciplines, and how they are integrated.
THE WHOLE PICTURE
"By having to do this synthesis, it allows you to see the whole picture and be able to connect all of the theological disciplines into this nice whole," he said.
A vital part of the new evangelization is Christians knowing their faith and what they believe. Any Christians with the time and willingness to learn ought to find out as much as they can about who they are as Christians, said Irizar.
"Loving the Lord and knowing the Lord go hand in hand. If you want to love the Lord in a deeper way, you have to know him, and the best way to know him is seriously sitting down and taking theological courses," said Irizar.
At the seminary, he tried to interact with Jesus every day. He did this through prayer, but he was also able to further encounter Jesus by learning the great mysteries of the faith.
"Studying theology enables you to know the Lord in a very concrete way. The more you know the Lord, the more you fall in love with him," said Irizar. "That is important for me as a priest, so I can pass my love for the Lord onto others that I serve in the diocese."