Catholic college headed Peterborough's Trent University

By 
  • March 19, 2010
{mosimage}Catholic higher education is about to establish a new outpost in Peterborough.

Peterborough Bishop Nicola DeAngelis has collected $1.6 million in donations and entered into talks with Trent University in hopes of offering university level liberal arts courses at Sacred Heart parish in downtown Peterborough.

The first non-credit courses at Sacred Heart College could be up and running as soon as this September.

The diocese of Peterborough has collected more than $1.6 million from donors, mainly in Toronto, who would like to see a new Catholic college in the quiet central Ontario town of 75,000.

“We can never do enough for our young people, so why not another college?” asked diocesan vice-chancellor Fr. Joseph Devereaux.

The idea for the college began during DeAngelis’ last ad limina visit to Rome in September 2006. When the bishop showed Pope Benedict XVI a photo of a diocesan youth event, the Pope suggested a Catholic college would be a good thing for the young people of the area.

“All the people I have talked to are supportive of a renewal of values,” DeAngelis  wrote in the last Peterborough diocesan newsletter, the Catholic Herald.

DeAngelis sees a liberal arts college in the Catholic tradition as an opportunity to educate young people of the diocese close to home and in an environment imbued with Catholic values.

A religious order founded in Argentina in 1984 and dedicated to the evangelization of culture has taken on the job of getting the college up and running academically.

Fr. Ervens Mengelle of the Institute of the Incarnate Word has taken over pastoral responsibility for Sacred Heart and St. John the Baptist parishes. Mengelle is a professor of Scripture at the Pontifical College Josephinum, a liberal arts college in Ohio with a graduate school of theology.

Plans for a Catholic college just might fit perfectly with Trent University’s own plans for renewal and growth in coming years, university president Steven Franklin told The Catholic Register.

“It will take a little bit of time to understand the feelings of the academic community and the wider community. But it fits in fairly well, actually, with what I’m calling integrated planning,” Franklin said.

Franklin has dedicated this spring and summer to consulting with the university community about future growth of the institution, and hopes to have a strategic plan in place by fall.

Franklin said he’s not worried by the very small scale of the Catholic college proposal, and he’s confident Trent will be able to ensure the quality of any course offered under the university’s name.

“It will be appropriate I think for Trent to have an open mind for any possible benefits,” he said.

It’s not just a good time to think about a new college in terms of Trent’s own plans, but also in light of the Ontario government’s Open Ontario program unveiled in the throne speech at the beginning of March. The government committed itself to increasing Ontario’s post-secondary participation rate from 62 per cent to 70 per cent.

“Our application rates this year are quite a bit higher than the previous couple or three years — maybe in response to the economy,” said Franklin. “These are good times to think about universities doing a little bit more and responding to what appear to be society’s needs.”

Initial offerings at Sacred Heart College are expected to include church Latin, ancient near eastern history, biblical theology and philosophy.

More opportunity for Peterborough residents to attend university in their home town will help families by cutting down the cost of education, DeAngelis said.

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