St. Jerome’s president Katherine Bergman presents the John R. Sweeney Award to Isabel Latorre and Victor Rojas, founders of Café Feminino and PROASSA, to honour their work on the Beyond Borders program. Photo courtesy of St. Jerome’s University

St. Jerome’s expands on 150-year legacy

By 
  • October 24, 2015

With 150 years of Catholic education under its belt, St. Jerome’s University is celebrating the school year with a new vision.

It’s an exciting time for the university, said St. Jerome’s president Katherine Bergman, because the anniversary year has prompted them to look at how it wants to build a legacy in the Waterloo region.

“Our tagline is ‘In celebrating 150 years of Catholic education in the Waterloo region,’ so that we could also engage our partners in the school system,” said Bergman. “An anniversary year is really a time to look to your past with gratitude, to celebrate the now with enthusiasm and to look forward to the future with confidence.”

In September, St Jerome’s announced the launch of a $5-million capital campaign, “Building on Tradition.” The campaign is raising money to invest in new programs, new facilities and a growing university.

Since its launch, the capital campaign has raised about 65 per cent of its target goal. Viola Poletes Montgomery, director of advancement, said this is largely due to generous donations from the university’s community partners.

“It’s an exciting time to be a part of St. Jerome’s because this is an investment in our future,” said Montgomery. “We had plans undertaken for a while... and this is our sign of being hopeful about Catholic education.”

St. Jerome’s officially welcomed the year on Oct. 3 with a Mass and feast celebration. More than 400 people attended the event, including Hamilton Bishop Douglas Crosby, Kitchener mayor Carl Zehr, Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky, Kitchener regional chair Ken Seiling, members of the Congregation of the Resurrection, School Sisters of Notre Dame, St. Jerome’s alumni and many others.

Bergman said this school year will be about engaging its community partners more fully.

This year, St. Jerome’s is also celebrating the 10th anniversary of its Beyond Borders program. The program is an international service-learning program that combines two terms of on-campus work with a 90-day placement abroad.

Glen Lombard, director of student experience, said he is working with St. Jerome’s international partners to develop more direct partnerships than it has had in the past.

“The program has certainly evolved since its beginning in 2005 to 2006,” said Lombard. “It’s been really important for us to shift away from using a third party to place our students... Our goal is to grow the program to a point where we have a double cohort.”

Lombard said that his office has put a focus on these direct relationships for about four years now. This year, he has invited four international partners to visit the campus for a week, meeting with Lombard and visiting classes to spread the word about the unique programs.

Registrar Sue Brubacher said it’s not just St. Jerome’s international partners with whom the school is building more active partnerships. Her office is working to build more direct relationships with the surrounding Catholic school boards as well.

“We are actually holding a leadership summit for Grade 12 students who are leaders in their high school in May or June,” said Brubacher. “So those kinds of partnerships are what we think makes us really good leadership partners.”

Brubacher said this year is an important time for St. Jerome’s to redefine its presence as the only Catholic university in the Diocese of Hamilton. The Registrar’s office has just started the second-year cycle of a new academic review process.

“We’re starting to really drill down who we are and what we want to do to make a difference, as far as teaching and academic wise,” said Brubacher.

St. Jerome’s is also going through a physical restructuring with the construction of a new 360-bed student residence well underway. A new academic centre is also under construction, which will include additional offices for faculty and staff, classrooms and research space. Pre-existing buildings will also be getting a facelift, including libraries, workspaces and Notre Dame Chapel.

St. Jerome’s will continue celebrating its 150th anniversary with a public lecture series featuring prominent speakers. The series begins on Oct. 23. Charles Taylor will be holding a lecture on “Faith as an Option.”

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