Sr. Helena Burns has been running a Theology of the Body, or TOB, training course from Toronto’s Pauline Books and Media store since 2016. Photo by Jean Ko Din

Theology of the Body debuts at Sacred Heart College

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  • March 2, 2018

Theology of the Body is for people in the pews.

Sr. Helena Burns believes its teachings answer moral and social questions about today’s world, based on Scripture and Tradition, synthesized through the mind of St. Pope John Paul II. And yet, it’s not widely taught from the pulpit.

“The Catholic Church has this treasure that we need to unpack,” said Burns, who is a religious sister and vocations director from the Daughters of St. Paul in Toronto. “It’s a Bible study of the body. (St. Pope John Paul II) goes through every single book of the Bible. He starts with Genesis and methodically goes through the Scriptures.”

Starting March 17, Burns is launching a Theology of the Body certificate program through Sacred Heart College in Peterborough, Ont. The course is available both in-class and online.

Sacred Heart College is a new Catholic liberal arts university established by the Diocese of Peterborough. It began in 1989 as part of the Faculty of Theology of Saint Paul University in Ottawa. Credits earned in this program are transferrable towards a joint Bachelor’s degree from University of Ottawa and Saint Paul University.
Last December, Sacred Heart was approved to become a fully-accredited university degree-granting institution.

“We’re a new Catholic college, we’re a new degree-granting university,” said Robin Lathange, Dean of Studies. “We’re looking to increase our profile both for traditional learners, which could be students coming out of high school, but also non-traditional and adult learners through continuing education opportunities.”

Sacred Heart College is launching its undergraduate degree programs in Catholic Studies and in Religion and Theology in September. The college also provides a series of certificate programs and continuing education courses.

Lathange said that it was Sacred Heart’s principal, Fr. Tom Lynch, who first suggested they approach Burns about starting a Theology of the Body program.

“I see the Theology of the Body as a prism through which some of the cultural crises of our time come into sharp focus,” said Lathange. “Theology of the Body is both an analysis of that crises and also a Catholic Christian response to those crises…. It’s kind of a compass from the Magisterium to help us to discern as Catholics how to respond to the issues of today.”

Lathange said Burns is one of the best qualified to bring these theological concepts to the people in the pews who are living these “cultural crises” of masculinity, femininity, materialism and spiritualism.

Burns has been running a Theology of the Body, or TOB, training course from Toronto’s Pauline Books and Media store since 2016.

During the eight-week course, participants receive comprehensive training in theological and philosophical concepts taught by St. Pope John Paul II introducing the divine order revealed to humanity by God through our being, as body and soul.


“Sometimes, people come up to me and say, ‘Oh, Sister, I’m past my fertile years, so I don’t need Theology of the Body.’ And I would say, ‘Are you a human being? Do you want to get to Heaven? Then you need Theology of the Body,’ ” said Burns. “JPII wanted to help us understand what it means to be matter and spirit and then, our place in the physical world.”


Theology of the Body is a series of 129 talks delivered by St. Pope John Paul II’s general audiences between 1979 to 1984. It is an analysis on human sexuality which he intended to be “an adequate anthropology in which the human body reveals God.”

“John Paul II gave this as a popular catechetical teaching for the entire universal Church, so that’s the status of it,” said Burns. “He intended this to be for everyone but because a lot of it was very challenging theological and philosophical stuff, it wasn’t quite accessible to people.”

Through the certificate course, Burns hopes participants will be formed and educated by John Paul II’s teachings and ultimately become resources persons for their communities. The course, which can be taken in-class or online, will be a series of lectures that unpacks the fundamental significance of the body and the nature of men and women in relation to God.

“Once you’ve been doing Theology of the Body for a long time, you begin to see the simplicity,” said Burns. “It can answer gender ideology, radical feminism, porn, it can answer the breakdown of the family, the hookup culture…. It’s the answer to all these ills of society that are all connected.”

Registrations to the certificate program is available at SacredHeartCollege.ca. It will be offered starting March 17, both in class in Peterborough as well as online.

The University of St. Michael’s College at University of Toronto is also planning to launch a similar program available to limited numbers for the fall semester.

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