Redeemer Pacific College marks 10 years

By  Kathleen Wolfe, Youth Speak News
  • October 23, 2009
{mosimage}LANGLEY, B.C. - Ten years ago, Tom Hamel responded to the need for Catholic higher education in British Columbia by founding Redeemer Pacific College , where he is now president.

As the university celebrates its milestone anniversary this month, Hamel reflects on both the challenges and joys of founding and running a “ground-breaking” college.

“There are still lots of challenges, but the thing that is most satisfying is looking at the lives of the students this college has affected — and it’s overwhelmingly positive.”

The journey began after Hamel graduated as a mature student from Trinity Western University . At the suggestion and encouragement of several others, he saw potential for a unique partnership between the faithful evangelical Protestant university and a Catholic liberal arts college.

After prayer and what Hamel often refers to as “miraculous intervention,” Redeemer courses at Trinity Western began in 1999, and Hamel’s own children, along with a few other students, were soon taking classes.

As parents of four children, Hamel and his wife Diane, who works in student life at Trinity Western, were thrilled to have Redeemer/Trinity Western for their “children and the children of others who love Jesus and love the church.”

“We’d seen so much damage done to students’ spiritual lives in higher education,” Hamel said. “At the undergraduate level, students are not yet formed in their own (Christian) culture. Their partially formed worldview must be developed, or else they can have no place from which to judge.”

Hamel says a Catholic liberal arts college is about teaching students how to think while “properly representing the Catholic faith.”

“The pursuit of higher education should be the pursuit of truth, and truth is available,” he said.

“It is my hope that this college will last as long as the Lord wants it to last and that it will be passed on to a new generation of leaders who will be uncompromising in their love of truth, of the church and of Jesus Christ.”

From its beginnings, Redeemer’s unique placement on an evangelical Protestant university campus has been controversial, requiring continued explanation for both concerned Catholics and Protestants. As well, as part of a private institution which receives no government funding, funds have always been difficult, and raising money for scholarships has been a yearly challenge.

Dr. Chris Morrissey, professor of Philosophy, History and Latin at Redeemer, said the challenges are far outweighed by the good.

“St. Thomas Aquinas points out that you can’t love what you don’t know,” he said. “Therefore Catholic higher education is indispensable, because how else can we know, in rigourous detail, all the great riches that God has revealed and entrusted to the church to contemplate?”

Professors at Trinity Western have taken notice of Redeemer students and faculty. Dr. Michael Goheen, Professor of Religious and Worldview Studies at Trinity Western, is one.

“I have been impressed with the intellectual rigour and the commitment to the Gospel evidenced in the faculty of (Redeemer), and also the spiritual vitality and intellectual curiosity of many of the students,” Goheen said. “Many have been willing to pursue what it means to say ‘Christ is Lord’ in the area of academics.”

Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller, C.S.B., refers to Redeemer as a “dynamic institution” that “loyally and joyfully follows the teachings of the church and imparts a love for Catholic life to its students.”

“It is a great blessing for the archdiocese to have (Redeemer) in our midst as a Catholic college that is doing the Lord’s work in this domain so vital to the church’s mission of evangelization,” Miller said.

Students, staff, and supporters of Redeemer will be celebrating its decade-long run on Oct. 27.

(Wolfe, 21, is a Christianity & Culture student at Redeemer Pacific College.)

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