Jesuit Fr. Thomas Worcester is Regis College's first permanent president in six years. Photo courtesy of jesuiteast.org

Regis College has a new president with big plans

By 
  • January 18, 2017

With a permanent president in place for the first time in six years, Regis College is poised to become an international magnet for Jesuits and others seeking to study theology in English, according to incoming president Jesuit Fr. Thomas Worcester.

The Jesuit faculty of theology at the University of Toronto, and one of the founding members of the Toronto School of Theology, Regis had been on the lookout for a president since 2011 when Fr. Joe Schner stepped down. The office had been filled on an interim basis, first by Fr. Jack Costello and later by Schner.

As a pontifical faculty with the power to grant licentiate degrees (which allow their holders to teach in Catholic seminaries), a doctor of sacred theology degree as well as a bachelor of sacred theology, Regis needed the Vatican’s all-clear before the college could announce Worcester’s appointment — a process that took several months.

Worcester moves into his new office this summer.

Regis already has a tradition of taking in Jesuit theology students from Africa, Europe, Latin America and Asia. Many Americans have also studied at Regis over the years, as the Canadian school offers both high standards and relatively low fees compared to similar American colleges.

But Worcester also points out that Regis has fewer competitors after three major English-language Jesuit faculties closed in the last three years. The Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy in Dublin, Ireland, closed in July of 2015. Four-hundred-year-old Heythrop College in London, England, is scheduled to cease offering courses in 2018. In Australia, the Jesuit Theological College in Melbourne closed in 2014.

“I think Regis is in a good place to build up its international contingent,” said Worcester.

The New England Jesuit has also been tasked with building up tiny Regis College’s ties with the rest of the University of Toronto and its 85,000 students and 14,000 faculty members.

“It was pointed out to me that there are people at the University of Toronto who would like closer relations with Regis,” Worcester told The Catholic Register. “It’s one of the things I’m going to be asked to work on.”

Regis has about 175 students, not including those in the continuing education program.

Worcester himself has gathered degrees from around the world, including New York’s Columbia University, England’s University of Cambridge and Harvard Divinity School. He holds a licentiate in philosophy from the Institut Supérior de Théologie et de Philosophie de la Compagnie de Jésus in Paris, as well as a licentiate in sacred theology from the Weston School of Theology in Brighton, Mass.

At The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., Worcester teaches history, Catholic studies and Medieval and Renaissance studies.

Worcester grew up on Burlington, Vermont, and learned French at a young age. His mother’s side of the family were all migrants from Quebec.

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