Canada’s only Jesuit undergraduate college turns 100, it will begin its second century by walking in the footsteps of the first Jesuit Pope. Photo courtesy of Campion College

Campion stays true to its Jesuit roots

By  Alan Hustak, Catholic Register Special
  • October 23, 2017
REGINA – As Canada’s only Jesuit undergraduate college turns 100, it will begin its second century by walking in the footsteps of the first Jesuit Pope.

“At Campion College we very much embrace Pope Francis’ call to a culture of encounter and dialogue,” says college president Fr. John Meehan, S.J.

For Meehan, that means continuing “a long tradition of forming global citizens” and remaining faithful to its founding as a Jesuit institution.

“What we’ve been trying to create at Campion is a welcoming space,” he said. “It’s a ministry of presence, of being there and of being upfront about who we are as a Jesuit college.

“In a secular culture we don’t have many places for meaningful dialogue where people with different backgrounds can share what is most personal about themselves — their faith.”

Sharing faith has been an integral part of Campion College since the school was created by a special act of the Saskatchewan legislature in December 1917. Originally founded as the Catholic College of Regina, it opened for classes the following year when Fr. Thomas MacMahon, who had been the rector of Loyola College in Montreal, arrived with a lay brother and a scholastic to teach six students.

MacMahon named the school for Edmund Campion, the 16th-century Jesuit martyr who was executed for treason because he refused to acknowledge Elizabeth I as head of the Church in England.

In 1923, as enrolment increased, the school moved into a building on Argyle Street. When it was recognized as a Junior College by the University of Saskatchewan, it built a boarding school on what was then the southern outskirts of the city.

When the University of Saskatchewan established a full degree program at Regina College in 1959, Campion College fought to include its Junior College as a member of the faculty of arts and sciences at the fledgling school. But Regina College had Methodist roots.  Some said a Roman Catholic institution had no place on the new campus.  

Fr. Peter Nash, the first president of Campion College, was a visionary who, in the days before Vatican II, was committed to “the pursuit of truth, wherever that leads.” He argued that “the Church must at its peril be genuinely involved in scholarship at the university level. The Church cannot adequately witness to the Word of God without some of its members committed to scholarship not only in theological investigations but in secular subjects.”

Nash supervised construction of a new $1.5 million building on the University of Regina campus. The design included a chapel, a library with 80,000 books and a fifth-floor residence for five Jesuit professors.

In the 1970s teachers at the college began offering programs to Indigenous peoples. Then Daniel Hannin organized Wikiup, a social and religious centre for Aboriginals. That was followed by Jesuit Fr. John Matheson beginning active ministry in the local prison and, in 2011, the opening of Mother Teresa Middle School to reach out to young people. Campion College was instrumental in supporting the establishment of the First Nations University on campus.   

Today, Campion College has about 700 students.

Meehan says the institution remains committed to its core values of  “care for the person, finding God in all things and forming men and women for others.”

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