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Edmonton college now offering Catholic Studies degree

By 
  • September 17, 2020

EDMONTON -- Newman Theological College has launched a new three-year Bachelor of Arts in Catholic Studies degree, targeting students who want a classical education combined with intellectual rigour and faith tradition.

It’s a program unique in Western Canada and meets a demand from students and families.

“The terms we use are that it is ‘Great Books’ in orientation, Socratic in pedagogy and faithfully Catholic in spirit,” said Ryan Topping, vice-president and academic dean of the Edmonton college.

“We’re planting a flag where Catholicism has something beautiful to offer the world. The Catholic intellectual tradition has been ‘thinking about thinking’ longer than anyone else.”

The program was approved by Alberta’s Ministry of Advanced Education in late August. The new liberal arts program is distinctive from the theology degrees offered at Newman and is the first of its kind in Western Canada. A similar program is offered at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, a private Catholic university in Barry’s Bay, Ont.

The Bachelor of Arts in Catholic Studies program is open to any student, although the initial impetus was to provide a three-year degree program for seminarians who don’t have an undergraduate degree.

“This would be an alternative for those families and parents who want kids to be involved in an accredited, but explicitly Catholic, classically oriented program,” Topping explained.

“Universities have become extremely hostile to faith in ways they weren’t even 20 years ago,” Topping said. “We’re among the first among institutions that are explicitly trying to rebuild a common curriculum based on classical models, as opposed to secular models of learning.”

The first cohort of 11 students began the program Sept. 9. The goal is to have 20 to 25 new students enrolled each year.

The college also plans to hire an additional faculty member to teach philosophy as part of the program.

The 93-credit Bachelor of Arts in Catholic Studies program uses a “Great Books” model in which students study the original texts (rather than summaries in textbooks) of Athansius, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine and other philosophers, in addition to dealing with contemporary issues. It also follows what academics call the Socratic method: a question-and-answer format rather than a lecture.

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