University of St. Michael’s College president David Sylvester said an alliance between his school and Regis College will create a world-class centre for the study of Catholic theology. Michael Swan

Regis, St. Mike’s alliance in works

  • October 24, 2020

For one city to have two Catholic, PhD-granting, graduate faculties of theology might seem an embarrassment of riches. But Regis College and the University of St. Michael’s College have decided what Toronto really needs is one bigger and better centre for advanced studies in Catholic theology.

The two institutions have announced “a steering committee that will oversee, on behalf of the two governing bodies, the formulation of an alliance between Regis and St. Michael’s.” Their goal is “a world-class centre of excellence in Catholic theological study, whose mission is to promote teaching, research and formation to serve the needs of the Church and society here in Canada and globally.”

“Does the world need this? Absolutely,” said St. Michael’s president David Sylvester. “First of all, our institutions need it. Our city needs it. And the Canadian Church and society needs relevant, meaningful, excellent theological studies. … It’s never out of style to be asking the big questions about what is the meaning of life.”

The idea of a merger or closer relationship between the two colleges has been bouncing around since the 1980s, but this is the first time the two have formally and publicly announced an intention to team up.

“It does make sense for us not to be competing with one another, but to be collaborating — to form an alliance,” St. Mike’s theology professor Michael Attridge said. “The two institutions can do much more together than they can competing with one another.”

“We’re using various words. Merger we’re avoiding. It may not go as far as a merger, but an alliance might be the better term,” said Regis president Fr. Tom Worcester. 

From the point of view of the Jesuits at Regis College, it’s all about making a good thing better.

“In many ways, we are already world class,” Worcester said. “Especially in that we are at the very least affiliated with the University of Toronto and grant conjoint degrees with the University of Toronto.”

U of T is ranked number 18 in the world by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Among public universities it’s ranked number eight in the world. 

Regis is also a pontifical university, meaning it grants the ecclesiastical degrees of Bachelor of Sacred Theology, Licentiate of Sacred Theology and Doctor of Sacred Theology. Its civil degrees include a Master of Arts in Theological Studies, Master of Theology, Doctor of Ministry and Doctor of Philosophy in Theological Studies. 

With the Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies, the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies and the Elliott Allen Institute for Theology and Ecology, St. Michael’s hosts a wide scope of advanced theological studies. 

“St. Mike’s and Regis believe we can be more together than we are separately. It’s a question of what makes us stronger, what helps us to contribute best to the Church in Canada and the world, but also more broadly society,” said Worcester.

The kind of advanced study that goes on at the two schools may seem remote to ordinary Catholics, but there are plenty of reasons why Catholics should support a bigger and better centre for theological research and teaching, said Attridge.

“If you are supportive of ministry formation, somebody needs to do the ministry formation,” he said.

The Church needs a prophetic voice, said Attridge.

“Today’s society thinks in really seconds, minutes and seconds, with tweets and Facebook posts and things like that. So, whatever is the sound bite of the day,” he said. “But the Church, whether you like it or not and sometimes to the frustration of many Catholics, thinks in decades and centuries.”

Without theology the mind of the Church slows. Attridge is hoping the new alliance will be fuel to the thinking Church.

“It’s welcome news. It’s exciting news and certainly something that many of us have been anticipating and looking forward to,” he said.

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