Regis College, pictured, and the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto are one step closer to being an integrated entity on the University of Toronto’s downtown campus. Photo from Wikimedia

Theology schools step closer to merger

By 
  • June 27, 2021

Turning the twin faculties of theology at Regis College and the University of St. Michael’s College into a single, unified, bigger and better Catholic theological hub is one big step closer to reality with an agreement to draft a memorandum of understanding for a new, federated structure by September.

“There is cause for celebration just based on the fact that we’ve got to this point after 30-plus years of back and forth, up and down, do we or don’t we,” said Basilian Fr. Don McLeod.

“There were plenty of folks saying, ‘It ain’t going to
happen,’ ” said economics professor Peter Warrian. “But we got there.”

Warrian on behalf of Regis and McLeod on the St. Mike’s side have been chairing a year-long process to explore an academic alliance between the two schools. It began last Sept. 25. At least 50 faculty and staff were deployed to write reports looking at the possibilities.

The committee work concluded that the two premier Canadian Catholic theology schools — one Basilian and the other Jesuit — will remain separate legal entities with their own charters, mandates and presidents. But the teaching and research programs of the schools will be integrated.

“It’s not the whole enchilada of a merger, where you just dissolve everything,” said Warrian. “We will be operationally integrated, functionally integrated without dissolving it into one.”

For students, progress toward an MOU is “a huge thing,” said Toronto School of Theology Graduate Students Association president Mia Theocharis, a PhD candidate in Christian-Jewish relations and historical theology at St. Michael’s.

“What I would hope for is that within that (MOU) there’s something said along the lines of student participation in that process moving forward,” Theocharis told The Catholic Register.

Students have traditionally played a big role in important decisions at both St. Mike’s and Regis, Theocharis said. She expects that will continue.

Out of any evolution of advanced Catholic theological studies on the University of Toronto campus, students are hoping for additional funding opportunities, more course selection and for greater diversity in the faculty, said Theocharis.

“People want to see people that look like them in their faculty. That’s going to be definitely number one — a diverse faculty,” she said.

Having a world-class theology school should matter to Canada’s Catholics, said McLeod.

“Theology and spirituality are resources for us to understand both the goodness and the frailty of the Church, to try to bring them into some kind of dynamic relationship so that ultimately the goodness overcomes most of the frailty,” he said.

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