Top row (L-R): David Sylvester, President, University of St. Michael’s College; Thomas Worcester, President, Regis College. Bottom row (L-R): Peter Warrian, Chair, Regis College Governing Council; Paul Harris, Chair, University of St. Michael’s College Collegium. Photos courtesy of the University of St. Michael’s College

Regis College, St. Mike’s join forces

  • October 29, 2021

The intellectual muscle of the Canadian Catholic Church has been recalibrated by combining Regis College and the University of St. Michael’s College into a federation just one year after negotiations between the two Toronto graduate schools began.

“We’re aligning our resources to take on the various crises in society and the Church,” St. Michael’s president and vice chancellor David Sylvester told The Catholic Register just after the new agreement was signed Oct. 22.

“We have these new challenges facing not just the Church but society. That is, around climate change. It’s around right relations with Indigenous peoples in Canada. And it’s about equity and diversity issues.”

Under the terms of the new agreement, the two schools will continue to have their own separate boards of governors, presidents and chancellors. But by next July there will be a single dean of theology and the graduate faculties will be fully integrated.

Regis will retain its unique ability to issue licentiate degrees under Vatican authority, which canon law requires for certain teaching positions in seminaries.

“We have an ecclesiastical faculty, in addition to a civil faculty,” explained Regis president Fr. Thomas Worcester. “The ecclesiastical faculty is ultimately under the authority of the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome. That will continue. It will be under Regis specifically.”

The new federation is anything but a threat to the Jesuit identity of the 91-year-old graduate school, said Worcester. He sees it “not only retaining but strengthening the Jesuit mission and identity.”

With an increasing number of Jesuits from 15 different countries studying and teaching at Regis, Worcester is confident the Jesuit mission and identity will not be watered down.

What Regis gets out of the federation agreement is a closer connection to the local Church, he said.

“Regis is a Jesuit institution, well connected internationally with the Jesuit network, which really is world wide,” said Worcester. “But we are not well rooted in Toronto. We do not have a lot of alumni here. We are not well connected with the Catholic elite in the city. St. Michael’s is. A huge proportion of the Catholic elite are St. Michael’s alumni. We can complement each other. They’re much more Toronto, Ontario, Canada. We’re much, much more international.”

A bigger faculty that encompasses a wider range of specialties and subjects is in a position to grow.

“We’ve applied for a $1 million grant, jointly, already,” said Worcester.

“We’ve always been playing in the big leagues. Through TST (the Toronto School of Theology) we’re one of the top 10 (theology schools) in North America,” said Sylvester. “This isn’t about rationalizing resources. This is about aligning them for a new mission.”

Sylvester believes the combined faculty will be able to prepare theologians and pastoral workers for the “new realities” the Church faces. In particular, he wants the combined faculty to lead the world in theological thinking about climate change, the legacy of colonization and Indigenous people and diversity and equity.

With the Glasgow United Nations climate summit on the horizon, Regis-St. Michael’s Theology is poised to rip its theology right from the headlines, he said.

“It’s not just a scientific issue. It’s a theological issue,” said Sylvester. “Guess what? That’s one of our strengths here in this new reality. It’s an area we’re going to continue to focus and build on.”

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