Two Catholic colleges in B.C. became a reality in 1999, including Corpus Christi College. The late Archbishop Adam Exner was key to their founding. Photo from Wikipedia

Late archbishop key in B.C. colleges’ launch

By  AGNIESZKA RUCK, Canadian Catholic News
  • October 22, 2023

VANCOUVER -- Just before the turn of the new millennium, then Vancouver Archbishop Adam Exner, like many others, was asking himself the question, “What will the future bring?” 

He posed that question to about 100 college students and guests in the fall of 1999, and with it he offered a piece of the answer: the opening of two Catholic post-secondary institutions. 

That September, Corpus Christi College in Vancouver and Redeemer Pacific College in Langley, B.C., opened their classrooms to their first waves of students. He called it a “historical breakthrough” to open two Catholic colleges in one year, a milestone that would lead hundreds of students to seek answers to the big questions for the next quarter century. 

“There is much hopelessness, much purposelessness,” Exner, who passed away this summer, said to those assembled for the RPC inauguration Mass in Langley. “We need a light of hope. I pray that Redeemer Pacific will be a ray of hope spread to us and many others in the world.”

That college welcomed 12 students in its first year and teaches courses that can be applied to a degree at Trinity Western University. 

Exner commented on the small class size that year: “The Lord began with 12 illiterate fishermen and look what He accomplished with them.” 

Corpus Christi College, which is at the University of British Columbia, had a few more people on its class list: 13 full-time students and three part-time. It took about a decade of planning for this dream, propelled forward by increasing demand for Catholic post-secondary education, to become reality. 

“We asked, is God calling us to go beyond to the post-secondary level?” said Exner at the Corpus Christi inauguration Mass. 

“After much prayer, reflection, study and hard work, we were led to the discernment that the Holy Spirit indeed wants us in the Church in Vancouver to move beyond elementary and high school level to the post-secondary level, so Corpus Christi College at UBC has become a reality and Redeemer Pacific College in Langley has become a reality.” 

Garry Sylvester, executive director of Corpus Christi, told The B.C. Catholic at the time that the project was “blessed by the hard work and generosity of many devoted people,” including the Basilian Fathers at St. Mark’s and the Archdiocese of Vancouver. 

“The Holy Spirit has a way of making things happen and of bringing people together.”

Exner called Corpus Christi a “small seed” that would grow into “a huge fruit-bearing tree” in the years that would follow.

Redeemer Pacific College was re-named to Catholic Pacific College in 2015. Nearly 25 years after their inaugurations, both schools continue to educate and encourage young adults to ask the big questions.

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