Innovative Models

Three Catholic programs in North America that are unconventional in their settings but solid in their teaching.

There are three unique models of Catholic higher education in North America of which many Catholics are perhaps unaware. These programs are filling an obvious, unmet need— and doing so in ways both unconventional and innovative—while remaining true to the magisterium in their teaching.

Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Connecticut, which was a seminary first and a college later, provides affordable Catholic higher education to New Englanders and others.

In British Columbia, a man with a dream for a good Catholic university in Western Canada discovered a wellestablished evangelical university interested in a cooperative venture. Both are now thriving just north of the border with Washington state.

And the largest Newman Center in the United States has created graduatelevel degree programs in Catholic theology, while maintaining its longstanding status as a Catholic spiritual haven for students on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus.


Located in Cromwell, Connecticut, the mission of Holy Apostles College and Seminary is, according to its website, to “cultivate lay, consecrated, and ordained Catholic leaders for the purpose of evangelization” while encouraging “the full spiritual, emotional, and psychological development of each of its students.”

In addition to a bold mission statement and relatively small size, Holy Apostles is distinguished by its long history in Connecticut and the respect it has earned in creating a college and seminary true to the magisterium.

Holy Apostles is a combined college and seminary. It is a fully accredited, coed Catholic institution that welcomes lay commuter students as well as seminarians and consecrated religious.

The property has a colorful history dating back to the 1800s, when one of the city of Cromwell’s founding families built the area’s first home, today known as St. James Hall. Later, the grounds of the campus became an arboretum under the direction of famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed New York City’s Central Park. From 1883 to the early 1950s, the campus was the site of a well-known and respected private sanatorium. After the clinic closed, the grounds remained unused until the arrival of a Franciscan monk looking for land to build a seminary.

Rev. Eusebe Menard, OFM purchased the property and in 1957 founded Holy Apostles Seminary, first created for older men interested in the priesthood. Father Menard also started an order of priests—the Society for the Missionaries of the Holy Apostles—to oversee the operation of the new seminary.

What is unusual about Holy Apostles is that the seminary eventually decided to accept non-seminarian students; in 1972 the college opened its doors, offering degrees to lay students and consecrated religious. Today, lay students make up the majority of the total enrollment— about 265 students, including those in distance-learning programs.

Holy Apostles also has the distinction of being considered the most competitively priced private college in New England. It has no dorms, except those for seminarians, but will help locate accommodations for non-commuting students.

Master’s-level graduate degrees from Holy Apostles were first offered to the laity in 1982. In 1988, M.A. degrees in philosophy and theology were added to the distance-learning program. According to Sister Mary Anne Linder, FSE, a faculty member, distance-learning classes are gaining popularity because these courses are now available to people previously unable to access such classes any other way. The college also offers a post-master’s certificate in theology. Non-degree graduate certificate programs were introduced in 2001.

Sister Mary Anne summed up the college and seminary’s collaborative effort by saying that because of this arrangement, those called to priesthood, consecrated religious life, and the lay vocation “learn that each state in life depends on the others for its meaning.We might call Holy Apostles a mini ecclesia—that is, a ‘little Church.’”

In 1978, Holy Apostles was officially designated as a major seminary (theologate), offering a Master of Divinity degree in preparing men for the priesthood. It is the only major seminary in Connecticut.

In 1984, another unusual move occurred when the college and seminary invited the three Catholic bishops of Connecticut to join its Board of Directors. This episcopal oversight continues today, with the governance of Holy Apostles College and Seminary residing in the Board of Directors, the chairman of which is Bishop Michael Cote of Norwich, who also serves as the school’s chancellor. The board also includes Archbishop Henry J. Mansell of Hartford, Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, five members of the Missionaries of the Holy Apostles, lay representatives, and the president-rector, Father Douglas L. Mosey, CSB.

“Providing leadership, support, and guidance, the three bishops function as the priestly formation committee who assist us in the full implementation of Pastores Dabo Vobis and the program of priestly formation established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,” said Sister Mary Anne Linder. Eighty-three seminarians presently study at Holy Apostles Seminary, which provides formation in all aspects of seminary life.

Notably, Holy Apostles is one of the few Catholic colleges in America where lay students, religious, and seminarians attend many of the same classes. This guarantees that the lay and religious students’ education is authentically Catholic, as all members of the faculty must be approved by the bishop of Norwich and are required to adhere to the magisterium.

Besides a requirement that all Bachelor of Arts degree students take a 97-credit core curriculum, there is also a special emphasis on bioethics at Holy Apostles. The reason for this emphasis, according to Father Mosey, the president- rector, is that “the two great challenges we face in the United States— defense of human life from conception to natural death and defense of marriage and family life—[are] questions [dividing] the culture of life from the culture of death. Underneath the questions are bioethics issues.”

Pope Paul VI wrote that this split between the Gospel and culture “is the greatest drama of our time,” Father Mosey notes. Holy Apostles’ emphasis also takes inspiration, he says, from Pope John Paul II, who advanced the idea of the culture of life versus the culture of death, and Pope Benedict, who speaks of the need for “Jerusalem and Athens to come together.”

“It is our intent to offer a philosophically based, Catholic, liberal arts undergraduate degree as the only adequate preparation for students who will be challenged to actively engage in the debate underpinning this drama,” Father Mosey says. “This degree—a recovery of the great Catholic intellectual tradition—prepares our undergraduate students…not only to be active participants in the culture of life, but [to specialize] in graduate school, leading to their secular professions.”

Father Mosey emphasizes that these students “will be in a position to learn what the Church teaches and why…know how to answer from right reason, which they will learn in philosophy… and know how to answer from faith, which they will learn in theology.” For more information, go to


Redeemer Pacific College (RPC) is a private, Catholic, liberal arts teaching center located near Vancouver in Langley, British Columbia. It came into existence through an ecumenical partnership with Trinity Western University (TWU), an evangelical Christian four-year university that allows RPC to teach approved courses for TWU credit.

RPC president and founder Ron Hamel earned a bachelor’s degree at TWU as an older student and was impressed with what he saw there. As he finished his degree, he began talking to friends in the faculty and administration at TWU about starting a Catholic college.

But because of the expense involved in such an undertaking, it was suggested that a Catholic degree program at TWU might be a more realistic goal. The university’s vice president was supportive of the idea. Hamel then broached the concept with the Catholic archbishop of Vancouver at the time, Most Reverend Adam Exner, who not only encouraged Hamel to proceed but even offered funding to get the program started.

After acquiring a nearby parcel of property for the school, again with the financial support of Archbishop Exner, Redeemer Pacific College opened its doors in 1998 in a refurbished barn.

Hamel explains that “through this unique ecumenical partnership, Redeemer Pacific students take courses both at Redeemer and Trinity as they work toward obtaining a degree in any one of the 39 degree programs offered by Trinity Western University. This relationship enables students to receive an authentically Catholic education, rooted in the teaching and tradition of the Church, while at the same time pursuing an undergraduate degree from one of Canada’s leading universities.”

Hamel adds: “As a component of the liberal arts curriculum incorporated into every TWU degree, RPC students— regardless of their particular majors— take courses in philosophy and theology at Redeemer Pacific College from a distinguished faculty that has pledged an oath of fidelity to the magisterium of the Catholic Church.”

Hamel also noted that the evangelical TWU “boasts the largest religious studies department in Canada, and biblical studies predominate.” But TWU has no theology department. So it was agreed that RPC would “fill in the gaps” in TWU’s theological offerings.

Hamel says that every year hundreds of evangelical students join the Catholic students at RPC for the college’s Catholic theology courses. He notes that “even the university’s president has publicly recognized that RPC is often referred to as ‘TWU’s School of Theology.’”

This relationship has opened up a dialogue about the faith traditions taught at the two schools, Hamel explained; “This, we believe, is one of the reasons God put us here.” He adds that RPC teaches a course in ecumenical theology covering “evangelical/Catholic relations as well as Catholic/Orthodox relations” that he hopes will help to create “a leading center for Catholic/evangelical dialogue in North America [at TWU/RPC].”

Furthering the ecumenical dialogue is the newly established Fideles Journal and Symposium, an ongoing exchange and discussion of scholarly articles on theology and philosophy by evangelical and Catholic professors from both schools.

While encouraging the ecumenical discussion, however, President Hamel refuses to water down the faith for the sake of ecumenism. He said, “RPC and TWU practice what I call ‘strength to strength’ ecumenism. We major in our strengths so that RPC and TWU are able to benefit from the gifts the Lord has given each party.… The liberal arts method of discovery and principled examination of the facts, in light of evidence, is particularly apropos to ecumenical dialogue.”

Presently, RPC is an associate college of the Franciscan University of Steubenville through membership in the Christus Magister Foundation, an arm of Franciscan University that assists RPC with the selection of professors, curriculum, and student life programs—“ helping to ensure that Redeemer Pacific attains the highest standards of Catholicity and loyalty to the magisterium,” Hamel says.

Like Holy Apostles, Redeemer Pacific is small in size—there are only 70 students enrolled, or 2.5 percent of the combined enrollment of TWU—but large in its vision to evangelize. This is especially important in the Pacific Northwest, an area known to be greatly un-churched. In addition to Canadians, RPC also has students from New York, Washington, Oregon, California, Nebraska, and Alaska.

For more information on Redeemer Pacific College, go to


The Institute of Catholic Thought is the academic wing of St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For the last 75 years, the Newman Center at the University of Illinois—the largest such center in the United States—has been a gathering place and Catholic home for thousands of university students.

The Newman Center provides dorm rooms, student lounges, and a dining hall, along with access to educational, social, cultural, spiritual, and athletic opportunities. The center has also embarked on a $40 million expansion and renovation drive to update and improve its physical structure, including its 81- year-old St. John’s Catholic Chapel. Starting in the fall of 2008, the center’s Institute of Catholic Thought will open a new school of theology, which will provide degree programs in theology.

St. John’s Catholic Newman Center was created to meet the spiritual needs, as well as promote the spiritual and intellectual development, of students, faculty, and staff at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Situated on the university’s campus, the Newman Center has been in its present location since 1927. The center was originally founded in 1905 as the Spalding Guild, an official university club for Catholic students.

The predecessor of the present Institute of Catholic Thought was a cooperative arrangement between the faculty senate and Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois and the Spalding Guild in 1919. This arrangement allowed the Spalding Guild to teach Catholic courses for university credit under the supervision of a university appointed committee. The guild was required to submit its proposed courses to the university for approval, as well as to provide instructors with doctoral degrees and facilities for these courses and to limit enrollment to students of sophomore standing or higher.

The academic focus of the Newman Center was expanded on November 4, 2000, with the formal dedication of the newly renovated Bishop O’Rourke Library. In 2001, the Institute of Catholic Thought came into being as an academic center devoted to the study of Catholicism and its relationship to the intellectual and cultural heritage of the Western world. Under the auspices of the Diocese of Peoria and Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, the institute started as a two-person Catholic studies program affiliated with the university’s Department of Religious Studies. Dr. Kenneth J. Howell, director of the institute, and the chaplain for the Newman Center, Msgr. Stuart Swetland, were appointed adjunct professors in religious studies (without pay) to teach courses on Catholicism.

The arrangement has been difficult, according to Dr. Howell, as there are some in the university “who would rather see us go away.” But others among the faculty, he has found over time, “appreciate our presence and often defend us to skeptical colleagues.”

In the fall 2008 semester, the new St. John Institute of Catholic Thought School of Theology will open, through approval by the Illinois Board of Higher Education, as a free-standing educational institute with operating and degreegranting authority. It will offer two degrees: a Master of Theological Studies for students wishing to pursue a doctoral degree, and a Master of Arts for those wanting to deepen their understanding of Catholic theological issues. The degrees will require between 42 and 48 hours of coursework.

Dr. Howell explained that the new school of theology will provide a muchneeded service in central Illinois, as the closest schools granting master’s degrees in Catholic theology are more than 140 miles away. The school of theology also plans to serve the Diocese of Peoria by providing certificate programs for catechists. Courses will be taught by Dr. Howell, Dr. David Delaney, and Rev. Christopher Layden, all from St. John’s Catholic Newman Center. Dr. Douglas Grandon of the Diocese of Peoria and Joseph Piccione, STL of OSF HealthCare will also teach classes.

The focus of the programs will be “faithful representation of the Church’s teaching with a focus on sacramental and liturgical subjects…[incorporating] perspectives from Eastern Christianity,” according to Dr. Howell. Coursework will also emphasize “the Communio school of theology represented by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI,” he explained.

The institute’s website states: “The school of theology seeks to have the highest academic quality and rigor at the graduate level, but also accommodate the various needs of the community, especially the Catholic dioceses of central Illinois. Students will receive a robust foundation in the Catholic intellectual tradition.”

For more information , go to


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