Students can take courses in everything from Sacred Art and the Metaphysics of St. Thomas Aquinas to Catholic Spirituality and the Theological Vision of Pope John Paul II.
VANCOUVER, B.C. (Catholic Online) - Many Catholics in North America are aware of the new (or renewed) "orthodox" Catholic institutions of higher education that have sprung to life on this continent over the past two decades. Franciscan University in Steubenville, Christendom College in Virginia, and Ave Maria University in Florida head the list of those institutions seeking to be fully faithful to the Church's magisterium. Now the west coast of Canada can boast its own addition to this line-up: Redeemer Pacific College, in Langley, just outside the city of Vancouver, British Columbia.
Redeemer Pacific College (RPC) opened its doors in the fall of 1999 with the blessing and support of Archbishop Adam Exner of the Archdiocese of Vancouver. In addition, right from its inception, the RPC program was nurtured by Franciscan University in Steubenville. For example, two of the members of the College Board of Governors, Dr. Stephen Militec and Dr. Andrew Minto are distinguished FUS faculty; in addition, the renowned Catholic author and Bible scholar Dr. Scott Hahn, Professor of Theology at FUS, serves on the RPC Board of Advisors. This living link with Franciscan university remains vital to the identity of the College. RPC founder and President Tom Hamel explains:
The mission of Redeemer Pacific College is 'to develop dynamic Catholic leaders through higher education: men and women committed to lifelong Christian growth and intellectual formation who strive to bring all whom their lives touch into vital relationship with Jesus and his Church.'
The word "dynamic" is key here: it involves our commitment to nurture in our students not only "head-knowledge" of authentic Catholic doctrine, but also "heart-knowledge" of the personal love of Jesus Christ for each and every individual.
Back in 1997, Hamel took this vision of what Catholic higher education should be to Fr. Michael Scanlan, President of Franciscan University in Steubenville, and found there a kindred spirit. Scanlan has said of the famous renewal that he pioneered at FUS:
"A campus may be said to be Catholic to the degree that it creates an environment that fosters [adult] conversion to Christ and his Church. Students must be convinced of the need to own their own faith, and not just rent their parents'. Through hearing the Word of God proclaimed, and celebrating the sacraments, the students are encouraged to encounter the Lord in a personal way, firsthand."
Alongside this commitment to "dynamic" Catholic orthodoxy, RPC has a second -and altogether unique -feature: the College is located just outside the front gates of the largest Protestant Evangelical University in Canada: Trinity Western University. Hamel himself is a graduate of TWU, and he notes: "although not a Catholic institution, God is an integral part of the TWU experience. TWU provides a welcoming environment to all Christians, where Catholics and Evangelicals can share with each other their faith-perspectives, remaining true to their own traditions while discovering common ground -and even, on some issues, a common cause."
Hamel claims that, in general, Catholics and Evangelicals have been forced to drop some of their prejudices about each other in recent years, given the way all mainstream Christians have been under assault in Canada by the rapid advance of secularization and "political correctness." He cites the fact that Catholics and Evangelicals today stand shoulder to shoulder on Pro-life and Pro-Family social issues, and work together to protect of freedom of religion. "The same dynamic is at work between Catholics and Evangelicals at RPC and TWU;" says Hamel., "we do not wash over our differences, but we have learned the truth of what Bl. Pope John XXIII once said: 'There is more that unites us than divides us.'"
Students at RPC take courses at both TWU and RPC, ultimately receiving a TWU undergraduate degree. This enables Catholic students to have access to the full range of Trinity Western's university programs (TWU presently has over 2,500 students and 39 academic majors). It should also be noted that Trinity Western is a top-notch Canadian university: for example, it recently received an "A+" grade for academic excellence from one of Canada's national newspapers, The Globe and Mail.
The courses students take at RPC automatically count toward their TWU degree, and RPC has an array of course offerings, especially in Theology and Philosophy, all taught from a Catholic perspective. Senior theologian at RPC, Dr. Robert Stackpole, explains:
The goal of our academic program is to enrich the Catholic students that come here with a deeper appreciation of the Catholic heritage, and to help them attain a deeper commitment to the Catholic Faith. At RPC, students can take courses in everything from Sacred Art and the Metaphysics of St. Thomas Aquinas to Catholic Spirituality and the Theological Vision of Pope John Paul II. Indeed, in many ways, it is the dynamic orthodoxy of Pope John Paul the Great that really inspires us.
To help insure fidelity to that goal, all RPC Theology professors receive a "mandatum" from the Archdiocese of Vancouver, in accordance with Vatican guidelines, and all RPC professors take an oath of allegiance to the magisterium at the start of every academic year.
Catholic students can pick up credits at RPC toward a Catholic Liberal Arts Certificate, a Catholic Theological Studies Certificate, or do a full RPC "Minor in Catholic Studies," as part of Trinity Western's "Christianity and Culture" program. "In other words, you can do a Minor in Catholic Studies, which includes the study of the Catholic Tradition of Philosophy and Theology, even while pursuing a major in any university subject, " Dr. Stackpole says. "In fact, many of the courses you would take at RPC for these programs also, at the same time, fulfill core graduation requirements for TWU -- so it's not an extra-burden."
The Catholic Studies Minor also forms a part of RPC's new "Catholic Teacher Education Program." Designed to fit with TWU's own Education major, the TWU-RPC teacher training program guarantees placement in local area Catholic schools for the students' practicum and professional development year, and is recognized as an authorized teacher training program throughout Canada, and in most states in the USA.
Whatever course of study a student may choose to pursue, happily, the College also has an ever-increasing number of student scholarships available. Pres. Hamel exclaims: "The generosity of Catholics in our area to RPC has been amazing, and continues to grow. We have about 60 students at RPC now, most of them assisted in one way or another both by RPC and TWU scholarship programs."
The spiritual formation program at Redeemer Pacific is also one of its special features. With its own Dominican Chaplain, and assisted by the local clergy, the College now has Mass on campus almost every weekday during the semester, and Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction on every First Friday of the month. The students can also take monthly day-retreats at the Benedictine Abbey in Mission, B.C., less than an hour's drive away. Moreover, Guest speakers are frequently invited to RPC to enrich the students' appreciation of the Catholic worldview; in recent years these have included apologists Peter Kreeft and Mark Shea, ethicist Janet Smith, and journalist Rev. Raymond de Souza. Meanwhile, weekly student "Discipleship" groups meet together for fun and fellowship, and to read the Scriptures and pray together.
"The result is a close and mutually supportive Catholic community here," Hamel says, "where nobody is just a student I.D. number, and everybody 'matters.'"
For more information about Redeemer Pacific College, please see the College website at www.rpcollege.bc.ca, or call us at 604-888-7727. Visitors and inquirers are always welcome.
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