The Work of a Theological College
Dear Alumni and Friends:
My few short months at Theological College have been some of the most blessed in my life. The faculty and staff are among the best with whom I have ever served, and the seminarians inspire me with their zeal for the faith and love for the Church. I anticipated that this would be a positive transition, but the reality has exceeded my expectations.
Prior to assuming the role of rector, I spent much time in prayer to prepare for this new ministry. One of the things I reflected upon was the very name of this institution, “Theological College.” It is rather an odd name for a seminary. Most such schools are named after saints (St. Mary’s, St. Joseph’s) or perhaps articles of faith (Sacred Heart, Immaculate Conception). By contrast, “Theological College” seems like a prosaic and functional designation. Perhaps, however, that is not the case. Indeed, as unprepossessing as it may first appear, “Theological College” may contain some deeper significance that could point to the core mission of the school.
Consider the first part of our name, “Theological.” What does it mean for something or someone to be theological? What in fact is theology? It can be considered a field of study dealing with issues of a religious nature or a branch of knowledge among others. I would suggest, however, that the term points to something more profound. When did theology begin? At what point in our long evolutionary journey did humans begin asking questions of a theological nature? I believe the correct answer is that we cannot talk about a specifically human history until there is something like theological consciousness. Pope Benedict XVI, of blessed memory, contends that until there are beings who have achieved awareness of living in the presence of a sacred mystery, we cannot speak of humanity in the full sense of the term. In fact, he, among many others, makes the claim that such awareness is the sine qua non of humanity. What makes us human is the capacity for awe before the numinous, a desire to worship the divine, to embody it in action and pose questions of a truly profound nature. One can make the case that to be a human is to be the theological animal.
Now let us look at the second part of the seminary’s name, “College.” This comes from the Latin collegium. In the most general sense, it can be applied to any corporate group or association. In the context of education, a college is the joint exploration for the truth and a shared enterprise directed towards the transmission of knowledge. The work of a theological college recognizes that our religious nature reflects our social nature as humans. The search for and formation into divine truth cannot be carried out as a private quest but must instead be dialogical and communal if theology is to achieve it end.
It occurs to me that, in our day and age, the name “Theological College” is somewhat countercultural. A secular age, one in which the reality of the sacred is denied and thus the legitimacy of theology is called into radical doubt, presents certain dangers. If our humanity emerges from the awareness of the holy, then the abeyance of such awareness impoverishes and compromises us as a species. Our world is also becoming more fragmented, polarized, and individualized. In such an environment, the existence of any collegium becomes precarious and our quest for any truth impeded.
It is my deepest hope and prayer that, with your help and support, this venerable institution will rise to the occasion to fulfill its mission and be what it is called to be, a truly Theological College.
Rev. Gladstone (Bud) Stevens, P.S.S.