Long before the St. Mark’s Act, an Act of the Provincial Legislature of British Columbia of March 2, 1956, the possibility of a Catholic college in relationship with the University of British Columbia (UBC) was the dream of an interested cross-section of people in the Vancouver area.
An informal circle of Catholic laypeople met regularly during the 1940s to explore possibilities. They were encouraged by the Catholic hierarchy of the Archdiocese of Vancouver. Then a new President at UBC, Norman Mackenzie, offered a constructive suggestion. He recommended that they contact the Basilian Fathers at St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto, specifically Father Henry Carr, the former Principal of St. Michael’s and the founder of the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies (PIMS) in Toronto, for his assistance.
Father Carr thought he could challenge the initial resistance from some faculty at UBC by demonstrating the critical relationship between faith and reason in the Catholic intellectual tradition. From PIMS, Father Carr invited the eminent historian of Medieval Philosophy, Étienne Gilson, to give a series of lectures at UBC in 1954. That experience did not remove all the objections, but it did establish the climate for public acceptance of the 1956 Act of the BC Legislature establishing St. Mark’s College, and for the College’s subsequent affiliation with the University of British Columbia.
The origin of the College illustrates the respective roles of members of the Catholic community of Vancouver, as well as the commitment to study the relationship between faith and reason at a critical level. The principles reflected in the origins of St. Mark’s College are refined and developed in Pope John Paul II’s 1990 apostolic constitution, Ex corde Ecclesiae. That document now forms part of the mission statement of the College and animates the contributions of all who participate in its life and work.
We acknowledge and thank the Coast Salish Nation of the Musqueam on whose traditional territories we teach, learn, and live.