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Pontifex Minimus: Presidential Reflections on the Catholic Intellectual Tradition

By Dr. Michael W. Higgins, President and Vice-Chancellor of Corpus Christi-St. Mark's at UBC

Emma Donoghue, the Irish novelist now resident in London, Ontario, has just published her latest novel, The Pull of the Stars, in the midst of a plague.  The timing couldn’t be better and the marketing people have maximized the opportunity presented to them on the proverbial golden platter.

The reason is simple: her novel is about the 1918 Spanish flu, set in a Dublin hospital, on a maternity ward.  The stakes couldn’t be higher for the men and women dealing both with the ravages of a devastating pandemic and the turmoil of a deeply unsettled Ireland post the 1916  Easter Uprising.

There is a particular passage that is strikingly apposite given our own global reality of 2020:

We all live in an unwalled city, that was it.  I saw lines
scored across the map of Ireland; carved all over the globe.
Train tracks, roads, shipping channels, a web of human traffic
that connected all nations into one great suffering body. . . .
Across the world, one last state of noise and terror under the
bone man’s reign.

The “bone man” is death, hovering over an agonized and uncertain world, looking to his daily tally, eager to increase his count.

Well, to some degree, this is our world too—“unwalled”, precarious, “one great suffering body.”  And indifference is not a moral option; universal compassion is the only antidote to the aching seclusion and crippling anxiety that describe our “new world.”

In the Catholic tradition, being “unwalled” is not just about vulnerability; it is more positively about shared humanity and the power of the Gospel.

 

PONTIFEX MINIMUS REDUX

Strange title, I know, but it is the revival of an earlier iteration—the small bridge returned.

In this space, on a weekly basis, my intention is to reflect on some aspect of ecclesial and academic life that speaks to our mission as a post-secondary institution within the Catholic Intellectual Tradition.  These reflections, or pensées (pardon the presumption), are neither magisterial nor oracular.  They are open to contestation, refutation and even decimation, if they irritate you that much.  They are designed to be nothing more than teasers, probes, bold, and sometimes tentative, forays into intellectual and spiritual pastures.

And they will be brief—somewhere between a soundbite and an essay.

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Summer Institute

Ready to be inspired and kickstart your own learning? Take advantage of the St. Mark’s Summer Institute, where you will attend virtual classes in real-time over a three-week period and then have many weeks left in which to finish coursework at your own pace. New and returning students have the option of completing a Catholic Core course, an elective course, or both.

Courses run Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from July 5-23, 2021. Students have until late August to complete their coursework.

The Summer Institute offers all who are interested - including those who work in education, parish ministry, healthcare, and other professions - the opportunity to engage deeply in reflection and discussion and earn course credits, in a more intensive format than the usual three-month term.

SCRI 505: Introduction to Scripture (Fr. Nick Meisl)
Morning class, 8:30am - 12:00pm
Courses run weekdays from July 4-15, 2021.

Discover a basic introduction to Scripture for students without previous background in Scripture. This course covers both the Old and New Testaments in their own contexts, thematic parallels between them, and gives attention to how the Catholic intellectual tradition engages these textual traditions.

Afternoon class (Elective course) – More details to come

[letter]

Spotlight on student experience

"Deciding to take the Catholic Core Courses at St. Mark’s College, particularly during Covid-19, has been one of the smartest decisions of my life. At first, I felt some trepidation as I last undertook an academic course 9 years ago; however, the entire experience has been so positive and enlightening, I am delighted I did and would definitely encourage others to undertake them as well.

The learning environment is very collegial and supportive; in our classes, our contributions were always valued, not only by the professors, but also by our classmates. It is a wonderful way of learning from each other and forming new relationships. My teaching ministry will definitely be informed by my study at SMC: I am actually looking forward to sharing what I have learned with my students and colleagues. My faith life and appreciation of the liturgy has benefitted, too, from these studies on Scripture and Theology and the readings we have done in class; my choice of bedtime reading material now isn’t novels but the Bible and Apostolic Exhortations! Every Christian Education teacher should take the Catholic Core at St. Mark's College - it’s a great place to learn and grow in your faith!"

- Ann Marie McGrath, Educator
Summer Institute 2020[/letter]

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SUMMER INSTITUTE FAQ


Is it required that I come to Vancouver for the Summer Institute courses?

No. Attending classes virtually is always an option we offer to students who live outside of Metro Vancouver.
This year, due to COVID-19, all students will be taking their Summer classes virtually through live online courses.

Synchronous, asynchronous, online, virtual, Zoom. So many new terms - how will my classes be offered?

Many people hear “online class” and think of a series of pre-recorded lectures and online interaction with no real-time interaction with a human. That’s not how our courses are offered.

Your classes will be virtual. The live online courses taking place in a digital classroom with real-time instruction and opportunities for face-to-face interaction with your professor and classmates.

Classes run on weekdays for three weeks in July on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. There will be a daily live lecture and class time. There may be required readings before each class and most other coursework is completed after classes end. You will have until late August to complete papers and other coursework.

Throughout the course you will be interacting with your professor and fellow classmates.

How do I access my online courses?

St. Mark’s College uses an online learning platform through UBC called Canvas. After you have registered for the course, you will be contacted by the Registrar's Office with instructions for accessing your course materials. If you have questions, please contact Chisom Onwuli at [email protected].

Will I be able to talk to my instructor and classmates?

Yes. The course design and video software allows for two-way interaction. You will be able (even encouraged) to interact with your professor and classmates and engage in discussions.

What is the cost of taking a Summer Institute course?

The Summer Institute courses are full 3-credit courses. The tuition cost can be found on the Tuition and Fees webpage.

As many of our students previously paid tuition in person, there are also special instructions on how to pay tuition during COVID-19.

How do I get the readings and books for my courses?

The list of required textbooks can be found through the online textbook list.

Readings may be shared directly by your professor or accessed through the libraries of St. Mark’s College and UBC.

Do I qualify for admission?

We have admission categories to accommodate various backgrounds including those with no previous post-secondary education, or those who wish to take classes as “auditing students” without going through the full application process. Visit our Admission Requirements webpage for more information.

If you’d like to speak to someone about starting your studies with St. Mark’s College, email [email protected].

More Questions?

Contact Dr. Lynda Robitaille
Email: [email protected]



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