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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 

        Fratelli Tutti, the latest document to emerge from the pen of Pope Francis, is a substantive examination of humanity’s desperate need for meaningful connection, for human communion, for a shared grasp of those values that enrich us as individuals and as societies.

    Building on this pope’s special love for, and identification with, the Poverello of Assisi, the encyclical letter is a sustained meditation on the evangelical vision and legacy of Francesco Bernardone, especially as they apply to our tremulous, plague-riddled, and deeply unsettled time.

    Having prompted Pope Francis to write his earlier encyclical, Laudato Sí, a powerful document on the environment and our common home, the pope returns to the first Franciscan, if you like, and draws on his wisdom and saintliness to address our universal yearning for credible love, genuine justice, profound unity.

    He writes: “Francis felt himself a brother to the sun, the sea and the wind, yet he knew that he was even closer to those of his own flesh.  Wherever he went, he sowed seeds of peace and walked alongside the poor, the abandoned, the infirm and the outcast, the least of his brothers and sisters.”

    And that has also been the way of Papa Bergoglio as he privileged the poor in his ministry, prioritized the pastoral needs of the displaced migrants, addressed the social and economic inequities that define our politically fraught environment, and taken on the powers and principalities that oppress the underclass.

    Pope Francis reminds us that the COVID-19 pandemic is a dramatic illustration of the crippling irony that “for all our hyper-connectivity, we witnessed a fragmentation that made it more difficult to resolve problems that affect us all.  Anyone who thinks that the only lesson to be learned was the need to improve what we are already doing, or to refine existing systems and regulations, is denying reality.”

    In Fratelli Tutti Francis is embracing reality.  He names the structural, systemic and historically-conditioned problems that divide us, polarize us, delimit and denigrate us.  His encyclical is a cri de coeur, a cry of the heart that is prophetic, and yet not oracular or abstract.  It has about it the sweet reason of the pragmatic infused with the spiritual.  Pope Francis is uninterested in windy expostulations and grand theories.  He diagnoses our ailments through his Franciscan lens and then offers some prescriptions that can assist us in restoring our social health.

    Although, as is the tradition in encyclical writing, he speaks of issues and avoids naming personalities, it is not difficult to identify those leaders and the policies that they advocate who merit his moral outrage: those who build walls, foment racial and ethnic hatred,  demean their opponents and critics, sunder language from truth, commodify human worth, create a politics that despises the “other,”  perpetuate a “throwaway culture” that diminishes life at its beginning and at its end, solidity an ethos that prizes “killers over zeros, winners over losers”.

    The conclusion of Fratelli Tutti is a public acknowledgement of the heroic witness and holy lives of those outside the Catholic faith who have influenced the author greatly: Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, Mahatma Gandhi.  The pope draws on a moral chorus he finds congruent with the teachings of Jesus, with Francis of Assisi his lead soloist.

This content was originally published by The B.C. Catholic and appeared in the October 12, 2020 edition. Source: Become an ‘artisan of peace’: Vancouver Catholics react to Pope’s encyclical Fratelli tutti
 

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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

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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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