Peter Pitchko may be leaving the classrooms of Newman Theological College behind, but the lessons will stay with him.
“This is both the start of something new and the end of a great moment in my life,” Pitchko said.
He was among 35 students receiving their diplomas and degrees in theology, divinity and religious education at the Edmonton college’s 50th convocation ceremony Oct. 19. The convocation was held just days after the canonization of the college’s namesake, St. John Henry Newman, and a new award was also presented in honour of the saint.
“The biggest thing we study here is our own relationship with Christ and discovering ourselves and where we stand with God,” Pitchko said. “I know I have to stay humble and continue be open to the voice of God.”
Surrounded by friends and family, Pitchko graduated with a Master of Divinity. He was also honoured with the Joseph MacNeil Outstanding Achievement Award, named after the late Edmonton archbishop. The award honours academic excellence and volunteer work.
Now that he’s graduated, Pitchko will continue his discernment to priesthood with the Order of St. Basil in the Ukrainian Catholic Church. He said his studies at Newman taught him always to learn more about his faith.
“This college has been one of the best parts of my life. I want to know more about Christ and keep sharing that with this community,” Pitchko said. “That’s the thing about theology it’s always deeper, always richer, and there’s always more to know.”
That unending thirst for God and how each person is called to serve Him has been a mainstay for 50 years, said Jason West, president of Newman Theological College. In both passing on the faith and helping people discern and strengthen their vocations, the college has left a permanent imprint in Western Canada.
“Since its founding the college has played a key role in the vision of the Church throughout the generations that have gone before it,” West said. “In so many ways, what we have taught has developed in step with the Church of the time through each of those decades.”
This year the college granted its first Saint John Henry Newman Award to Jane Samson, who graduated with a Master in Theological Studies. It is the first award to be named in honour of the English theologian and cardinal since his official recognition as a saint.
Adam Andrusiak, a teacher with the Calgary Catholic School Division, received the Emmaus Award along with his Master of Religious Education degree. It honours a religious education student who showed growth in both their spiritual life and understanding of the faith.
Andrusiak said his studies gave him an intimate understanding of his faith and mission as an educator.
As told in St. Luke’s Gospel, two disciples on the road to Emmaus encounter Jesus after His resurrection. It’s a story that became a focus for Andrusiak during four years of study.
“It’s a story that’s very applicable to teachers. We walk with students and get them to know Christ in a similar journey,” he said. “This experience gave me a great balance of earning a deeper understanding of theology and Scripture and also a great practical sense of how we can live our faith and bring it to our students.”
In his keynote address, Rev. Don MacDonald, a past president of Newman Theological College, shared a similar message. MacDonald called for the college to stay true to its mission and always bring its students to the core truths of the faith no matter the changes the world goes through.
“We must not be distracted from our commitment to academic excellence in the study of theology,” said MacDonald, who has taught at the college since it was founded in 1969. “It’s a pursuit which challenges not only our minds but our lives in view of sharing our faith in a secularized world.
“Newman Theological College must stay the course.”