An Invitation to Engage with our Catholic Identity and Mission
Throughout this document, we will use the phrase, Catholic identity and mission. While these two concepts are not the same, they are definitely related. Our mission flows out of and is shaped by our Catholic identity. Our identity, in turn, is strengthened as we live out our mission in concrete ways.
St. Thomas More College is animated by its Catholic identity and mission. The purpose of this document is to explore how we live out this identity and mission today. It is an invitation to those who wish to discover more about STM’s Catholic identity and mission or who wish to deepen their commitment to it. It also invites us to participate in this living tradition, continually responding to the evolving needs of our community while remaining faithful to our source which is, ultimately, Christ.
This document comes about in response to a significant moment in STM’s history. As the College gives thanks for 75 years of Basilian sponsorship, it appropriately looks for ways to sustain its Catholic identity and mission into the future. The conclusion of Basilian sponsorship means that the responsibility for cultivating and fostering the College’s Catholic identity and mission is entrusted to all of the STM community: its staff, faculty, students, alumni and those who share responsibility for governing the College. Recognizing this responsibility, we seek to understand more fully what we are about as a Catholic college.
STM is a Catholic college federated with the University of Saskatchewan. Its community is diverse and ever-changing, as our students, who form the heart of our community, arrive and depart each academic year. Being addressed to an eclectic audience—including both Catholics and non-Catholics at STM; new, prospective, and returning students; members of the U of S faculty; and members of the wider community—this document seeks to express, in accessible terms, STM’s Catholic identity and mission and to invite members of STM to imagine new ways of living this mission.
By identifying five pillars of STM’s identity and mission and by imagining ways in which these could be realized, we seek to identify fundamental human concerns that, ideally, will help us transcend ideological divisions. We hope that these pillars will be viewed as intrinsically important to our collective life as a College. As such, we are trying to express a corporate identity as it is lived out at STM. We recognize that the individual identities of those participating in the life of the College may not exactly coincide with what is articulated here. This is not our expectation. However, by naming what we perceive to be our collective identity and mission, we hope that individuals here will be better equipped to engage with this mission. It is our hope that this document might foster a space of unity in which we recognize that we share a common commitment to the life of the College and to the welfare of our students, even though we express and live out that commitment in different ways.1 Given that an identity is, by its nature, organic and ever-renewing, this particular articulation of our Catholic identity and mission seeks to cultivate an ongoing conversation about what it means to be a Catholic college today and what we hope our College may become.
Questions for Reflection
Imagine St. Thomas More College (STM) ten years from now. How do you think a visitor to STM would recognize that we are a college living out of the Catholic faith tradition?
Continuity and Change
“Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”2 Tradition is an intergenerational conversation, uniting those who are dead, living and those about to be born. Just as each generation matures to meet the unique challenges of its day, while remaining stamped by the DNA of its family identity, so too tradition itself grows and changes, while remaining genetically indebted to, and respectful of, its heritage.
Each aspect of STM’s Catholic identity and mission demonstrates this capacity for change within continuity:
- A tradition is inclusive because it necessarily contains a diversity of voices. The most obvious interplay exists between voices of the past and present, but differences are also to be found among historical authorities, as well as among present voices that have appropriated their heritage in distinctive ways; for instance, the expression of Catholicism in the Philippines differs from Catholicism in Canada. A tradition includes these many voices and recognizes that this creative dialogue within the tradition is essential to its continued vitality.
- The Catholic Intellectual Tradition searches for truth in our time, while drawing upon the accumulated wisdom of human knowledge and experience. It recognizes that we better understand ourselves when we understand the tradition from which we emerge.
- Catholic Social Teaching seeks models of responsible stewardship for the present and future, drawing upon the example of Christ’s solidarity with the marginalized. Our care for those who are suffering in any way bears witness to the ongoing ministry of Christ who healed lepers, reached out to sinners and proclaimed God’s love to all of humanity.
- STM has a 75-year history of offering to students pastoral care. By fostering the intellectual, spiritual and social dimensions of each person, in the spirit of our Basilian founders, we believe students will be enabled to discover their future vocations and to grow into their familial and communal roles.
- The Eucharistic sharing of bread and wine represents the fullest expression of our Catholic Sacramental Imagination. This practice has continued since the time of Christ, uniting generations who have celebrated the same mystery in different languages and through different liturgical practices.
- These five pillars of our STM experience are ways in which we seek to live, ever more fully, our mission. It is our sincere hope that these will only be a beginning for us as an academic and faith-filled community. Let this document be a conversation starter, the initial words in an ongoing dialogue. As we move confidently into the future, may we celebrate the good work the Basilian Fathers began in 1936 and know that we are well equipped to continue their legacy into the decades ahead.
Questions for Reflection:
What do I find compelling or important about Catholic Identity? How can I communicate this to those around me?
How might this resource be used?
- As an individual reflection tool
- In small groups of faculty and staff to help assess the mission-effectiveness of particular units or departments
- Among student groups to help plan initiatives with STM's mission and Catholic identity in mind
- In classrooms whenever various aspects of Catholic identity are discussed
- In any way which will encourage dialogue and mutual understanding of our Catholic identity and mission
If you have any questions or comments about this document, please contact STM's Director of Mission and Ministry: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. See John 17:21
2. Jaroslav Pelikan, The Vindication of Tradition (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1984), 65.