One of the interesting traits about a small city like Peterborough is that seemingly insular things often overlap. The relationship between Trent University and Sacred Heart College is a perfect example of this. Launched in 2011, Sacred Heart College is the manifestation of courses the Peterborough Diocese had been offering for over twenty years. Having an official post-secondary institution has consolidated the courses to one location and allows Sacred Heart to function as a small liberal arts college within the Catholic tradition.
With courses now available as transfer credits for Trent University, several Trent students have been taking advantage of what Sacred Heart College has to offer. Class sizes are small, with an average of seven students per class. This is an ideal learning situation when taking social sciences and humanities because it allows an intimate discourse between students and professors. The courses offered are all half-credits and include Catholic Bioethics, the Ethics of Leadership, Old Testament Literature in its Historical Context, and Canadian History: origins to 1867. A Moral Theology course will also be available in January.
Sacred Heart College does not seek to be a religious institution and instead has the goals of facilitating critical thinking and a dialogue between faith and reason. Neither students nor staff are required to be Catholic or religious in order to be a part of the school. This liberalism has not only resulted in a diverse community at the college, but also an overlap with staff members who have worked at Trent. The dean of Sacred Heart College, Dr. Lathange, was Head of Colleges at Trent for several years. As well, Tom Symons, who was the founding president of Trent, is the Chair of the Board of Trustees.
Yet some of the other faculty members overlap with a very different kind of institution. There are three nuns who work at Sacred Heart College: Mother Sole, Sister Parousia, and Sister Krulowa. They have taken vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience with The Institute Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará, which was founded in Argentina. The nuns are primarily at Sacred Heart College doing service work, meaning that they are mostly volunteering their time because they believe in Sacred Heart’s mission.
Currently, all of the students enrolled at Sacred Heart College are also enrolled at Trent, but life on campus at Sacred Heart is different from the typical university student experience. For instance, all of the courses are located within the church rectory. Essentially, the church buildings have been repurposed for educational means, including the use of the beautiful church library as a classroom setting. There is an all-girls residence for female students, called the Vari Residence, which is staffed by the nuns. While you don’t need to be Catholic to live in the residence, choosing to live at Sacred Heart does come with a set of rules in keeping with Catholic values. For example, there is a curfew and some commitments around chastity, such as no men allowed in the bedrooms.
In addition to a unique learning environment and the availability of courses as Trent transfer credits, all of the students currently enrolled at Sacred Heart College are receiving financial benefits. In collaboration with Trent, Sacred Heart offers ten Sister Margaret Shannon Entrance Scholarships for full-time Trent students. As well, the economic needs of all students are considered and bursaries are given on an as needed basis. Even without financial assistance, there is a financial benefit to taking courses at Sacred Heart. Courses are free for full-time Trent students. For part-time students, the half-credit courses are only $250 each. It is also possible to audit the courses for $125 a class.
All of the overlap between Sacred Heart College and Trent University is manifesting into larger goals. Steven Franklin, who is the Senate Chair at Trent, is requesting a presidential advisory committee on academic partnership from the Senate Executive, which will include an agenda of formalizing a relationship with Sacred Heart College. So far, Franklin has been pleased with how Trent’s relationship with Sacred Heart College has been developing and is optimistic about a future partnership on things such as transfer credits, affiliation agreements, and so forth.
Sacred Heart College has even bigger hopes, such as establishing bachelor of arts programs in Catholic Studies and Religious Studies. An idea for collaborating on this with Trent, for example, would be ten credits taken at Trent and ten credits taken at Sacred Heart College which would combine for a full degree. However, Sacred Heart College does not wish to copy what Trent is doing. Rather, it seeks to complement what already exists in Peterborough while at the same time offering its own brand of scholarly studies.