Newman University partnered with the St. Joseph House of Formation in 2017 in order for seminarians to earn college credit during their first two years of their journey to priesthood.
That partnership was extended to three years in 2018 and many are hoping that soon the seminarians will study at Newman for all four years of their college career.
Father Joseph Gile, dean of the new School of Catholic Studies at Newman University, said the idea of the formation started in 2008 but it was decided there were not enough priests to staff the house. Since then, Wichita has ordained many new priests — 20 in just the past two years — which allowed the Diocese of Wichita to move forward with the program.
A new partnership
Recently, Newman received what faculty are calling “excellent and happy news.” A special exemption was granted for Newman to partner with a house of formation in Little Rock, Arkansas, adding to the programs that will fall under the School of Catholic Studies at the university.
This newest partnership began when St. Gregory’s, located near Oklahoma City, had to close its doors.
“When it closed, they came to us asking for Newman to accredit them,” explained Gile. “And they also realized the Wichita Diocese was starting a house of studies, so it was this beautiful marriage between the two. They needed a new university to accredit their program so they came to us.”
Before St. Gregory’s closure, that university had been accrediting the Little Rock House of Formation. But the transition to Newman wasn’t easy.
Arkansas has a law that no out-of-state private school can offer a degree within the state if a state institution already offers the same. Arkansas State University already offers a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and its course curriculum matched closely that of Newman University’s program.
Gile said that in order to move forward, the Newman degree requirements and name needed to be changed and an exemption request needed to resubmitted to the state of Arkansas.
“I completely revamped the course descriptions,” said Gile. “I worked with the faculty in Little Rock, and together we’ve written all of those to make it distinctive. So the degree is a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy of theological studies and we emphasize the Catholicity of the degree because otherwise, we were not going to gain that exemption.”
The “excellent and happy news” happened when Newman received exemption approval in early November.
Sharing teaching responsibilities
With the exemption, Newman and the Little Rock house of formation can move forward together.
Teaching in Little Rock takes place at the Chancery with two professors, Father Taryn Whittington and Father Joseph de Orbegozo, using a video conferencing software called Zoom. Seminarians in Wichita can join the virtual classroom with those two professors while Jamey Findling, Ph.D., teaches a virtual class from Wichita as well.
Gile said next semester he hopes to have another philosophy professor at Newman with fundraising help of the Diocese of Wichita to endow the position.
Worth the wait
Angela McCoy, academic advisor for the School of Business, played a key role in the exemption request process. At the time the request was being sent, McCoy was the administrative assistant in Academic Affairs. She said her role in the process was to do the initial research for exemption, gather documents, fill out forms and put all the pieces together.
“After the first exemption request was denied, Father Gile did the work of rewriting and creating curriculum so we could send in the second request,” said McCoy. “… the entire process of doing the research, gathering the information and changing the curriculum spanned from mid-June to late October.
“I was more than happy to help Father out (and) I was so happy to see that it went through the second time. I think it’s a wonderful thing and I’m so excited that it is happening.”
Gile was also very happy to hear the news and to have McCoy’s help.
“I am very grateful for all the work that Angela McCoy did on the exemption. We would not have this exemption if not for her. I worked on the course descriptions, on that side of it but it’s a very extensive process, and the documentation that had to be assembled was considerable, and she did all that.”
The Little Rock House of Formation program will be housed under the School of Catholic Studies at Newman University along with other outreach programs in Salina and Dodge City in Kansas and in Oklahoma City.
For more information about the School of Catholic studies, contact Gile at (316) 942-4291, ext. 2861.