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Saint Paul prof plans spiritual mentorship program for 2014

The University of Ottawa Senate approved the creation of a new graduate program in contemplative theology and spiritual mentoring for U of O and Saint Paul University students at its Sept. 23 meeting.

This diploma is offered by the Senates of Saint Paul University and the U of O under the terms of the federation agreement between them.

Dr. Fabrice Blée, associate professor at Saint Paul and creator of the program.

“The program is a response to the problem of theology as a discipline lacking pertinence in Canadian and international universities,” said Dr. Fabrice Blée, associate professor at Saint Paul and creator of the  program.

The diploma is designed for students who have an interest in spirituality and want to have a greater understanding of its application in today’s society. Students with an undergraduate degree with specialization   in theology, psychology, health sciences, or a related discipline and 12 credits in spirituality are able to apply.

The Senate approved the program unanimously. Blée believes Saint Paul will be able to offer the program in September 2014 if accepted by the Government of Ontario and the Ontario Universities Council on  Quality Assurance.

Blée said the program will be offerred alternating between French and English from year to year. Each year will have a maximum of 15 students.

Blée said he had been thinking of creating the program for more than four years, and wondered whether theology had anything new to bring to other professions. In 2010, a committee composed of Blée  and  professors Denise Desrochers and Kevin Flynn. It was created to examine the needs in the field of spiritual mentorship and to plan a new program, along with five new courses specifically created for the program.

“This is a matter of making available the spiritual and contemplative riches of Christianity and to bring out the elements of discernment needed for spiritual mentorship,” Blée said.

The program responds to a growing social curiosity towards spirituality in the world of science, social studies, business, and health studies.

Blée said many people, whether they are Christians or of another faith, are seeking nourishing spiritual experiences. Based on growing interest, the program will offer an extensive background and further investigations into the spiritual self. The program will be concerned with analytical ability, respect for personal rights, and public safety within a spiritual environment.

“It is important to allow theology to enter into the debate and to take part in this newly emerging spiritual awareness,” Blée said.

A silent retreat offered by Saint Paul is part of the admission requirements, which Blée said makes the program unique and original. He said concentration and contemplation are essential to understand the relationship between religion and mentorship.

Students have already expressed interest in the program, and has 40 applicants.

Blée discussed possible cooperation with a Catholic research centre in Dijon, France and a Jesuit research centre in Washington, D.C.