Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy

Barry’s Bay, Ontario, Canada

Our Lady Seat of Wisdom was the only nonU.S. college included in the 2007 issue of The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College. We believed then, and still do, that it represents a faithful and surprising affordable option to American students who take advantage of its two- or three-year programs and transfer to complete their degree elsewhere—preferably at one of the other Newman Guide colleges. OLSW has much of the “born from the crisis” commitment that characterizes several other small, orthodox colleges in the United States. It also has a solid curriculum that allows Catholics to get a good three-year education before transferring to another college. It has a transfer history with a growing number of accredited colleges, including Christendom College, Franciscan University of Steubenville and Redeemer University College, a Christian university in Ontario. The academy grew out of a dream of homeschooling families for affordable Catholic higher education in this area of Ontario, a little more than two hours west of Ottawa in the Madawaska Valley. This institution was started so that area young people could receive an education without having to travel thousands of miles or spend large sums of money for higher education. It began in 1999 by offering a one-year program of courses in which a certificate was awarded. It later added two- and three-year certificate programs.

quick facts
Founded: 2000 Type of institution: Very small three-year academy Setting: Rural town Undergraduate enrollment: 60 full-time, 24 part-time (2008–09 academic year) Undergraduate cost: C$9,050 (tuition, room and board for 2009–10) Undergraduate majors: Five concentrations

five key Points
1. Solid Catholic liberal arts curriculum. 2. Awaiting Canadian accreditation, but has a good transfer relationship with other colleges. 3. It delivers a quality product at a very low cost. 4. The institution was designed to appeal to homeschooling families. 5. The spiritual life is rich and is celebrated in a strongly Catholic community.

The Newman Guide


Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy

The vision of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy is to award a four-year bachelor’s degree. The academy is actively preparing for accreditation and hopes to receive it within a few years. But for now, up to three years of credits can be transferred to other colleges. Due to provincial control of higher education, OLSWA is not allowed to call itself a college or university until it receives “degree-granting status,” which is the equivalent of regional accreditation in the United States. The academy’s president, Dr. David Warner, sees his role as “leading the academic community in the unending pursuit of excellence in Catholic higher education. Building upon our solid foundation of a well-conceived and academically rigorous curriculum, we are seeking new levels of integral human formation and institutional advancement in every area and program: academics, student life, extracurricular activities, chaplaincy, facilities, public relations, internal and external communications, development and so on.” The academy is located in a former convent on the grounds of St. Hedwig’s Parish in Barry’s Bay, overlooking a scenic lake and minutes from good skiing. It also uses parish space for additional classroom and dining facilities, and leases a number of local residences where students live together in small households. And in 2008 the academy purchased an adjacent building, St. Mary’s Hall, for classroom, library and administrative office space. It also bought its first house for use as a student residence.

For the 2008–2009 academic year, the academy enrolled 60 full-time and 24 parttime students. The ultimate goal is to have a student body of between 120 and 300. About one-third of the students have been homeschooled, and about 10 percent are American. These students pursue various certificates. They can receive a basic certificate after one year of study, an associate certificate after two years and a certificate of Christian humanities after three years. One may receive either a general certificate or one with a concentration in any of five areas. The very low cost is appealing. Tuition, room and board in 2009-10 cost students C$9,050; when converted to U.S. dollars, the price was only $8,317 as of August 2009. That can be further reduced by scholarships, “bursaries” (grants) and work-study opportunities.

A 14-member board of directors governs the academy. They are assisted by an academic senate, which shares the vision of a liberal arts education faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church. In addition, there is an advisory board, which includes local Catholic scholars, Dr. Scott Hahn and Dr. Stephen Miletic of Franciscan University of Steubenville, and Dr. Peter Kreeft of Boston College. The noted Catholic novelist and artist Michael O’Brien, a local resident and an original supporter of OLSWA, also served on the advisory board. The Newman Guide


Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy

From the Financial Aid Office
“OLSWA’s already affordable tuition and fees—roughly one-fifth to one-third of the cost of most U.S. Catholic colleges—are supplemented by scholarships, bursaries (grants) and work-study positions. “In 2009-2010, there will be two entrance scholarships of $1,000 each, a scholarship of $2,000 for a student entering into second year, a scholarship of $750 for a student who is noted for achievements both in the study of history and in pro-life work, a scholarship of $600 for a talented second-year music student and two $500 scholarships for students who have excelled both academically and in terms of their contribution to pro-life work. “A bursary of $1,000 will be awarded to a female student entering second year who has demonstrated good Christian character and who has financial need. “Roughly half a dozen work-study positions are available; these entail up to 10 hours a week for students in the areas of kitchen work, development, library work, administration and maintenance. As well, seven residence assistants and five proctors will be employed by OLSWA. “In general, OLSWA provides one of the most inexpensive ways of obtaining a high-quality, faithfully Catholic liberalarts education.” The academy also has an episcopal advisory board that includes Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto, Archbishop J. Michael Miller, C.S.B., of Vancouver, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J., of the Archdiocese of Ottawa, and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus The Newman Guide

Pearse Lacey of the Diocese of Toronto. Dr. Warner, who has experience in Catholic higher education both in the United States and internationally, was hired as the academy’s first full-time president in 2008.

Public Identity
The academy’s vision statement notes, “Under the mantle of Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, we will provide a vibrant Catholic liberal arts education that integrates faith and reason in all of its disciplines, embraces Divine Revelation and is rooted in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.” In his inaugural oath, Dr. Warner promised “to promote an exalted vision of Catholic higher education as summarized in Ex corde Ecclesiae” and to implement “the vision, mission, and goals of the Academy’s liberal arts formation program as contained in the foundational documents of the Board of Directors and the Academic Senate.” This commitment was reinforced in interviews with other representatives of the institution. John Paul Meenan, the founding director, said that the academy “seeks to provide a truly Catholic, liberal education, one which sets the mind ‘free’ from the shackles of ignorance, so that our students can integrate the truths of both faith and reason in seamless harmony.” And Dr. Christine Schintgen, chairman of the literature department and former interim director, added emphatically, “Our Catholic identity is absolutely essential and is our reason for existing. Nothing else is more important.” The academy also benefits from its relationship with the local bishop, who is recognized as the chief shepherd with oversight in matters of Catholic identity and mission. Bishop Michael Mulhall of Pembroke has been supportive in many ways, including appointing his delegate to the board to repre287

Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy

sent the diocese and meeting with Dr. Warner on a regular basis. In OLSWA’s promotional material, the bishop writes, “During my several visits to the Academy, I have been impressed by the faculty’s commitment to teach and love the truth and inspire this love in their students. The entire faculty professed their ‘Oath of Fidelity’ to the teaching Church in my presence.” The academy’s faithfulness is evident given past notable speakers, such as the Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, Archbishop Luigi Ventura; Archbishop Prendergast; and Father Leonard Kennedy, C.S.B., Ph.D., the author of How to Keep Your University Catholic, republished by The Cardinal Newman Society’s Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education in 2009.

All full-time and part-time faculty members are faithful Catholics. One faculty member said, “We have small classes, and students have so many opportunities to learn from their professors by asking questions, speaking with them after class, at lunch, etc.” The faculty members train students to think and learn in the Catholic intellectual tradition and to be able to transport their knowledge and credits to other colleges to successfully complete their work. Students who complete three years of academic work, taking 96 credits, qualify for 288

a Certificate of Christian Humanities. Students have transferred to Christendom College, Franciscan University of Steubenville and Ave Maria College, when it was in Michigan. In 2007 four students who had attended OLSWA graduated from Redeemer University College, about 250 miles away in Ancaster, Ontario. One instructor said, “I’ve never heard any student say they thought their years here were wasted, even though they may need to transfer to another school to receive a fouryear degree.” In the first year, students take year-long courses in Christian Doctrine, Church History, Introduction to Philosophy, Freshman Writing, Latin and either chorus or Liturgy for the Laity. In the second year, courses include two more in Scripture and two more in philosophy, including Thomistic Thought. Among other courses is intermediate Latin. Students can take electives and concentrate in five areas: liberal arts, literature, history, philosophy and theology. Among the courses that seem to be popular are Thomistic Thought and Magisterial Thought. In the course on the Magisterium, students read key Church documents. The academy has recently expanded its music offerings with the addition to the faculty of Maestro Uwe Lieflander, founder of Canada’s Sacred Music Society. In addition to directing the choir, he teaches ecclesiastical music, musical pedagogy, chorus

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Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy

and conducting. He also leads the Sparrows Children Choir, open to the local community, with academy students serving as teaching assistants.

Spiritual Life
The spiritual life revolves around St. Hedwig’s Parish across the street from the school building. Most of the students are reported to attend one of the normally-scheduled two daily Masses there. A weekly formal acade-

my Mass is complemented by the noon daily Masses which are also geared toward the academy. There also are two Sunday Masses and one Saturday Vigil Mass offered. Students are active in parish life, serving as readers, altar servers, members of the choir, participants in Wednesday evening Adoration and twice-weekly confessions. OLSWA students also join together for a pro-life Rosary and an annual Consecration to Mary made every fall at the campus grotto. In short, all reports underscore a vibrant prayer life on campus.

Message from the President
Dear Parents and Prospective Students: I am pleased to welcome you to one of Canada’s little-known secrets. Nestled in a beautiful region of lakes, forests and rolling hills, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy is celebrating its 10th anniversary. We offer an affordable opportunity to pursue academic excellence in a solidly Catholic environment. OLSWA has developed an outstanding educational program in the Catholic liberal arts tradition, with an emphasis in Thomistic theology and philosophy at the heart of our integrated curriculum. Our professors are committed to faithfulness to the Magisterium and to excellence in their fields. The quality of our program is complemented by a vibrant community life, where faith informs everything, and where you will be welcomed in your uniqueness and supported in your pursuit of holiness and truth. Students leave here with a deeper appreciation for the richness of our Catholic faith. They are equipped with the intellectual tools needed for lifelong learning and effective service to Church and society. I see the gift that OLSWA’s holistic educational formation is to our students. I encourage you to come and experience for yourself the deep freedom they enjoy which comes through learning the truth and discovering Truth Himself. Veritas vos liberabit! Yours in Christ, Dr. David B. Warner

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Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy

The academy arranges a couple of retreats each year, and it has invited nuns from religious communities to direct day-long, oncampus retreats on Saturdays. There are two pilgrimages each year, which have included one in the fall to St. Mary’s Church and Grotto, which is a two-and-one-half mile walk away in Wilno, Ontario, where the first Polish-Catholic settlers lived; and in the spring to The Martyr’s Shrine in Midland, Ontario. The academy is situated in a flourishing Catholic area of Ontario, where three towns with a strong Catholic presence are within a half-hour from Barry’s Bay. “This pocket of Catholicism,” according to one faculty member, “draws people from all parts of Canada.” One significant factor in this Catholic enclave is Madonna House in Combermere, about 20 minutes from Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy. This is a lay community (with priests) whose members take promises of poverty, chastity and obedience while carrying out an apostolate of service to those in material and spiritual need. Madonna House, which draws visitors from Canada and abroad, was founded by Catherine Doherty, a 20th-century Russian-born aristocrat who aided the poor both in the United States and Canada. In 2009, the academy’s graduate Mass celebrant and homilist was Father David May, director general of priests for the Madonna House apostolate. Father also typically celebrates a Mass every Monday at 5 p.m. on

campus, followed by a special dinner where the whole academic community is invited. A full-time chaplain is currently being sought, subject to the bishop’s approval and appointment.

Residential Life
Most students live in five single-sex residence houses. In the 2008-2009 academic year, the houses were named for St. Anne, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Cecelia, St. Paul and St. Therese of Lisieux. Each household has eight to 12 students along with one residence assistant and a proctor, who are older students. Meals are provided at St. Hedwig’s parish. Chastity is encouraged through these households. There are strict and clear guidelines regarding times and rooms for opposite-sex visitations in the houses. A “modest” dress code is enforced on campus and a business dress code applies for classes. There also are women’s nights and men’s nights, when students gather with others of their gender to discuss topics of interest and also to enjoy each other’s company. The idea, we are told, is for them to grow and mature in their femininity and masculinity in healthy ways. All students have chores assigned on a regular basis. These include such duties as helping with the dinner dishes, sweeping the floors and shoveling snow. Students spend three or four hours a week in this service.


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Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy

Student Activities
There are not many student organizations, given the small size of the academy. One is the Don Bosco Drama Club, which performed The Tempest in 2009. Another active group is the Paul Sander and Janine Lieu Pro-Life Club, named for two students who drowned in 2008. The club purchased a statue in their memory, and members also continue their involvement in pro-life activities in the community and in Ottawa. The student body elects a Student Activities Council every year to plan monthly social events such as the Winter Formal and other dances, movie nights and field trips. Every week there is a regular sports night at a local gym, followed by playing hockey. New organizations form every year based on interest, and many informal social activities are student initiated. The households are an important part of the student life program. The houses have monthly house nights and regular prayer time interwoven into their daily lives. One instructor said, “Because we are so small, we are like a family,” and many of the activities reflect that.

century, and their descendents and other ethnic Catholics make up a majority of the 1,200 residents. The area is lovely, scenic and clean. The main industries are lumber and tourism, but agriculture also plays an important role. Among local points of interest is a park dedicated to Janusz Zurakowski, a Canadian aviator and hero. St. Francis Memorial Hospital is located in the town. There are no significant airports nearby; Americans flying to Barry’s Bay are likely to use Ottawa International Airport, a two and one-half-hour drive away, or Toronto Pearson International Airport—Canada’s most important airport—four hours away. Route 17, known as the Trans-Canada Highway, is located an hour from the town.

The Bottom Line
We are pleased to recommend Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy as an option for faithful Catholics. This small institution, committed to its motto of Veritas vos Liberabit (“The Truth will set you free”), provides a wonderful curriculum at a breathtakingly low cost. This academy can help students get acclimated to college life, strengthen their faith and then move on to another solid Catholic college to finish their studies. The opportunity is enhanced by the beauty of studying in this rich Ontario valley. This is an option that should not be overlooked. 291

The Community
Barry’s Bay is known as the “Polish Capital of Canada.” Kashubian people from north-central Poland founded the town in the mid-19th

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