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Our Lady Seat of Wisdom

Barry’s Bay, Ontario, Canada

Our Lady Seat of Wisdom was the only non-
U.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 quick facts
other small, orthodox colleges in the United Founded: 2000
States. It also has a solid curriculum that al- Type of institution: Very small three-year
lows Catholics to get a good three-year educa- academy
tion before transferring to another college. It Setting: Rural town
has a transfer history with a growing number Undergraduate enrollment: 60 full-time, 24
of accredited colleges, including Christen- part-time (2008–09 academic year)
dom College, Franciscan University of Steu- Undergraduate cost: C$9,050 (tuition, room
and board for 2009–10)
benville and Redeemer University College, a
Undergraduate majors: Five concentrations
Christian university in Ontario.
The academy grew out of a dream of
Five Key Points
homeschooling families for affordable Catho-
lic higher education in this area of Ontario, a 1. Solid Catholic liberal arts curriculum.
little more than two hours west of Ottawa in 2. Awaiting Canadian accreditation, but
the Madawaska Valley. This institution was has a good transfer relationship with
started so that area young people could re- other colleges.
ceive an education without having to travel 3. It delivers a quality product at a very
thousands of miles or spend large sums of low cost.
money for higher education. 4. The institution was designed to appeal
It began in 1999 by offering a one-year to homeschooling families.
program of courses in which a certificate was 5. The spiritual life is rich and is celebrat-
awarded. It later added two- and three-year ed in a strongly Catholic community.
certificate programs.

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Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy

The vision of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom For the 2008–2009 academic year, the
Academy is to award a four-year bachelor’s academy enrolled 60 full-time and 24 part-
degree. The academy is actively preparing for time students. The ultimate goal is to have a
accreditation and hopes to receive it within a student body of between 120 and 300. About
few years. But for now, up to three years of one-third of the students have been home-
credits can be transferred to other colleges. schooled, and about 10 percent are Ameri-
Due to provincial control of higher education, can.
OLSWA is not allowed to call itself a college These students pursue various certifi-
or university until it receives “degree-grant- cates. They can receive a basic certificate af-
ing status,” which is ter one year of study,
the equivalent of re- an associate certificate
gional accreditation after two years and a
in the United States. certificate of Christian
The academy’s humanities after three
president, Dr. David years. One may re-
Warner, sees his role ceive either a general
as “leading the aca- certificate or one with
demic community in a concentration in any
the unending pursuit of five areas.
of excellence in Cath- The very low cost
olic higher educa- is appealing. Tuition,
tion. Building upon room and board in
our solid foundation 2009-10 cost students
of a well-conceived C$9,050; when con-
and academically verted to U.S. dollars,
rigorous curriculum, the price was only
we are seeking new levels of integral human $8,317 as of August 2009. That can be further
formation and institutional advancement in reduced by scholarships, “bursaries” (grants)
every area and program: academics, student and work-study opportunities.
life, extracurricular activities, chaplaincy, fa-
cilities, public relations, internal and external
communications, development and so on.”
The academy is located in a former con-
A 14-member board of directors governs the
vent on the grounds of St. Hedwig’s Parish
academy. They are assisted by an academic
in Barry’s Bay, overlooking a scenic lake and
senate, which shares the vision of a liberal
minutes from good skiing. It also uses parish
arts education faithful to the teachings of the
space for additional classroom and dining
Catholic Church.
facilities, and leases a number of local resi-
In addition, there is an advisory board,
dences where students live together in small
which includes local Catholic scholars, Dr.
households. And in 2008 the academy pur-
Scott Hahn and Dr. Stephen Miletic of Fran-
chased an adjacent building, St. Mary’s Hall,
ciscan University of Steubenville, and Dr. Pe-
for classroom, library and administrative of-
ter Kreeft of Boston College. The noted Catho-
fice space. It also bought its first house for use
lic novelist and artist Michael O’Brien, a local
as a student residence.
resident and an original supporter of OLSWA,
also served on the advisory board.

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Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy

Pearse Lacey of the Diocese of Toronto.
From the Dr. Warner, who has experience in
Catholic higher education both in the United
Financial Aid Office
States and internationally, was hired as the
academy’s first full-time president in 2008.
“OLSWA’s already affordable tuition and
fees—roughly one-fifth to one-third of the
cost of most U.S. Catholic colleges—are Public Identity
supplemented by scholarships, bursaries
(grants) and work-study positions. The academy’s vision statement notes,
“Under the mantle of Our Lady, Seat of Wis-
“In 2009-2010, there will be two entrance
dom, we will provide a vibrant Catholic lib-
scholarships of $1,000 each, a scholarship
eral arts education that integrates faith and
of $2,000 for a student entering into sec-
reason in all of its disciplines, embraces Di-
ond year, a scholarship of $750 for a stu-
vine Revelation and is rooted in the teachings
dent who is noted for achievements both
of the Roman Catholic Church.”
in the study of history and in pro-life
In his inaugural oath, Dr. Warner prom-
work, a scholarship of $600 for a talented
ised “to promote an exalted vision of Catholic
second-year music student and two $500
higher education as summarized in Ex corde
scholarships for students who have ex-
Ecclesiae” and to implement “the vision, mis-
celled both academically and in terms of
sion, and goals of the Academy’s liberal arts
their contribution to pro-life work.
formation program as contained in the foun-
“A bursary of $1,000 will be awarded to a dational documents of the Board of Directors
female student entering second year who and the Academic Senate.”
has demonstrated good Christian charac- This commitment was reinforced in in-
ter and who has financial need. terviews with other representatives of the
institution. John Paul Meenan, the founding
“Roughly half a dozen work-study posi- director, said that the academy “seeks to pro-
tions are available; these entail up to 10 vide a truly Catholic, liberal education, one
hours a week for students in the areas of which sets the mind ‘free’ from the shackles
kitchen work, development, library work, of ignorance, so that our students can inte-
administration and maintenance. As well, grate the truths of both faith and reason in
seven residence assistants and five proc- seamless harmony.”
tors will be employed by OLSWA. And Dr. Christine Schintgen, chairman
of the literature department and former in-
“In general, OLSWA provides one of the terim director, added emphatically, “Our
most inexpensive ways of obtaining a Catholic identity is absolutely essential and is
high-quality, faithfully Catholic liberal- our reason for existing. Nothing else is more
arts education.” important.”
The academy also benefits from its re-
The academy also has an episcopal advi- lationship with the local bishop, who is rec-
sory board that includes Archbishop Thomas ognized as the chief shepherd with oversight
Collins of Toronto, Archbishop J. Michael in matters of Catholic identity and mission.
Miller, C.S.B., of Vancouver, Archbishop Ter- Bishop Michael Mulhall of Pembroke has
rence Prendergast, S.J., of the Archdiocese been supportive in many ways, including ap-
of Ottawa, and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus pointing his delegate to the board to repre-

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Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy

sent the diocese and meeting with Dr. Warner a Certificate of Christian Humanities. Stu-
on a regular basis. dents have transferred to Christendom Col-
In OLSWA’s promotional material, the lege, Franciscan University of Steubenville
bishop writes, “During my several visits to and Ave Maria College, when it was in Michi-
the Academy, I have been impressed by the gan. In 2007 four students who had attended
faculty’s commitment to teach and love the OLSWA graduated from Redeemer Universi-
truth and inspire this love in their students. ty College, about 250 miles away in Ancaster,
The entire faculty professed their ‘Oath of Ontario.
Fidelity’ to the teaching Church in my pres- One instructor said, “I’ve never heard
ence.” any student say they thought their years here
The academy’s faithfulness is evident were wasted, even though they may need to
given past notable speakers, such as the Ap- transfer to another school to receive a four-
ostolic Nuncio to Canada, Archbishop Luigi year degree.”
Ventura; Archbishop Prendergast; and Father In the first year, students take year-long
Leonard Kennedy, C.S.B., Ph.D., the author of courses in Christian Doctrine, Church His-
How to Keep Your University Catholic, repub- tory, Introduction to Philosophy, Freshman
lished by The Cardinal Newman Society’s Writing, Latin and either chorus or Liturgy
Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Edu- for the Laity.
cation in 2009. In the second year, courses include two
more in Scripture and two more in philoso-
phy, including Thomistic Thought. Among
Academics other courses is intermediate Latin. Students
can take electives and concentrate in five ar-
All full-time and part-time faculty members
eas: liberal arts, literature, history, philosophy
are faithful Catholics. One faculty mem-
and theology.
ber said, “We have
Among the
small classes, and
courses that seem
students have so
to be popular are
many opportuni-
Thomistic Thought
ties to learn from
and Magisterial
their professors by
Thought. In the
asking questions,
course on the Mag-
speaking with them
isterium, students
after class, at lunch,
read key Church
The faculty
The academy
members train stu-
has recently ex-
dents to think and
panded its music
learn in the Catholic
offerings with the
intellectual tradi-
addition to the fac-
tion and to be able
ulty of Maestro
to transport their
Uwe Lieflander,
knowledge and credits to other colleges to
founder of Canada’s Sacred Music Society. In
successfully complete their work.
addition to directing the choir, he teaches ec-
Students who complete three years of
clesiastical music, musical pedagogy, chorus
academic work, taking 96 credits, qualify for

288 The Newman Guide
Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy

and conducting. He also leads the Sparrows my Mass is complemented by the noon daily
Children Choir, open to the local community, Masses which are also geared toward the
with academy students serving as teaching academy. There also are two Sunday Masses
assistants. and one Saturday Vigil Mass offered.
Students are active in parish life, serv-
ing as readers, altar servers, members of the
Spiritual Life choir, participants in Wednesday evening
Adoration and twice-weekly confessions.
The spiritual life revolves around St. Hed-
OLSWA students also join together for a
wig’s Parish across the street from the school
pro-life Rosary and an annual Consecration
building. Most of the students are reported
to Mary made every fall at the campus grot-
to attend one of the normally-scheduled two
to. In short, all reports underscore a vibrant
daily Masses there. A weekly formal acade-
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

OLSWA has developed an outstanding educational program in the Catholic liberal arts tra-
dition, 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 re- campus, followed by a special dinner where
treats each year, and it has invited nuns from the whole academic community is invited. A
religious communities to direct day-long, on- full-time chaplain is currently being sought,
campus retreats on Saturdays. There are two subject to the bishop’s approval and appoint-
pilgrimages each year, which have included ment.
one in the fall to St. Mary’s Church and Grot-
to, which is a two-and-one-half mile walk
away in Wilno, Ontario, where the first Pol-
Residential Life
ish-Catholic settlers lived; and in the spring
Most students live in five single-sex residence
to The Martyr’s Shrine in Midland, Ontario.
houses. In the 2008-2009 academic year, the
The academy is situated in a flourishing
houses were named for St. Anne, St. Catherine
Catholic area of Ontario, where three towns
of Siena, St. Cecelia, St. Paul and St. Therese of
with a strong Catholic presence are within a
Lisieux. Each household has eight to 12 stu-
half-hour from Barry’s Bay. “This pocket of
dents along with one residence assistant and
Catholicism,” according to one faculty mem-
a proctor, who are older students. Meals are
ber, “draws people from all parts of Canada.”
provided at St. Hedwig’s parish.
One significant factor in this Catholic
Chastity is encouraged through these
enclave is Madonna House in Combermere,
households. There are strict and clear guide-
about 20 minutes
lines regarding
from Our Lady
times and rooms
Seat of Wisdom
for opposite-sex
Academy. This
visitations in the
is a lay commu-
houses. A “mod-
nity (with priests)
est” dress code is
whose members
enforced on cam-
take promises of
pus and a business
poverty, chastity
dress code applies
and obedience
for classes.
while carrying out
There also are
an apostolate of
women’s nights
service to those in
and men’s nights,
material and spiri-
when students
tual need. Madon-
gather with others
na House, which
of their gender to
draws visitors
discuss topics of
from Canada and
interest and also to
abroad, was founded by Catherine Doherty,
enjoy each other’s company. The idea, we are
a 20th-century Russian-born aristocrat who
told, is for them to grow and mature in their
aided the poor both in the United States and
femininity and masculinity in healthy ways.
All students have chores assigned on a
In 2009, the academy’s graduate Mass
regular basis. These include such duties as
celebrant and homilist was Father David May,
helping with the dinner dishes, sweeping the
director general of priests for the Madonna
floors and shoveling snow. Students spend
House apostolate. Father also typically cel-
three or four hours a week in this service.
ebrates a Mass every Monday at 5 p.m. on

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Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy

Student Activities century, and their descendents and other eth-
nic Catholics make up a majority of the 1,200
There are not many student organizations, residents. The area is lovely, scenic and clean.
given the small size of the academy. One The main industries are lumber and tourism,
is the Don Bosco but agriculture
Drama Club, which also plays an
performed The Tem- important role.
pest in 2009. Anoth- Among local
er active group is points of interest
the Paul Sander and is a park dedi-
Janine Lieu Pro-Life cated to Janusz
Club, named for Zurakowski, a
two students who Canadian avia-
drowned in 2008. tor and hero.
The club purchased St. Francis
a statue in their Memorial Hos-
memory, and mem- pital is located
bers also continue in the town.
their involvement There are no sig-
in pro-life activities nificant airports
in the community nearby; Ameri-
and in Ottawa. cans flying to
The student body elects a Student Activi- Barry’s Bay are
ties Council every year to plan monthly social likely to use Ottawa International Airport, a
events such as the Winter Formal and other two and one-half-hour drive away, or Toron-
dances, movie nights and field trips. to Pearson International Airport—Canada’s
Every week there is a regular sports night most important airport—four hours away.
at a local gym, followed by playing hockey. Route 17, known as the Trans-Canada High-
New organizations form every year based on way, is located an hour from the town.
interest, and many informal social activities
are student initiated. The Bottom Line
The households are an important part
of the student life program. The houses have We are pleased to recommend Our Lady Seat
monthly house nights and regular prayer of Wisdom Academy as an option for faithful
time interwoven into their daily lives. One Catholics. This small institution, committed
instructor said, “Because we are so small, we to its motto of Veritas vos Liberabit (“The Truth
are like a family,” and many of the activities will set you free”), provides a wonderful cur-
reflect that. riculum at a breathtakingly low cost.
This academy can help students get ac-
The Community climated to college life, strengthen their faith
and then move on to another solid Catholic
Barry’s Bay is known as the “Polish Capital of college to finish their studies. The opportu-
Canada.” Kashubian people from north-cen- nity is enhanced by the beauty of studying in
tral Poland founded the town in the mid-19th this rich Ontario valley. This is an option that
should not be overlooked.

The Newman Guide 291
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