Conference Success! Summary and Imagery from the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Conference

A note from the organizer: There are MANY people who attended that conference who have now had their first taste of a conference of Catholic scholars of all disciplines—and who have found that first experience truly enriching and eye-opening. I think we somehow managed to hit a "sweet spot" with the conference.
On the numbers: we had between 125 and 130 people present for the keynote. The full conference day drew 95-100 people (some people could not make it in the morning, but showed up for lunch and for the afternoon sessions). As we know, the banquet was a real party!

Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Canada Conference - October 15, 2023
The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly: Catholic Realism in a Postmodern World
Conference Description - We live in a destabilized world, one in which the claims of postmodernism have attempted to destroy the logos— language, reason, history, a coherent anthropology, and indeed truth itself—and the Logos—the incarnate Word in the person of Christ. This conference aims to explore the manifold ways in which Catholicism provides a counter to postmodern error and contains within itself an approach to realism that can help mediate even its own internal struggles.

Greetings and welcome, members and friends of the Fellowship,

It is an honour and a pleasure to welcome you to the annual Conference of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars (Canada). For those of you who are new to the Fellowship, I want to share a few facts about us. We are an independent chapter of the American Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, and currently the only external chapter, after small chapters in Ireland and Australia ceased to operate. Many of our members hold joint memberships with the U.S. chapter, and, in 2019, we hosted the first joint meeting of the two chapters in Montréal.

The Conference theme this year is “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Catholic Realism in a Postmodern World”. One cannot contemplate the daily news without becoming aware of the bad and the ugly in the contemporary world, but the rational, humane, and realistic teaching of the Catholic Church is a powerful force for good.

On behalf of our Board of Directors, I would like to thank President Carl Still and St Thomas More College and the Most Reverend Bishop Mark Hagemoen and the Diocese of Saskatoon for their generous support of our Conference. We also thank Dr Celene Sidloski, who has played a critical role as the local organizer, building a team of volunteers who, I believe, will make this year’s Conference one of the most interesting and broadly based meetings we’ve had.

If you are not yet a member of the Fellowship, I invite you to join us. In addition to this annual Conference, we publish an interdisciplinary semi-annual journal, Fidelitas, which features original scholarly articles, essays and ad dresses, book reviews – and even the occasional poem – from Catholic scholars who are faithful (hence, the name) to the magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church.

Our annual Conferences are not merely academic exercises; rather, they are an opportunity for fellowship, friendship, the exchange of ideas, and mutual support of those who, like St Anselm, believe that true scholarship is a matter of “faith seeking understanding”. You will learn as much from each other outside the formal sessions as you will within them. That is the essence of what it means to be a Fellowship, and I hope that you will experience the affirmation and intellectual and spiritual uplift that is our mission.

Robert Nicholas Berard, Ph.D. - President, Fellowship of Catholic Scholars (Canada)

On behalf of our conference host, Rebuilding Catholic Culture, I welcome all of you to this gathering of Catholics who, in friendship and the shared love of Christ, have come to this event to explore the truth, beauty, and goodness offered by the Catholic intellectual tradition. Although it may not seem to be so, it’s a wonderful time to be Catholic. We can see the difficulties: we live in a Western world living off the fumes of those who kept the faith in the past and sanctified the world through their virtue. It appears that we are fighting a battle with an invisible enemy—no wonder if we are anxious! However, with the grace of God, we are called to share in the task of restoring the soil by what means are given to us, so that we may participate in a “culture” that, beginning in God, also turns to God always as its true end. Our endeavor this weekend is offered in just this spirit.
Pax Christi, Dr. Celene Sidloski (Director, Rebuilding Catholic Culture)

What is Rebuilding Catholic Culture?

Rebuilding Catholic Culture is an unincorporated local Saskatchewan initiative dedicated to the renewal and rebuilding of Catholic culture. RCC desires to reflect upon the riches of our Catholic heritage, from its magisterial teaching, to the beauty of liturgy, to the Catholic imagination manifested in art and litera ture. Our projects spring from our intention to joyfully proclaim the good news of the Church, and to remind our audience of where and how to grasp this good ness—mindful always of the obstructions posed to faith by the growth of secu larism. The goals of our group are fourfold:

1) to inspire all Catholics to renew their commitment to the Faith, and to make this renewed commitment visible in their homes and families;
2) to remind Catholics of the many sources of Catholic wisdom that they may access in fortifying this faith;
3) to help restore and re-articulate a Catholic vision that many Catholics have never witnessed;
4) to employ the Catholic intellectual and artistic tradition in all its forms as a convincing witness to the purpose, beauty, and meaning of human life.
***Our events are hosted by volunteers, and we rely on the counsel of many priests and devout Catholics in our community.

Friday, October 20 (St. Paul’s Hall)
6:30 pm Wine and Cheese
7:30 pm Keynote Address Fr. Stefano Penna—“Stuttering Siren and Penitential Pope: A Drama of the Ugly”
Saturday, October 21 (St. Paul’s Hall)
8:00 am Continental Breakfast (Coffee, fruit, and muffins) 8:45 am-10:45 Paper Session 1: The Ugly?
Dr. Paul Flaman—“Gender Theory, Persons Who Identify as Transgender, and Catholic Teaching”
Mr. Clement Ng—“Meeting the Challenge of the Sexual Revolution’s Third Wave: Sexual Difference and the Ordering of Nature”
Dr. Charles Robertson—“Newman, Liberalism, and the Great Apostasy”
11am-noon Young Scholars’ Section
Mr. Luca Castronova (Wyoming Catholic College)— Physics, After God: The Quest for Certainty in a Cause less World”
Mr. Victor Carpay (Newman Theological College)— Patience: What Makes Submission to Divine Wisdom Possible
Mr. Kolya Sidloski (Wyoming Catholic College)— The Poet, the Preacher, and the Party Boy: Reordering the Disordered State
Mr. Julian Kwasniewski (Wyoming Catholic College)—“What Heart Heard of, Ghost Guessed”
12 pm Lunch
1pm Paper Session 2: The Bad?
Dr. Donald Graham (St. Augustine Seminary, Toronto)—“Postcards from the Past: On the Truth of Revelation”
Dr. John Liptay (St. Thomas More College, Saskatoon)—“Towards Answering and Resisting the Claims of the ‘End of Ethics’ Program”
Dr. Celene Sidloski (St. Thomas More College, Saskatoon)—“The Prosthetic Preference and the Flight from the Real”
2:45 pm Coffee Break
3:00 pm—4:30 Paper Session 3: The Good?
Mr. Tomas Rochford—“A Pearl on the Prairie: Building a Small-Town Church with the Mind of the Church”
Mr. Mark Doerksen (St. Thomas More College, Saskatoon)—“The Seed of Reality: The Theory of the Medieval Narrative Frame”
Dr. Ryan Topping (Newman Theological College, Edmonton)—"12 Findings on Priestly Vocations: Highlights from New Canadian Research”
4:45 pm Mass (St. Paul’s)
6:00 pm Transport to Our Lady of Good Success Hall 6:15 pm Cocktails and Social
7:00 pm Banquet (catered by YXE Foodies) followed by entertainment

Born and raised in Saskatoon –   Fr. Stephen Penna is a priest of the Diocese of Saskatoon Canada since 1986 - 37 blessed years! Sent to pursue higher studies, he received graduate degrees in philosophy and theology from The Toronto School of Theology, the Gregorian University in Rome, and Yale University; then he was “loaned” to the Archdiocese of Edmonton.

After working with undergraduates and teachers at St. Joseph College at the University of Alberta he moved to ad ministrative, development, and professorial work as Dean of Theology and Vice-President at Newman Theological College, as well as heading Newman's Benedict XVI Institute for the New Evangelization. His work in stewardship and development led him to found Vocatus – a movement for spiritual formation for business leaders. His work on critical issues arising from engaging contemporary culture has led him to travel extensively across North America as lecturer, workshop facilitator, consultant, retreat master, mission preacher, and animator of Catholic communities.
Called back by Bishop Mark Hagemoen, Fr. Penna is thrilled to be the Rector of St. Paul’s Co-Cathedral and formator of teachers and administrators of Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools. He also is the national chaplain for the Canadian Catholic School Trustees. His particular loves are his parents (still witnessing faithfully), nephews and nieces (twelve), grand-nephews and niece (seven), gardening, and pasta. His greatest joy? Serving the Eucharistic Lord as Priest.

Paul Flaman is a lay Catholic theologian who received his doctorate from the Pontifical

University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. He grew up on a farm North of Regina and
completed his undergraduate degree at St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon. He has
been teaching at St. Joseph's College, the University of Alberta, in Edmonton since
1983. He has also been married to his be loved Maggie since 1983. They have three young adult children and a nine-year old grandson. Paul now is a Professor Emeritus but he still continues to do some teaching, speaking and writing.
Gender Theory, Persons Who Identify as Transgender, and Catholic Teaching This paper considers “gender theory” and “transgender persons” in the light of some related Catholic teaching. While the popular media generally support gender ideology and presents stories of people who have transitioned there are also some persons who later were dissatisfied and detransitioned. Regarding related Catholic teaching, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997) devotes three sections to homosexuality but does not explicitly mention transgenderism. It does, however, affirm that every man and woman should accept his (her) sexual identity (n. 2333); and that directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations on innocent persons are against the moral law except when done for strictly therapeutic purposes (n. 2297). Part of what the Catechism says regarding homosexual persons is also relevant for transgender persons: “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of un just discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition” (n. 2358). A Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith letter to bishops (2000) states that sex-change procedures do not change a person’s gender in the eyes of the Church. In Laudato Si’ (2015) Pope Francis teaches that learning to respect the fullest meaning of one’s body is part of any genuine human ecology. In 2019 the Congregation for Catholic Education published a document related to dialogue on the question of gender theory. My paper also considers two other more recent related documents of the bishops of the United States and Scandinavia (2023); and presents a few related moral and pastoral points. According to some good recent scholarship, Catholic teaching both promotes full respect for transgender persons and is realistic in the light of human experience and empirical science.

Clement Ng lives in Saskatoon with his wife and two young sons. He holds a Master of Arts in Philosophy (University of Western Ontario, 2004) and a Master of Theological Studies (Wycliffe College at University of Toronto, 2023). He has been a political staffer in the Office of the Prime Minister (40th Parliament) and a research fellow at the Centre for Cultural Renewal. He is also a board member of the Saskatoon Pregnancy Options & Support Centre and a parishioner at St. Paul’s Co-Cathedral. As of fall 2023, he is an independent researcher, writer & coordinator.

Meeting the Challenge of the Sexual Revolution’s Current Wave: Sexual Difference and the Ordering of Nature

The latest phase of the sexual revolution has been more metaphysically disruptive than previous stages. For the second-wave feminists of the 1960s onwards, genders (manhood & womanhood) are social constructions that have subtly evolved under patriarchy, while sexes (male & female) are simply the biological realities that account for humanity’s dimorphism. By contrast, in the queer theory that has gained ground since the early 1990s, the sexed body is not considered any more natural than conventional gender roles. What earlier feminists had taken for granted about women’s constitution – that women are adult, biological females – is itself a product of social conditioning in a predominantly ‘binary’ and heterosexual culture. For the newer, post-second wave theorists, nothing about the sexed human form is decisive for the way one ought to live. Central instead is gender identity, one’s sense of being a man or woman or neither. Given self-definition as the ultimate norm, gender must be, not fundamentally binary, but endlessly fluid. A bad metaphysics can only be challenged by a good metaphysics. Surprisingly, the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition has revived since the early 2000s and it has the resources for defending a renewed gender and sex real ism. I argue for applying two principles: (1) natural teleology, that the human person, both mind and body, is intrinsically directed towards some ends and not others, and (2) natural normativity, that the good for the human lies in achieving those ends it has by nature. Because humanity has a generative end and the reproductive power is asymmetrically divided, sex is indeed dimorphic. This is no mere ‘biological fact’, however, for procreation and nurture are perfected only as the two sexes embrace each other as ‘different’ others. Sexual difference is two unique modes of rational and free being that open up towards one another and gender is the ‘living out’ of the truth about one’s sex.

Charles Robertson earned his B. A. in Philosophy and M. A. in History at the University of Saskatchewan, and his M. A. and Ph. D. in Philosophy at the University of Saskatchewan. His research interests have been in Patristics, Catholic Ecclesiology, Bioethics, and Metaphysics, and some of his research in these areas has been published in The Thomist, Nova et Vetera, The Linacre Quarterly, The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, Studia Patristica, and The Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association. Dr. Robertson has taught at St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon, Newman Theological College in Edmonton, and Thomas Aquinas College in California. He lives with his wife and children in St. Denis, Saskatchewan, and is currently teaching at St. Therese Institute for Faith and Mission in Bruno, Saskatchewan.

Newman, Liberalism, and the Great Apostasy

In the “Biglietto Speech,” delivered on the occasion of his elevation to the Cardinalate in 1879, (St.) John Henry Newman spoke of a great apostasy engulfing the Christian world. This great apostasy was none other than the proliferation of the ideals of liberalism and their infiltration into the Christian understanding of authority, conscience, and the social order. Among these ideals Newman identifies certain theses that are taken quite for granted even by many Catholics of the present age, such as the thesis that “there are rights of conscience such that every one may lawfully advance a claim to profess and teach what is false and wrong in matters religious, social, and moral, provided that to his private conscience it seems absolutely true and right. Therefore, e.g. individu als have a right to preach and practise fornication and polygamy.” I propose to examine a few recent manifesta tions of this view of conscience, particularly in reference to debates surrounding the reception of Pope Francis’ Post-Synodal exhortation, Amoris laetitia, and its impact on our understanding of the nature of conscience.

Mr. Luca Castronova is a current student at Wyoming Catholic College, former student of chemistry and mathematics, and former pagan, who now aspires to live as Catholics should -- that is, in community founded in the pursuit of God with whole heart, mind, and body. As such, he enjoys speaking Latin, arguing about Plato, singing polyphony, stomping around the Wind River Range and resigning himself to ignorance of the finer details of the Gregorian chant rubrics. He has not done anything exceptionally note worthy, but he might someday.

Physics, after God: The Quest for Certainty in a Causeless World

In this paper I will examine the postmodern's response to his desire for certitude in knowledge of the natural order; that is, having rejected God qua first cause of his experience and therefore source of true unqualified scientific knowledge, he searches for certitude elsewhere, either positing man qua observer as first cause of experience; as do those who believe man, truly, is "the measure of all things;" or searching for certainty in material cause; as do the modern natural scientist and mathematical physicist, on their hunt for the "God particle" -- that, ultimately, certitude is unattainable in both these worldviews, and that man, if he wants any certainty at all, must begin his inquiry with faith in a first cause, entirely other from the world in which he finds himself.

Mr. Victor Carpay is 19 years old and be ginning his 2nd year of university at Newman Theological College for a Bachelor of Arts in Catholic Studies. Originally from Calgary, he is the oldest child in his family, being an older brother to three younger sisters. Prior to entering university, Victor attended boarding
school from Grade 8-10 at the Benedictine Abbey in Mission. From Grade 10-12 Victor did school online while working as a full time sales rep and eventually becoming Sales Manager to a team of four sales men. Victor spends a lot of free time volunteering for the pro-life cause and pro-life politicians.

Patience: What makes submission to divine wisdom possible

For Catholics today, Canada’s shift toward an anti-Christians tone and laws tends to evoke fear and its attendant fight-or-flight reactions, threatening to submerge thought altogether. The Christian who wishes to bring the West to the roots that made it great needs to act after thinking and asking God for wisdom. Tertullian, one of the great Church Fathers, suggests that Jesus is the "patient one." It is my aspiration in this talk to make clear the need for patience as the virtue which allows for wisdom to flourish. It is the virtue of patience that will pave the way as the Catholic Church's response to modern ism.

Mr. Kolya Sidloski, the second eldest of seven children, was born to the fine parents Robert and Leah
Sidloski. Classically homeschooled throughout his first eighteen years, Kolya fought, wept
over, and then fell in love with the liberal arts whose acquaintance he is currently dedicated to fostering as a Junior (third year) at Wyoming Catholic College. Kolya's interests include butchering chickens, surviving on grasshoppers, singing the Divine office on top of mountains, speaking latinly, speaking englishly, speaking excitedly, thinking, and reading.

The Poet, The Preacher, and The Party Boy: The Ladder of Goods Right-Side Up

Peeping out upon the postmodern terrain today, one descries a disintegrated society in which autonomous miserable individuals are frantically chasing after vain ends. Why such an atomization of our culture? This essay seeks to unpack postmodern man's disordered relation to the good as the cause for such a catastrophe. It will seek to expound the classical understanding of the good, principally
the place of the common good above the private good and how that good is achieved. Finally, it will argue that such a reordering of society to the common good, far from pulling man apart, will actually draw him back together so that community and culture can be reborn. It will answer why the poet, the preacher, and the party boy's vocation must be seized by every man for him to attain his final end.

Mr. Julian Kwasniewski - A musician, visual artist, and writer, Julian Kwasniewski works as assistant choir director and Marketing Coordinator at Wyoming Catholic College. His writings have appeared in numerous venues, including The National Catholic Register, Catholic World Report, The Catholic Thing, Crisis Magazine, Salvo Magazine, Latin Mass Magazine, and The European Conservative. You can find some of his artistic work on Etsy, YouTube, and Spotify.

What Heart Heard of Ghost Guessed

When various facets of reality and human experience are defended, it is important to remember that there are many modes of knowing. Not all problems are solvable via logical, discursive thinking. First principles are themselves unprovable, at least using discursive methods. Other modes of knowing, such as the intui tive, emotional, and sensory, must not be discounted in the search for truth and defense of traditional Catholic beliefs. Thus, traditional argumentation must be put in dialog with in sights from modern psychology, biol ogy, and sociology. Only then can the fullness of reality be effectively received and handed on to future gener ations.

Dr. Donald Graham is Associate Professor of Systematic and Pastoral Theology at St. Augustine’s Seminary in Toronto ON and a former member of the Editorial Board of Newman Studies Journal. He has studied in Canada, the USA, the UK, and holds undergraduate degrees in history (BA) and education (BEd) as well as graduate degrees in ministry (MA), theology (MA, STL) and Catholic
Studies (PhD). Dr. Graham has published in leading theological journals like Louvain Studies, Newman Stud ies Journal, Communio, and our fellowship journal Fidelitas, alongside several academic book chapters, and his monograph, From Eastertide to Ecclesia: John Henry Newman, the Holy Spirit, and the Church. Donald and his wife, Michèle, have been married for 36 years. They reside in Peterborough where they raised their six children and now happily are welcoming the visit of grandchildren!

Postcards from the Past: On the Truth of Revelation

Much ink has been spilled in the Francis pontificate regarding matters such as accompaniment, pastoral practice, listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit as a prerequisite dimension of dialogue, and openness to development of doctrine as elements essential to our journeying as a “synodal Church”. Though these ideas, practices, and realities have the potential to promote flourishing if properly discerned, understood and implemented, considerable anxiety exists, amongst other reasons, because of ambiguities of language, as well as the words/deeds of highly influential churchman which seem, or outrightly are, at odds with settled Catholic doctrine. A bright, red thread running through these conversations is how one implicitly or explicitly views the truth and reality of Revelation and its place in the Church. My talk draws a few, brief, lessons, especially, from conciliar history, to address some fundamental issues at play regarding Revelation in this synodal moment, which I present as ‘postcards from the past’, that is authoritative words of wisdom from our co religionists to us in this synodal moment.

John Liptay, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Acting Department Head of Religion and Culture at St. Thomas More College, received his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. He specializes in Thomas Aquinas’ moral philosophy and is interested in the development and extension of Aquinas’ thought in the work of Germain Grisez, John Finnis, and Joseph Boyle, and Bernard Lonergan’s “generalized empirical method.” Dr. Liptay has been a Visiting Scholar at Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford and recently co-edited, with Christopher Tollefsen, Natural Law Ethics in Theory and Practice: A Joseph Boyle Reader (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2020).

Towards Answering and Resisting the Claims of the ‘End of Ethics’ Program

American philosopher John D. Caputo argues that the postmodern situation in which we find ourselves calls for an ‘end of ethics.’ His scepticism about the ability of ethical theory to guide and inform human living is comprehensive and total, as all ethical theory is found to be defective. For, Caputo argues, it is no longer possible to vindicate the general schemata of ethics, in view of radical and widespread disagreement, nor, in any case, can such schemata illuminate the singular situation. Further, ethical theory’s fixation on duty is an impoverished way of conceiving our ethical responsibility and we should think, instead, of responding to the wholly other by means of gifts, in this way going far be yond duty’s limited call. But while Caputo’s concerns may tell against some ethical theories, they do not impugn the essential claims of natural law theory. Rather, the resources of natural law enable one to grasp that Caputo’s position proceeds by way of (1) fallacious reasoning, (2) reasoning that undercuts itself (insofar as it implicitly deploys what it explicitly rejects), and (3) dubious conceptions of singularities, the wholly other, and gifts. In short, not only is natural law theory not vulnerable to the criticisms of Caputo’s end of ethics proposal, it can better account for what his proposal seeks to affirm – including biblical ethics, which Caputo unconvincingly argues should be understood in terms of his end of ethics commitment. From both the standpoint of reason and revelation, accordingly, the Church’s teaching as to the reality of the natural moral law can resist the challenge of this postmodern ethics.

Dr. Celene Sidloski (B.Ed., B.A., M.A. (University of Saskatchewan)), Ph.D. (English,
U of T) teaches in the English and Interdisciplinary Studies Departments at St. Thomas More
College and in the Department of Linguistics in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan. She is also the founder and director of Rebuilding Catholic Culture, a
non-profit apostolate devoted to the exploration of the Catholic intellectual tradition through its
art, literature, philosophy, and theology.
 The Prosthetic Preference and the Flight from the Real

“Prosthesis” originally referred, in surgical terms, to an artificial replacement for a damaged or amputated part of the human body—an imperfect but necessary means of regaining functional 
wholeness. The term “prosthetic” has since come to signify, in a wider theoretical application, not only an artificial substitution for a natutral body part, but also any substitution or extension, technological or 
otherwise, of a natural human faculty. In cultural theory, the prosthetic is often regarded with great optimism, bearing the promise of infinite human perfectibility (Freud); neo-Marxist theorists are fascinated with the blurring of physical, conceptual, and linguistic boundaries occasioned by the ascendancy of the prosthetic in human life, ironically encouraging a not-so-new Gnosticism. The prosthetic has silently invaded contemporary culture at every level, and by default so many now exercise a preference in favor of a prosthetic aid over an uncompromised natural faculty.

With brief reference to the salutary contributions of writers such as Marshall McLuhan, Emily Dickinson, and Flannery O’Connor, this paper will examine the prosthetic in relation to the fact of the Incarnation, proposing that to habitually exercise a preference for the pros thetic is to implicitly consent to a withering-away of a natural faculty and, by extension, of the virtues that most ground us in reality. The paper will briefly invoke three levels at which we endanger human wholeness in our preference for the prosthetic—the physical/bodily, the rational, and the spiritual, and will propose the basic corrective for this encountered in Catholic thought.

Tomás Rochford is a full-time secondary Religion teacher of 15 years, as well as a part-time graduate student. Since 2016 he has served as vice-chair of his local parish’s building committee – a role that will come to an end at the completion of construction in summer 2024. In his leisure time he will be found reading, spending time with his wife and five children exploring rural southern Alberta, or playing all manner of sports with his family.

A Pearl on the Prairie? Building a Small Town Church with the Mind of the Church

Inspired by this year’s conference theme challenging us to offer Catholic realism in response to the bad and ugly of our contemporary culture, this paper will discuss one very tangible way that Catholics in a rural Alberta community are working to offer a coherent and beautiful rebuttal to the confusion and despair of post-modern moment: they are striving to build a new church that is practical and affordable, and yet also in continuity with Catholic architectural and aesthetic traditions. More specifically, the paper will re late the history of this unique project, which involves the renovation of an old IGA grocery store into a sim ple yet beautiful edifice; some of the internal and ex ternal hurdles that make such projects difficult in the contemporary period; and the practical necessity of formation in the Catholic theological and artistic traditions, as well as much “holy stubbornness,” if success in such endeavors is to be attained. More practical than theoretical in nature, the paper seeks to offer a humble example of seeking to incarnate the Logos in the material culture of a rural Alberta town. It is the author’s hope that this project may serve as a model for other Catholics, offering them hope that similar projects can be undertaken within the Canadian Church.

Mark Doerksen received his BA from the University of Saskatchewan in 2014, majoring in Classical, Medieval, and Renaissance Studies. Continuing this interdisciplinary focus, he received his MA in Medieval Studies from the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto in 2015 where he studied Latin, Old English, and Medieval Literature. In 2016 he enrolled in the PhD program in the Department of English at the University of Saskatchewan. His area of study includes Anglo Saxon eschatological texts and the theological implications of philology in Anglo-Saxon religious poetry. He is currently completing his dissertation under Saint Thomas More College's Dr. Michael Cichon on the philological relationship between Anglo-Saxon eschatological poetry, homiletics, and the Germanic mythological tradition. He also teaches as a sessional instructor for the University of Saskatchewan, as well as for St. Thomas More and St. Peter’s College.

The Seed of Reality: The Fractal Theory of the Medieval Narrative Frame

Unlike postmodern theory, medieval theories of interpretation were, primarily, constructive. Whereas the term “logocentric” may now be used pejoratively, it may, in fact, be deployed as a simple descriptor of ancient and medieval thought. Medieval, stemming from the Aristotelian, views of language were centered on the inherent connection between the inner word and the external word. In the medieval mind, man could accurately access reality via reason and express it in word. Moreover, both ancient and medieval thinkers saw man as a part of a hierarchy of being, all of which reflected the pattern of reality. Consequently, while medieval thinkers did see meaning, in texts and beyond texts, as multivalent, they still believed that there was a real truth to be grasped in things. This connection to the Logos inspired all their constructions of meaning. Such a Christocentric view of reality elevated what could otherwise, in some pagan contexts, be a purely naturalistic pattern of reality to a spiritual plain. Within the particular context of Anglo-Saxon England, and the fathers of church upon which their thought was based, it is clear that many medieval writers viewed reality, in literature, philosophy, and the ology, as a fractal structure, that is to say as a reiterated pattern of self similar structures, or ontological hierarchy, of which the best image is the tree, the tree of death from which the thorns of man’s bondage and Christ’s crown were formed, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil from which fallen man ate, the tree of life from which life springs, the tree of cross from which man mounts to heaven, the universal tree that encompasses all of fractal reality in one image of heaven and earth, saint and sinner, cross and crucified.

A native of Saskatoon, Canada, Dr. Topping earned an MA in Philosophy from the University of Manitoba as well as an M.Phil. and a Doctorate in Theology from the University of Oxford. He is Professor of Theology and serves as Director of the Benedict XVI Institute for the New Evangelization at Newman Theological College, in Edmonton, Canada, where he also previously served as Academic Dean. He has taught at Thomas More College in New Hampshire, held the Pope John XXIII Chair of Studies in Catholic Theology at St. Thomas University, Canada, and served in posts at Walsh University, in Ohio, and Thomas More College, in Saskatchewan. Dr. Topping has published on a variety of Catholic themes and figures, from St. Augustine, to Dante, to G.K. Chesterton in academic and popular journals such as First Things and The Catholic Regis ter. To date he has published ten books on Catholic culture and education, including Rebuilding Catholic Culture: How the Catechism Can Shape our Common Life (2012), The Case for Catholic Education (2015), Renewing the Mind: A Reader in the Philosophy of Catholic Education (2015), and The Elements of Rhetoric (2016). His latest book is Thinking as Though God Exists: Newman on Evangelizing the Nones (2023). Dr. Topping and his wife have ten children.

12 Findings on Priestly Vocations: Highlights from New Canadian Research

Based upon a novel, in-depth survey of new Canadian priests, this presentation outlines twelve key findings about the background, discernment, and semi nary formation of recently ordained priests in Canada. Uncovered are common elements that led to men hearing and answering the Lord’s call to a priestly vocation, including influences from everything to family, devotional practices, and spiritual reading.

Speakers—A special thank-you to Fr. Stefano Penna for his keynote lecture, and to those speakers who travelled here to make our conference a fuller conversation, especially those from Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Toronto, and Wyoming.


St. Thomas More College

Rebuilding Catholic Culture

The Diocese of Saskatoon

Anonymous Donor

Venue Providers—St. Paul’s Co-Cathedral and Our Lady of Good Success Hall (David and Laurice Sidloski)

Offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass—Fr. Andrew Wychucki Conference Teams

Planning Crew (members of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Canada Executive): Robert Berard, Patrick Redmond, Kent Donlevy, Christian Elia, John Liptay, Miriam Westen, and Celene Sidloski

Conference Day Volunteers—John Liptay, Maria Tucci, Anna Sidloski, Elisha Sidloski, Elena Sidloski, Mary Sidloski, Terese Sidloski, Briege Sidloski, Kolya Sidloski, Stephen Sidloski, Mark Doerkson, Charles Robertson, Christian Elia, Dominic Sidloski, Lawrence Sidloski, Thomas Topping, Joseph Topping, Francis Topping

Banquet Caterers: YXE Foodies (Andreas and Betina Gewers)

A warm thank-you to the many other people who have contributed in many ways to the success of this conference.