Shortly after the board of directors was established, construction on the physical buildings began. A beautiful piece of land near Derwent, Alberta was donated for the purpose, and we began to remove the earth to prepare a foundation. At the same time, however, the conceptual foundation of the college had to be determined. What would be the essential outline of the college program? What pillars would it be based on? Most importantly, what would be the spiritual foundation and cornerstone for the whole college?
The dream for the college was a large one. On the one hand, we envisioned the college to aim at the revival of not only religious art, but all art. It would be a place for all Christian artists, and in fact for any artist who is seeking to drink deeply from the fountain of all true art. On the other hand, this universal vision had a problem inherent in it. To shape the spiritual foundation of the college to fit all Christians, or even all artists, meant it would have a very vague spiritual shape. After long consideration, it was at length unanimously decided that the college would be Catholic – that is, that the Catholic Faith in all its integrity would be the spiritual foundation of the college. The board chose St. John of Damascus as the patron saint of the college, and moved ahead with the conviction that our universal dream could become a reality on such a foundation.
Very suitably, during this time it started to become clear how important a part reason would have to play in the college program. Christ would be the guiding light of everything, but the students would rigorously cultivate their minds at the same time. The discipline of thinking would help students in developing their art, but also in understanding the faith and its relationship to that art. The students would attentively study the greatest books and greatest works of art in order to taste all of the original sources of inspiration for themselves. The roots of the college program would reach deeply into the fountain of living water, which is Christ, but at the same time would branch beautifully and drink from the thousands of little streams which flow from that one source.
The board articulated this vision by designating three pillars of the college’s program: Faith, Reason, and Art. We stepped back, and it seemed as if three large mountains stood on the horizon, which had existed side by side since the beginning of time. With the college’s spiritual foundation and essential pillars of the program in place, we were off to a great start.