Our Lady Seat of Wisdom is faithfully Catholic, offers a strong liberal arts curriculum, and is surprisingly affordable for American students who take advantage of its one-, two- or three-year programs and go on to receive their degree at one of the partnering Newman Guide
Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, which grew out of a dream of homeschooling families for faithful and affordable Catholic higher education in Ontario, hopes soon to offer a three-year degree. OLSW expects to know whether or not it will be approved by the Ontario government soon.
Our Lady Seat of Wisdom has four academic and administrative buildings, located immediately adjacent to St. Hedwig’s Parish, which overlooks a scenic lake. It also uses parish space for dining and for an extra classroom. Students live together in small households in three purpose-built residences and in other leased residences in the local community.
With current enrollment at 108 students, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom’s goal is to have as many as 200 students. More than one-third of the students have been homeschooled, and about 16 percent are American.
Students can earn a Basic Certificate after one year of study, and an Associate Certificate after two years. At the end of three years, students may earn a general Certificate of Christian Humanities or one with a concentration in philosophy, theology, history, or literature.
A 15-member board of directors governs Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, assisted by an academic senate. The episcopal advisory board includes Thomas Cardinal Collins of Toronto, Archbishop J. Michael Miller, C.S.B., of Vancouver, and Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J., of Ottawa. Dr. Keith Cassidy, the president, is an historian who has taught at several Canadian universities and has written on several aspects of American history, most notably about the pro-life movement.
The very low cost is appealing. Tuition, room and board in 2014-15 cost students C$11,250, or about $10,300 USD. That can be further reduced by scholarships, “bursaries” (grants), and work-study opportunities.
In the first year, students take courses in Christian doctrine, Scripture, Western civilization, philosophy, essay writing, Classical literature, Latin and chorus. Upper-year students take a combination of electives and additional foundational courses, including Ethics, Survey of Literature, Shapers of Modern Thought, Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas, Introduction to Fine Arts, and Magisterial Thought, as well as introductions to lab sciences and mathematics.
Students may concentrate in any of four areas: literature, history, philosophy, and theology.
Catholic novelist and artist Michael D. O’Brien and his wife Sheila helped found OLSW. O'Brien serves as its artist- and writer-in-residence.
Our Lady Seat of Wisdom has had its credits accepted by Christendom College, the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ave Maria University, Northeast Catholic College, Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, and Campion College in Australia. OLSWA credits have also been accepted by colleges not in The Newman Guide, including Holy Cross College in Indiana, Redeemer University College in Hamilton, Ontario, and Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto. The latter two are nondenominational Christian colleges.
All full-time and part-time faculty members are faithful Catholics.
Students are spiritually active at the vibrant St. Hedwig Church and in prayer on campus. Many students attend one of the two daily Masses at the parish, and serve as readers, altar servers, and choir members. Many participate in Eucharistic Adoration. Another Catholic parish is nearby, offering additional daily Mass times.
A weekly formal Academy Mass is celebrated by the OLSW chaplains, with music provided by the OLSW choir. There also are two Sunday Masses, one Saturday Vigil Mass, and The Extraordinary Form is also provided at least once a month. Confession is available weekly at St. Hedwig and on campus.
Students are invited to join in a daily Rosary and Chaplet of Divine Mercy. An annual Consecration to Jesus through Mary is made every fall. There are men’s and women’s retreats each year, two pilgrimages, a Christian formation speaker series, and an annual Day of Recollection held early in the fall for the entire OLSW community. Some students have started an evangelization outreach and many enjoy Praise and Worship sessions.
Our Lady Seat of Wisdom’s chaplain is Fr. Zachary Romanowsky, a member of the nearby Madonna House Apostolate, who is assisted by Fr. Joseph Hattie, O.M.I. Students have the opportunity to meet with these priests throughout the week for spiritual direction, counseling and confession.
On-campus students live in single-sex residence houses. Each house has six to 15 students along with one residence assistant and a proctor, who are upper-class students. Meals are provided at St. Hedwig’s parish hall.
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.
Chastity is fostered, and there are clear guidelines regarding times for opposite-sex visitations in the houses. Intervisitation in the bedrooms is always forbidden. “Modest” dress is always expected on campus, and a professional dress code applies for classes.
All students are assigned regular chores for three to four hours a week. These include helping with the dinner dishes, sweeping the floors, and cleaning classrooms and common areas.
St. Francis Memorial Hospital is located in the town. There are no significant airports nearby; Americans are likely to use Ottawa International Airport, a two and one-half-hour drive away, or Toronto Pearson International Airport, which is four hours away. Route 17, known as the Trans-Canada Highway, is an hour’s drive from the town.
Campus clubs include the Don Bosco Drama Club, the Frassati Outdoors Club, Dance Club (swing), Praise and Worship Club, and the Paul Sanders and Janine Lieu Pro-Life Club, named in memory of two students.
Every year a large number of musically talented students come to campus. There are frequent informal musical events, as well as organized activities such as Schola, which includes members of the wider community.
Students elect a Student Activities Council every year to plan social events such as the Winter Formal and other dances, movie nights, and field trips. New organizations form each year based on interest, and many informal social activities are student-initiated.
A few times a week there are spontaneous sporting activities. Every week there is a regular sports night at a local gym (which includes soccer, volleyball, basketball, badminton, and weight lifting), followed by a hockey game at the local arena.
The Bottom Line
Our Lady Seat of Wisdom is an affordable yet high-quality 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 very low cost.
Our Lady Seat of Wisdom can help students get acclimated to college life and strengthen their faith before moving on to another solid Catholic college to finish their studies, but we hope Our Lady Seat of Wisdom is soon recognized as a full college, able to award bachelor’s degrees. The promise of this institution is enhanced by the beauty of studying in scenic rural Ontario. It’s an option worth serious consideration.