In September, the Faculty of Religious Studies and Philosophy of the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) welcomed about a dozen new students. Amongst the new pupils there are male and female candidates, both for priesthood and religious life, hailing from Myanmar, Vietnam, East Timor and even the European continent, Father Cyril Law told O Clarim. Father Law, chancellor of the Diocese of Macau, became the new dean of the institution in early May.
Congregations and organizations such as the Society of the Divine Word, the Dominican Order and the Neocatechumenal Way are still among the largest providers of students to the Faculty of Religious Studies and Philosophy, Father Law confirms.
“At the moment, the main bodies supplying seminarian students to the faculty are the Diocese of Macau, the Dominicans of the Holy Rosary Province, Redemptoris Mater College, under the care of the Neocatechumenal Way and the Society of the Divine Word,” the Hong Kong-born priest explained.
“Of course, there are also the female religious novices from the Dominican Sisters that make up a major proportion of the faculty’s student body. All in all, around a dozen new brothers and sisters are expected to arrive to begin their studies with us in Macau. They come from Myanmar, East Timor, Vietnam and Europe,” Father Law added.
Candidates for priesthood and religious life are, obviously, the life-blood of the faculty, but the institution is keen on attracting lay – or even non-Catholic – students willing to broaden their capacity to argue and to think critically. Led by Father Edmond Eh, the school’s Department of Philosophy will revive, starting from September, its Bachelor of Philosophy, with a greater emphasis on the history of critical thinking in Western Europe and in the East Asia region, where Macau is located. “The daytime Bachelor of Philosophy program started back in 2009, when it operated under the direction of the Humanities Faculty in the university. It is worth noting that the School of Christian Studies, now renamed the Faculty of Religious Studies and Philosophy, once offered, at around the same time, a two-year evening diploma in philosophy, taught in Cantonese and Mandarin,” the new dean recalled. “We have on record seven students who completed the daytime bachelor program, with another half a dozen who completed the diploma course. As for the Master of Philosophy program, we have fourteen graduates so far,” the chancellor of the Diocese of Macau revealed.
New Master’s program to be launched
So far, five candidates – most of whom are local Macau residents – expressed their interest in enrolling in the Bachelor of Philosophy program. The new dean of the Faculty of Religious Studies and Philosophy believes that the program offered by the institution offers any interested parties the opportunity to learn how to think both more broadly and more correctly.
“Perhaps it would be more pertinent to say that modern sensitivity is more prone to criticise, rather than to think critically; to protest for a cause, rather than to ponder the causes. The intellectual foundation which the study of philosophy helps to build in one’s mind is the ability to make authentic and meaningful connections – to think ‘enlargedly’ and ‘correctly’ and not just ‘deeply,’ in a nutshell,” Father Law explained.
“This program is open to all wishing to pursue a first degree or to acquire a second bachelor’s degree in philosophy. It especially aims at those students who appreciate that our program offers wide ranging modules covering the classical to modern languages, historiography, interculturality and ethical values. This year we have five applicants to the Bachelor of Philosophy program. One hails from Vietnam and the others are local high school graduates of varied ethnicities and educational backgrounds. There are a couple of students from other majors and even other universities considering switching to our philosophy programme as well,” the dean of the Faculty of Religious Studies and Philosophy of the University of Saint Joseph said.
The revival of the daytime program of the Bachelor of Philosophy is not the only novelty in the faculty’s portfolio for the new academic year. The university, Father Cyril Law told O Clarim, will soon remodel the Bachelor in Christian Studies and launch a new Master of Catholic Studies as early as next spring.
“Typically, eight students make up a good class number, but one of the interesting features of our Bachelor of Philosophy program is that it shares a good number of modules with the foundational year of the Bachelor of Christian Studies, which will soon be revamped to became the Bachelor of Theology + Master of Divinity program. This means that the first year philosophy students will take classes together with our students majoring in theology,” Father Cyril Law pointed out.
“The Master of Catholic Studies program is expected to begin recruitment in spring 2024. It will be a two-year evening and weekend program offered in Chinese. This should satisfy the yearnings of many local Chinese-speaking faithful who would benefit from having an advanced degree in Catholic Studies, either for academic interest or for ministerial purposes,” the chancellor of the Diocese of Macau and Saint Lawrence’s parish priest concluded.
The revived Bachelor of Philosophy program is expected to prepare students “to investigate the great perennial questions in the philosophical traditions of the West and the East,” the University of Saint Joseph writes on its website. The Bachelor of Philosophy program empowers students to explore questions of humanity that have relevance in all times and places and teaches them how to think carefully about the ideas and assumptions basic to understandings of life and our own place in the universe.