SMC One: The Gilson Seminar in Faith and Ideas

St. Michael’s College offers first-year students the chance to join an exciting seminar that explores the intersection of the Christian faith with some of today’s most important questions.

For the academic year 2024–25, the Gilson Seminar will also be open to second-year students. 

The Seminar consists of two half-courses, each featuring lectures, small-group discussions, and guest speakers. The Seminar is taught by Dr. Michael O’Connor, a professor in the College’s Christianity and Culture program and current holder of the Bennett Family Chair in Christianity and the Arts.

  • Why should I enroll?

    The Gilson Seminar introduces you to university-level studies on a small scale, with students who share an interest in international experience and in the relationship between ideas, art, and the Christian faith.

  • What are the courses?

    Here’s a look at the two half-courses:

    Fall 2024: The Gilson Seminar in Faith and Ideas

    This course will explore questions related to Christianity and ecology, science, literature, the arts, and politics. The course features a weekly lecture on a major topic and a small tutorial in which you will have a chance to explore the subject in greater depth. Throughout this course, you will have a chance to read, reflect, discuss, and write. You will receive 0.5 course credits for taking this course, which would be one of normally 5 courses that you would take in the Fall term.

    Winter 2025: The Gilson Seminar in Faith and Rome

    This course includes an eleven-day international learning experience in Rome, Italy, in May 2025, that explores the roles that the Catholic Church and Vatican have played in ecology, science, literature, the arts, and politics. The course features daily lectures and site-specific talks and tours in Rome and Assisi. You will have a chance to immerse yourself in the living history of one of the world’s great centres of belief and culture and in turn to reflect on, discuss, and write about this experience. You will receive 0.5 course credits for taking this course, which runs in the Winter term.

  • What will I be reading?

    Some of the material you’ll be reading could include selections from:

    • St. Augustine’s Confessions, an autobiography about what it means to search for truth and to believe in God when not very many people think there’s a point to it.
    • Dante’s Divine Comedy, the Italian poet’s arresting and beautiful meditation on justice and mercy, politics and ethics, faith and love.
    • Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poems about creation and beauty, which were inspired by his life and travels as someone with vocations to both art and religious life.
    • Dorothy Day’s The Long Loneliness, an autobiography about committing your life to social justice activism out of your belief in God.
    • Laudato si’, Pope Francis’s teaching on the environment and what it means to care for each other and the Earth in a faith-based commitment.
  • What about Rome—when do I go? Are there fees?

    The travel portion of the Gilson Seminar in Faith and Rome takes place in Rome, Italy, in May 2025.

    The Faith and Rome Seminar is based in the centre of Rome. In advance of the trip, you will receive more detailed information and also safety training and other preparation.

    All students admitted to the Gilson Seminar in Faith and Rome are responsible for their own airfare and incidentals. The cost of room, board and programming comes out of your student account through an ancillary fee paid when you register for this course. The fee amount, subject to confirmation, will not be more than $3,000.

    Please note that trip dates are subject to change. The University of St. Michael’s College follows the guidance of government health authorities and the Faculty of Arts and Science when arranging student travel.

    If you have questions about the course, please email Michael Czobit at