The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts announced that it has established a series of medieval-style Catholic guilds that will enable its students to gain skills and experience from master craftsmen in areas such as woodworking, sacred art, music, and baking.
Thomas More College’s guilds will take its spirit from the associations of men and women who advanced their trades and responded to the needs of their local communities in the Medieval Age.
“Catholic guilds flourished during medieval Europe, but by the Nineteenth Century they had all but disappeared,” said Thomas More College president William Fahey. “Guilds in its earliest form were developed out of man’s natural spirit of association. The Catholic Church took medieval guilds under its tutelage and infused into them the vivifying spirit of Christian charity.”
Thomas More College’s guilds will operate with the same level of community and charity.
“Not only will students learn skills they can use throughout their lives,” said Dr. Fahey, “they will have an opportunity to bake bread for the homeless, produce icons for local churches, create chairs, cribs, and other projects for the poor and needy in our community, and bring music to nursing homes and hospitals.”
Thomas More College also expects that its guilds will enhance religious life on campus. This fall, for example, students in the woodworking guild will build a new altar for the College’s chapel, while students in the sacred art guild will produce religious art that will hang on the chapel walls. Students in the music guild will be trained to chant and produce sacred music for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
The newly established Catholic guilds at Thomas More College will also play a key role in the development of its students.
“It is important for students to balance the rigors of one of our country’s most challenging curricula with projects that are physical and hands-on,” said Dr. Fahey. “In this way, Thomas More College’s guild system will further assist in the formation of the whole person while enhancing our already vibrant community life. We must never forget that even communities based on the intellectual and spiritual life must make visible signs of culture in this world. The ideals of the mind and the riches of the spiritual world can be visibly drawn down into our daily lives.”
“In many ways, our guilds will show students how to live,” added Thomas More College director of admissions Mark Schwerdt. “Students will now have confidence that they can fix their own furniture or make music with their family. They will learn how the common man can create works of art as well as how to balance work, family, and leisure—all while enhancing their ability to be creative.”
“Thomas More College is preparing its students for a life of self-sufficiency,” said Mr. Schwerdt.
Each guild will meet weekly and will be taught by a master craftsman who has spent his life perfecting the skills of his trade. Students will be required to meet a series of benchmarks throughout the year so their performance can be measured.
Last fall, the College transformed the third floor of its Eighteenth Century barn into a woodworking classroom. It now boasts a professional woodworking bench, complete with vises for holding the work of up to four students at once.
Master carpenter Frank Jenkins will lead the St. Joseph woodworking guild, exploring with students the properties of the major kinds of wood used in fine woodworking, the use and care of hand tools, the preparation of rough lumber for finish work, joinery, project conception and design, and finishing. The class will culminate in the completion of a small project of the student’s choice, such as a bookcase.
Thomas More College’s artist-in-residence David Clayton will teach the St. Luke sacred art guild. Participants will learn the Catholic traditions in art as well as the theological principles behind them. Students will also learn about the principles of harmony and proportion that are infused in the work of the old Masters.
“Anyone can be an artist,” said Mr. Clayton. “All they have to do is practice, and the sacred art guild provides young men and women with the training and time they need to develop their artistic skills. Students will learn the skills of observation and control in drawing. They will also learn the entire iconographic painting process.”
Mark Schwerdt will lead the St. Gregory music guild, teaching students liturgical chant as well as folk music. In addition to vocal lessons, students will be able to learn how to play the banjo, guitar, or piano. The St. Gregory music guild will will enable students to play music and add to celebrations on campus.
“I hope that many of our students will advance in their development of these skills over time so they can teach—or apprentice—new incoming students each year,” said Dr. Fahey. “I would expect nothing less from our students, all of whom operate with an intense desire to learn and engage others with a spirit of charity and humility.”