Living in Toronto for 46 years, Mary Groh was increasingly surrounded by a multicultural society. As an active member of Danforth Mennonite Church there, following the closure of Warden Woods Mennonite Church, she witnessed the growth of various Mennonite congregations in the east end of Toronto.
When she saw a photograph a few years ago of students from Conrad Grebel University College, she noted that “students from long-established Mennonite churches were the ones getting the excellent Christian-based education, and the new Canadians were not.” She shared her concern with Fred Martin, Grebel’s director of advancement, that “this didn’t seem right in a church community where equality is fundamental.”
The admission policy at Grebel is to have approximately 50 percent of residence students come from Mennonite congregations. While Mennonite Church Eastern Canada students make up the majority of this portion, congregations from newcomer communities are under-represented.
Groh recently sold her house in Toronto to move closer to family in Kitchener. At that time, she discussed her concern for a more inclusive church community with a variety of people, including Brent Charette, operations and church engagement minister at MC Eastern Canada, who encouraged her to include Grebel in her conversations.
After several exchanges, she discerned a way of supporting students at Grebel. With funds from the sale of her house, she established the Mennonite Diversity Award, which is designed to make an educational experience at Grebel accessible to Mennonite students from culturally diverse backgrounds.
“My hope is to see a student body at the college that is more representative of the cultural diversity of the present and future Mennonite church in Canada,” she said. This vision is focussed on students from Mennonite church families who immigrated since 1975 and Indigenous Mennonite students.
The award is divided among three programs at Grebel: residence, master of theological studies, and master of peace and conflict studies. With matching funds from MC Eastern Canada, these three awards will be up to $10,000 for each successful applicant, as long as the funds last.
Groh worked with Sherri Grosz, a gift-planning consultant at Abundance Canada, to set up a gifting account to fund this award.
Jim Pankratz, Grebel’s interim president, said of Groh’s initiative, “We are grateful for your generosity that will provide support for many new Canadian Mennonite students. We are pleased by the interest already shown by church leaders from newcomer congregations. We are also grateful that the leadership of [MC Eastern Canada] has encouraged this initiative and will provide some matching funds. This partnership with Mary and MCEC . . . enables us to help them fulfill their vision for this award, and to fulfill our mission to seek wisdom, nurture faith, and pursue justice and peace in service to church and society.”
For more details, visit uwaterloo.ca/grebel/financial-aid-and-awards.