Wednesday, September 01, 2010

"The strongest influence upon young people is the Eucharist"

"Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it".  Last night, we had about 50 students participate in our first Tuesday night Mass.  It was just about standing-room only in our chapel.  I saw the crowd before Mass and said, "you all know it's not Sunday, right?"  Then, about 100 students came for dinner.  20 large pizzas were demolished in 15 minutes.  God is good!  Having too many people for our facilities, staff, supplies, and budget are good problems to have.  God will provide.  Any help or suggestions that bloggers can offer will be much appreciated!

Speaking of Newman Centers, the following are excerpts from an interview by with Father Drew Morgan, an Oratorian priest who served for 15 years at a highly reputable Newman Center in the U.S. and dossier for Cardinal John Henry Newman’s beatification. To view the interview in full, please click on today’s title.

ZENIT: Tell us about the history and basic role of the Newman Center.

Father Morgan: According to John Evans, author of a history of the Newman Clubs titled "The Newman Movement": "Reaction to supposed anti-Catholicism certainly accounted for the origin of the first Catholic student organization in secular higher education."

The very first meeting of such a “club” was on Thanksgiving Day, 1883, in Madison, Wisconsin, where Catholic students were enjoying the holiday at the home of Mr. and Mrs. John C. Melvin, who lived across the street from the University of Wisconsin. In the course of the evening, one of the students mentioned that a professor had slandered the Catholic Church in his treatment of “medieval institutions.” His fellow Catholic students began a discussion as to whether such discourse was, indeed, slanderous, or appropriate, given the state of the Church in that period of history.

The students continued to meet at this home for further discussion and fellowship, constituting the beginning of the “Melvin Club.” It was the first organized manifestation of Catholic students coming together on a secular college campus.

One of the students who participated in the meetings of the Melvin Club was Timothy Harrington. He eventually found his way to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn). During a semester break, Harrington reread Newman’s autobiography, "Apologia pro Vita Sua." Inspired by Newman’s ability to defend the faith and his ideas about university education for Catholic students, Harrington drew on his experience in Wisconsin and initiated the first “Newman Club.” It followed a similar format, incorporating social activities, discussions on the faith, and mutual support for Catholic students in a frequently hostile academic environment. The meetings often became occasions for dating and debating, essentially providing a Catholic culture in a secular environment…

Today, Newman Clubs or “Centers” can be found on almost every secular college campus in the United States, although one of the earliest clubs was at the University of Toronto in Canada. Frequently, and unfortunately, the Newman name is no longer tied to this ministry and the work is identified as “campus ministry.” Nevertheless, the mission can be traced to the Newman Club movement…

ZENIT: College life in the United States can be such a testing ground -- a time either for students to grow in their faith, or possibly to abandon it altogether. What are the challenges in ministering to college students, given the particular environment surrounding them? And what are the keys to success?

Father Morgan: This is true for Catholic students whether they are attending a secular or a Catholic institution. Unfortunately, college life reflects the standard of our contemporary culture, with all of its lures of self-indulgence found in consumerism, individualism and hedonism. The work of the Church is to provide a counter-culture. The standard of Christ contradicts these influences, challenging the faithful to embrace charity, community and self-control.

We have found that the strongest influence upon young people is the Eucharist. A spirituality that draws them to an intimate communion with Christ, whether that is through Eucharistic Adoration, daily Mass, or participation in the community’s daily prayer, is the best defense against losing one’s faith. A corollary to this is the support that the student would receive from ministers and fellow Catholics who are also struggling, but successfully, to maintain their life of faith. Newman Centers are intended to be the locus for this work of the Church.

ZENIT: How do you envision the student’s relationship to the Newman center? Is it a type of parish, a place to attend Sunday Mass? A Christ-centered home away from home?

Father Morgan: Interestingly, Newman ministry was originally a diocesan endeavor. The priest whose parish was located near a secular institution became the de facto Newman chaplain. On Catholic campuses, the religious order would provide campus ministry through the priests, brothers and sisters who administered their own institution of higher learning. The first Newman centers were a significant dimension of the local parish, where the students would often dominate the congregation during the semesters. It was their parish home-away-from-home. The degree to which the priest could become occupied with the students’ concerns would dictate the success of that ministry.

When the presence of American Catholics on the campuses increased so dramatically, the dioceses would often assign a priest in a separate facility, specifically designed for the needs of the students and thereby effectively establish a new community of faith centered on college life. Today, there is a growing interest in building Newman student housing, such as has been accomplished at the University of Illinois.

This new vision of building Catholic student residences alongside the Newman Center fulfills Newman’s original intention of providing a Catholic community and even a Catholic collegium at the heart of a secular college campus, as he desired to have built at Oxford.

ZENIT: Can a Newman Center promote vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, and if so, how is that done and with what success?

Father Morgan: Any ministry that is faithful to the teachings of the Gospel by its very nature will promote vocations. Newman Centers have a wonderful opportunity to foster vocations because we are ministering to young adults at an important time in their spiritual formation that often includes vocation discernment. Many students bring their questions regarding religious vocation to the Newman ministers and it is important for the minister to be prepared to journey with them in that process.

However, this is also true of the discernment of another great sacrament in our faith, holy matrimony. Many students find their spouses at Newman Centers. This is, in a sense, a special role that the Newman ministry provides. Whether it is a religious or married vocation, this discernment process done at this time in the students’ lives will change them forever. We have been fortunate over the years to have many young men and women enter the priesthood and the consecrated life, but we have also performed many weddings and baptisms!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It took 15 whole minutes? Obviously most of the 100 people were young women.

About 40 young men could have inhaled the pizzas in UNDER 15 minutes.