Why they are ‘Newman’ centers

Ever wonder why the hubs of Catholic campus ministry at colleges and universities are called “Newman” centers or “Newman” foundations?” In this diocese, widely recognized for its excellence in Newman ministry, we’re very familiar with the name. It not only graces the historic and beautifully expanded facility at the University of Illinois, but also Catholic centers serving students at Illinois State University and Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington-Normal; Western Illinois University in Macomb; Bradley University in Peoria; Eureka College; Monmouth College; and Knox College in Galesburg.

But why “Newman?”

Catholic campus ministry bears the name of Cardinal John Henry Newman, an Anglican priest and scholar from London who became Catholic and was eventually elevated to cardinal. His association with Oxford University lasted 30 years, and later he helped create the Catholic University of Ireland, where he served as rector from 1854 to 1858.

After he was received into the Catholic Church, he recognized how unfriendly English society and its universities were to the faith. He proposed a plan that would allow Catholics attending Oxford safeguards for their faith. Its first Catholic student club was called the “Catholic Club,” but in 1888 it was renamed the Newman Society. Newman Clubs began forming in the United States by the turn of the century.

In April, Cardinal Newman’s cause for sainthood took a step forward when Vatican medical consultants ruled that an inexplicable healing in August 2001 was a result of his intercession. He may soon be beatified. When that happens, this diocese, in which one of every eight Catholics is a college student, will again have a reason to celebrate.

Congratulations to all who supported the successful campaign at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois, to all who planned and executed last weekend’s magnificent celebrations, and to all who support this vital ministry on campuses throughout our diocese. — Thomas J. Dermody, editor-in-chief, The Catholic Post

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