Newman chapel dedicated; center renamed for Pope John Paul II

Photo Caption: Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, prays just inside the doors of the new Chapel of St. Robert Bellarmine at the start of the Dedication Mass in Normal Nov. 7.

By: By Jennifer Willems

NORMAL — Filled to overflowing with people, praise and gratitude, the new Chapel of St. Robert Bellarmine on the campus of Illinois State University was dedicated on Nov. 7.

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, presided at the Mass of Dedication, which drew not only students, alumni and benefactors but many members of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary from around the United States led by their foundress, Mother Adela Galindo, SCTJM. The Newman Center staff includes three members of the religious community, including its director, Sister Silvia Tarafa, SCTJM.

Among the priests concelebrating with Bishop Jenky were Msgr. Stanley Deptula, director of Newman Ministry for the Diocese of Peoria; Father Kevin Lucas, chaplain at St. Robert Bellarmine; and chaplains from three other campus ministry centers around the diocese: Father Eugene Radosevich of the Salve Regina Newman Foundation at Eureka College; Father Brian Brownsey of St. Joseph’s Chapel and Newman Foundation at Bradley University in Peoria; and Msgr. Gregory Ketcham of St. John’s Catholic Chapel and Newman Center at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

Just when it looked as if every joyous word had been said and note had been sung, however, Bishop Jenky surprised the assembly and gave them another reason to rejoice.

“I decree that this new center for Catholic campus ministry should henceforth be called the John Paul II Catholic Newman Center,” he proclaimed, bringing the assembly to its feet and filling the new worship space with loud and sustained applause.

“I am reminded of the ministry of a young Father Karol Wojtyla as he worked with the youth in Krakow,” Bishop Jenky said after Communion. “Through camping trips, plays and long walks through his beloved mountains, Father Wojtyla invited these young people to journey with him as a brother in the Lord, so that together they might be members of the family of Jesus.”

What he did as a young priest in Poland, he later did for all of us as John Paul II, the bishop said.

“He journeyed with us, unafraid of the challenges of the new millennium,” Bishop Jenky told his listeners, adding that he was proud of the St. Robert Bellarmine staff for their work to keep that spirit alive.

“Every day they journey with their students,” he said. “As we dedicate this new chapel and center of campus ministry it is my prayer that the spirit of John Paul II will continue to pervade this building and this ministry.”

Not only does the new sign over the door of the Newman Center proclaim
to anyone passing by who their patron is, but a large mural of John Paul II, painted by Taryn Watkins, now graces the lobby.

One of the characters in a play that followed the Mass of Dedication and reception featured their hero, “JP2.”

Gracious in her expressions of gratitude to Bishop Jenky, her religious community, her Newman Center predecessors, the alumni and benefactors, Sister Silvia became emotional when talking about “all the students who consider this your home.”

“Thank you for your servant leadership. There’s so many of you that it’s humbling,” she said, pausing for a moment to compose herself while the assembly supported her by their applause. “Thank you for building the family of Jesus at Newman by taking your faith seriously with love and responsibility.

“I want to encourage you, as I often do, to build your relationship with Christ from within so that when you leave here you may continue to share your many gifts with your future families, the church and the world,” Sister Silvia said. “Do not be afraid to become the saints of this millennium. It was for this that you were born and it was for this that you were brought here.”

The students took those responsibilities seriously during the Mass by serving as lectors, cantors and choir members, and dressing the altar after Bishop Jenky had consecrated it with sacred chrism.

While Newman ministry at ISU began in the late 1950s, a functional building to house St. Robert Bellarmine Newman Center was not built until 1967. Meant to be temporary, it was not possible to build a permanent structure until Bishop Jenky designated it as one of the top priorities of the Rooted in Faith capital campaign.

With the $2.5 million generated by Rooted in Faith, the newly designed center includes a chapel that can accommodate 350, an adoration chapel, choir loft, office space and a gathering space for students’ use.

Some work remains to be done, however. Additional donations are being accepted to help with the addition of a kitchen and classrooms in the existing “rec” center and stained glass windows in the chapel. For more information, contact Sister Silvia by phone at (309) 452-5046 or by e-mail at

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