Catholic Illini welcome Cardinal Cupich for Mass, tour of Newman Center Jan. 29
CHAMPAIGN — St. John’s Catholic Chapel at the University of Illinois is filled with scaffolding, but it felt like a cathedral on Jan. 29 when Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago celebrated Mass for students as they start a new semester.
In his opening remarks, he also noted that his visit came at the beginning of Catholic Schools Week, “an opportunity to be in touch with all of the efforts within the church of ministry to students who are preparing for life.”
The scaffolding that greeted him at the standing-room-only liturgy on Sunday morning is due to a renovation of the chapel — considered the “heart” of campus ministry — that started in December and is expected to continue through July.
St. John’s Catholic Newman Center is one of the largest and most active Newman Centers in the United States, with a residence hall that is home to 530 students this year. There is also a dining hall and various meeting rooms, offices and a smaller chapel on the lower level.
After Mass, Cardinal Cupich took a tour of the building, asking questions and greeting students and staff along the way. Helping to make introductions were Father Robert Lampitt, head chaplain at the Newman Center, and Father Tim Monahan, vocation director for the Archdiocese of Chicago, who spends one day there each month to help students with discernment.
It is estimated that 21 percent of residents at Newman Hall are from the Archdiocese of Chicago.
LET GOD IN
In the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus says the kingdom of God is in our midst. Cardinal Cupich called it a bold claim to say that God is present in the world and active and invited the students and visitors to pay attention to what Jesus is pointing to.
“Because today it’s very difficult, amid all the wars and tragedies, the catastrophes that are natural and man-imposed, to wonder whether or not God is asleep at the wheel. Is God with us?” the cardinal said.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus points to those who are poor, those who are shy and meek, those who suffer injustice, those who mourn loved ones, and says that is precisely where God is present, Cardinal Cupich said. We can understand this because we suffer the poverty of being human beings, too.
“Let him come and touch you in those areas in your life that are poor, that speak of loss, that suffer injustice. And when we do, something magnificent happens to us,” Cardinal Cupich promised. “We’re able, then, to go into the world and touch the wounds of the world and be present to them.”
He said that when we come to the Eucharist at Mass, we receive just a bit of the eucharistic bread and yet we call it a banquet.
“Just as the eucharistic bread is transformed to the presence of Jesus working in the world, our lives can be transformed so that we can be the presence, too, of Jesus working in the world,” Cardinal Cupich said. “In that way, we’ll understand what it means, through Jesus, the kingdom of God is in our midst.”
Just as Cardinal Cupich had thanked the Newman Center leaders and Bishop Louis Tylka for their kindness in allowing the visit, Father Lampitt thanked the cardinal for being with them for the weekend.
“Just as the eucharistic bread is transformed to the presence of Jesus working in the world, our lives can be transformed so that we can be the presence, too, of Jesus working in the world.” — Cardinal Blase Cupich
“We have a great tradition of sending men to the seminary from this Newman Center, and women to consecrated life,” he said.
Cardinal Cupich said he would pray, too, for the students as they continue their studies.
“You have many special demands made on you not only with the academic world, but also personal lives and families. Those needs are close to my heart,” he said, “and I pledge my prayers on your behalf.”