Our Newman Namesake:
Did you ever wonder why it is called a Newman Center? I confess I did not when I first walked through the doors at 8200 Natural Bridge Road. I just knew it was a good place to meet quality people for whom faith mattered. I have since learned a few things about the patron of the center, the Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, who was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on September 19, 2010.
He was born in London in 1801, the son of a banker. He matriculated at Trinity College, Oxford, and was ordained for service in the Church of England (known in the U.S. as the Anglican Church) in 1821. He was known as the founder of the Oxford movement, dedicated to combat the influence of the state over the Church, and there wrote a series of tracts to establish the links between the earliest church and the Anglican Church.
Gradually his studies, particularly of the 39 Articles, led him to an understanding that these foundational documents of the Anglican Church were directed not against the Roman Catholic position but against popular errors and exaggerations of the Roman Catholic teachings. Shortly thereafter, he left his teaching post, prayed and studied extensively for three years. He became convinced that the Church of Rome was the true inheritor of the apostolic succession and converted in 1845.
When Catholic students finally began to study at Oxford in the 1860’s, a Catholic Club was formed. In 1888 it was renamed the Oxford University Newman Society, named after the convert who came to know the truths of the Catholic church there. This began a ‘tradition’ of having a Catholic presence at non-Catholic universities. UMSL’s Newman House is a descendent of that first group of Catholic students at Oxford.
This concept of a Catholic campus center spread quickly to America and in order to meet their spiritual and intellectual needs, Catholic students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison formed the “Melvin Club” in 1883; they met in the house of a woman named Mrs. Melvin.
In 1890, the year of Cardinal Newman’s death, one of the students from the “Melvin Club”, Timothy Harrington, began graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania. Together with John Gilbride, James and Joseph Walsh and the assistance of Father P.J. Garvey, pastor of the local St. James Catholic Church, they established the first “Newman Club” in the United States in 1893. The “Newman” Movement became the name for the Catholic Church’s presence on non-Catholic campuses in higher learning in this country. The “Newman Club/Center” became the name of the various student organizations on each campus.
Early in the 20th century Pope Pius X stated in an encyclical letter that religious formation must be made available to students in secular institutions of higher learning.
The centers provide pastoral services and ministries to their Catholic communities, in particular to the Roman Catholic student population within the universities. However, since these centers are located on university campuses, Christians of other demonations often come and participate as well.
God has created me to do Him some definite service.
He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.
I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.
I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught.
I shall do good; I shall do His work.
I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place,
while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments.
Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away.
If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him.
If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.
He does nothing in vain.
He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends.
He may throw me among strangers.
He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me.
Still, He knows what He is about.
Cardinal John Henry Newman