Fr. Belger to lead Newman Center


By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

IOWA CITY — Newman Catholic Student Center has a new director with a familiar face.

Father Jeffry Belger, helps steer a boat during a Labor Day retreat with Newman Catholic Student Center – Iowa City members in 2015.

Father Jeffry Belger, 49, assumed the role Sept. 1 after family circumstances caused Executive Director Laurie Harris to step down from her position. Harris had been serving in that capacity since March 2015.

Following Harris’ announcement, Fr. Belger and Father Stephen Witt, who were sharing responsibilities as campus ministers, met with Bishop Thomas Zinkula to brainstorm about the director position.


At the end of the discussion, Bishop Zinkula suggested Fr. Belger take over as director of Newman Center.

Fr. Belger said he was surprised but excited to receive the recommendation. “It seemed like a natural progression,” considering his history on the campus. He served as a campus minister from 2005-2010 and once again assumed the role in 2015. He was a University of Iowa student in the mid-1980s, when the Newman Center was still under construction. “I have all the anxiety and excitement of a freshman on campus!”

Harris will stay on part-time as business manager. Fr. Belger said he is grateful for Harris’ willingness to do so, as it will free him up to focus more on the ministerial aspects of his job. He’ll also be able to lean on her for advice as he adjusts to his new role. “Laurie and I work great together,” he said.

“I’m excited about expanding our ministry, as we have been doing,” Fr. Belger said. “We’ve been seeing some good growth, and we’re ready to take it to another level.” Goals include expanding the small group ministry and setting up opportunities for people to gather outside Newman Center.

In light of the assignment, Fr. Belger will remain associate director of Vocations for the Diocese of Davenport, but has been relieved of his assignment as parochial vicar of St. Mary Parish in Iowa City. He will serve as sacramental minister at St. Mary’s.

Fr. Witt, 68, has been relieved of the assignment of campus minister and will continue to exercise sacramental ministry there in addition to serving as pastor of St. Mary Parish in Iowa City.

“We ask for your prayers for each of these individuals as they transition into their new positions of service,” Harris said.

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