Newman Center to celebrate namesake’s canonization


By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

IOWA CITY — Blessed John Henry Newman, a leader in the 19th century intellectual renewal of the Catholic Church and patron of campus ministers in the United States, will be canonized in St. Peter Square in Rome on Oct. 13.

To commemorate its namesake’s canonization, Newman Catholic Student Center at the University of Iowa will celebrate Mass Oct. 13 at 6 p.m. with Bishop Thomas Zinkula as presider. Father Jeff Belger, Newman Center priest director, will concelebrate the Mass. A public reception will follow.

John Henry Newman was born in England in 1801 and served as a priest in the Anglican church before converting to Catholicism in 1845. He was ordained a priest in 1847 and elevated to cardinal in 1879. Newman was also a literary figure. His writings include “Tracts for the Times” and his autobiography “Apologia Pro Vita Sua,” which explained the convictions which led him to the Catholic Church. He died in 1890.


Pope Benedict XVI beatified Cardinal Newman in 2010, describing him as a theologian and prolific writer of spiritual topics, according to Catholic News Service. At the time, he lauded Blessed Newman’s vision of education, which combined intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment. He said Blessed Newman examined the relationship between faith and reason and “the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society,” CNS reported.

On July 1, following approval of a second miracle, Pope Francis announced that he would declare Blessed Newman a saint.

Inspired by Newman’s writings, Newman Clubs began emerging on secular college campuses in the late 1800s as a way for Catholic students to grow in their faith during college years. In 1888, a Newman Society was formed at Oxford in England. In 1893, the first Newman Club in the United States was formed at The University of Pennsylvania, according to April Rouner, development director of the Iowa City Newman Center.

The Newman Club at the University of Iowa, formed in 1906, is one of more than 2,000 Newman Centers throughout the world today. It is the only Newman Center in the Diocese of Davenport and one of five in the state of Iowa, Rouner noted.

She said the Diocese of Davenport purchased a former fraternity house on the west side of the Iowa River in 1943. It opened in 1944 as the Catholic Student Center. The center included a worship space, social rooms, a library and housing for center priests.

Twenty-three years later, the Newman Center moved to its current location on the corner of Clinton and Jefferson streets near the University of Iowa’s central campus. A new building was erected on the site and dedicated on Jan. 15, 1989. That building houses a 400-seat chapel, a student lounge, two large multipurpose rooms, kitchen, offices, meeting areas and more.

As they did more than 100 years ago, Newman Centers — or Newman Societies, as they are known outside the United States — aim to bring pastoral services and ministries to Catholic students at non-Catholic colleges and universities.

Alumni Giving Day

Newman Catholic Student Center will celebrate its first Alumni Giving Day from midnight Oct. 12 to midnight Oct. 13. In addition to monetary gifts, alumni are challenged to submit photos and/or videos with a statement of what the Newman Catholic Student Center at the University of Iowa has meant to their lives.

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