What is Newman?
What exactly is a “Newman”? Does it hurt?
Before you know what a Newman Center is, you should know who Newman was. Saint John Henry Newman was born in London in 1801. Early in life he attended Oxford University and was ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1825. As a result of his extensive and authoritative research into early Christianity, he realized that the Church of the New Testament fully and completely resides only in the Catholic Church. This realization led Newman to convert to Roman Catholicism in 1845, a journey that would eventually see him become a cardinal. As a result of his conversion, he was ostracized by English society and forbidden from teaching at Oxford due to the pervasive anti-Catholic bigotry of that time.
While he was known as a literary figure, a poet, and a hymnist, some of Newman’s most valuable contributions were those to the field of education. He constantly proclaimed that it was possible for a student to be well educated while also remaining faithful to Catholicism. Due to the secularism of many universities in Europe at the time in which he lived, Newman envisioned a university where Catholicism could be promoted alongside a rigorous education system. While this vision never came to pass during Newman’s lifetime, his writings on the subject proved very influential.
In 1877 a man named Hartwell de la Garde founded the Oxford University Catholic Club, a group for Catholic students at Oxford University. Prior to this time, Catholic students hadn’t been allowed to attend the university and were met with animosity when they did enroll. The Catholic Club allowed them the opportunity to share their faith while also focusing on their education. In 1888, the members of the Catholic Club chose to rename themselves the Newman Society in honor of John Henry Newman and the work that he had contributed to Oxford. The first Newman Center outside of the United Kingdom was founded at the University of Pennsylvania in 1893. Today there are over 2,000 Newman Centers in the United States alone, with many more located throughout the world.
So what does a Newman Center do exactly?
While the activities that different Newman Centers offer vary from place to place, the main mission remains the same as Oxford students envisioned it almost 150 years ago. We’re dedicated to providing a place for students from all backgrounds to grow in their faith while persevering in the environment of secular higher education.
That sounds like a lot of fun. But I’m traditional/liberal/lapsed/not even Catholic. Would I really belong?
If there’s one central theme at our Newman Center, it’s this: We welcome everyone who is seeking to grow deeper in their relationship with Jesus. We have no fees, no prerequisites to join, no requirements or limitations. We only ask that you come with a sincere desire to grow in your faith. Whether you haven’t set foot in a church since you were baptized, whether you attend adoration on a daily basis, or even whether you don’t know what to make of this whole “Catholic thing”, come on by. You’re always welcome to see what God is in store for you as you take you next step in the journey of faith.