If you visit the campus of a large university in the US or Canada, and locate the office or building for Catholic campus ministry, it’s likely that it will be called the Newman Center. These ministries are named for John Henry Cardinal Newman, an English cleric of the 19th Century. You may be wondering what the connection is between the two.
Cardinal Newman was born an Anglican. After he was ordained, he went to Oxford University, and began the association with higher education that would continue for the remainder of his life. Newman, along with several other Anglican clergymen, began what came to be known as the “Oxford Movement,” which sought to reform the liturgical life of the Church of England, making it more “high-church” and consequently more similar to Roman Catholic worship.
At the time, Newman denied vehemently that he had any Roman leanings. But, as he continued to read the writings of the Fathers of the Church, he became convinced that he was called to the Roman Catholic church. So, Newman became Catholic, and was ordained a Catholic priest.
Despite the loss of his position at Oxford, Newman continued his work with University students. One of his books, “The Idea of the University” examines the philosophical underpinnings of higher education, and the role of faith in that often-secular setting. Shortly before his death, John Henry Newman was made a Cardinal of the Catholic Church. His cause for sainthood is in progress; he was declared Venerable in 1991.
The first Newman Center in the US was established only 20 years after the Cardinal’s death, at the University of Pennsylvania. To read more about Cardinal Newman and the ministry that bears his name, go to www.newman.upenn.edu.