Newman, Our Heritage

My parish is not a Newman Center. As I understand it, we were founded as a Newman Club at Iowa State in 1947 by Father James Supple, a priest assigned to the other parish in town.

In less that two decades, St Thomas Aquinas Church and Catholic Student Center was “elevated” to being a parish. Cardinal Newman is still honored, even though his name is not spoken when we answer the phone, nor printed when we draft bulletins and flyers.

My colleague Shari and I were discussing Newman’s beatification and feast with a few students today. October 9th will be an “optional memorial” for the US, no doubt. But even if the Cardinal is no longer our name patron, we will probably observe his day as a feast, at least.

I wonder what his Lectionary entry will be like.

I notice Zenit is doing a two-part interview with Oratorian priest Drew Morgan on Newman Centers. An interesting question, “Can a Newman Center replace what a student stands to gain from attending a university that is itself Catholic?” and a very interesting answer is given, in part:

To address your question about Catholic vs. secular education, originally, the Newman Clubs hoped to be the appropriate response to this issue. However, many pastors and even a few bishops felt that Catholic students attending non-Catholic institutions were placing themselves in near-occasions of sin and therefore should no longer receive Communion! The safeguarding of the faith today paradoxically may in fact be more secure in a vibrant Newman Center on a secular college campus, where students are regularly challenged to defend their faith and give an account of their beliefs.

Certainly in Newman Centers and university parishes, we provide more than the apologetic mindset. We cultivate relationships with the secular university. In many instances, we provide a substantial community for students. I’d say that we don’t take our Catholic faith or its expression for granted. In many ways, I’d say we have a lot more verve than many Catholic universities. Our students come to Mass and get involved in our apostolates because they want to. I admit I feel a bit spoiled being in a parish with a much higher percentage of active and engaged parishioners.

I mention Father Supple, our founder, because the seventh anniversary of his death is tomorrow. I don’t know that he will ever be named a saint, but August 31st will be a day of memory for our parish. We invoke his name saint whenever we sing a Litany of Saints.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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3 Responses to Newman, Our Heritage

  1. John Donaghy says:

    I came to St. Thomas in 1983 – from studying for my doctorate at a prominent Jesuit university. I was attracted by the fact that the center involved a lot of students – as it continues to do.

    What Catholic Student Centers like St. Thomas can do is help students appropriate their faith as adults. I sometimes think that some Catholic universities thought that a Catholic environment was enough to preserve the faith, whereas St. Thomas realized that faith has to be appropriated as a lived reality.

    I miss many aspects of STA, especially Father James [Supple] from Ames, who founded St. Thomas in 1947 (the year of my birth) as a parish that embraced the university. (He came here from outside Ames.)

    It has been, I believe, a combined student center and parish since the beginning, an arrangement I think is close to the ideal since it avoids the hothouse effect of a student center separate from a parish and enables the resident and student parishioners to interact. There are challenges but it’s worth it.

    Father Supple had a vision – which he helped direct for the 33 years he was pastor and for the 15 or so years he retired in the parish. Thank God for him and for all those who serve university students, faculty, and staff at STA and throughout the world.

  2. Liam says:

    As for the propers for Bl John Newman, I would think that they would be taken from the Common of Pastors. (He can’t be made a Doctor of the Church until he is canonized.) And I imagine his commemoration would be limited to the calendar of England and Wales (perhaps Rome, since he was a cardinal?) and to those particular places that would have him as a patron or titular (but, until now, no church could have him as a patron or title).

    • Jim McK says:

      I think St Albert the Great was canonized by being proclaimed a Doctor of the Church. It is a departure from ordinary procedure, but it is not unheard of. I could see something similar happening with Newman.

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