Newman closing

Andrew Donohue

and Sean Madigan
While the recent closing of the Newman Center stirred the emotions of many campus parishioners, other centers around the state and the Big Ten report continued success.
The Newman Center, which was a campus fixture for 73 years, held its last mass at University and 17th avenues on Oct. 18. The controversial move by the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul merged the center with the St. Lawrence Catholic Church.
However, the merging is not a trend, as other Newman Centers around the state and the Big Ten are showing financial stability.
At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Father Steve Kortendick said his Newman Center is just scraping by financially, but is in no danger of closing its doors to students.
“We’re always making ends meet, but not by much,” he said. “We are just living within our means.”
The Archdiocese of Madison provides $12,000 to the center annually to pay for the room and board of two full-time priests. The remainder of the center’s funding comes from student, alumni and faculty donations.
Center officials at Purdue University, on the other hand, report a bountiful bottom line. Thirteen percent of the center’s $878,000 annual budget, or $114,140, flows from the Diocese of Lafayette, Ind.
The center at the Lafayette campus recently completed a $3.2 million addition to accommodate its 900 families and 5,000 student members during mass.
Phyllis Scanlon, administrative director of the center, said Purdue’s center is starting an endowment fund as a reserve source of income if the diocese ever pulls its funding.
The University’s 900-member center receives about $190,000 from the archdiocese, which now is redirected to St. Lawrence.
At Winona State University in Minnesota, 90 percent of funding for the Newman Center comes from the diocese. With a core of 50 students, the center has one full-time staff member.
“We’re doing fine,” said Tom Parlin, director and lone full-time employee of the campus’ center. “We are not as large of an operation as other schools. There is no controversy as far as losing funding.”
The consolidation
St. Lawrence, located at 1201 Fifth St. S.E., was attracting more University students each weekend than the University’s Newman Center, said Tim Anderson, the director of communications at the archdiocese.
The move was an effort to consolidate funding for University ministries, he said. Prior to the merger, St. Lawrence received no funding from the archdiocese for student ministries.
Though the merger might be financially practical for the archdiocese, many former Newman parishioners are unhappy with the merger.
Bill Brauer had attended mass every week at the center for the last 40 years, when he began attending graduate school at the University. Disgusted with the handling of the closing, Brauer said he will not move with the center to St. Lawrence.
“Right now I don’t feel at all inclined to go there. I’m certainly not going to support their programs,” said Brauer, who estimates he had donated more than $40,000 to the center throughout his membership.
Brauer, like many of his fellow parishioners, learned about the center’s closing in the Star Tribune rather than channels within the ministry.
“If you’re waiting for the archdiocese to disclose their intentions, you’re going to have to wait for a hell of a long time,” he said. Brauer said if the archdiocese truly wanted the center to remain open, they would have found the funding.
When the decision was announced, community members attempted a letter-writing campaign to save the center. Despite about 830 signatures and more than 200 letters, the efforts were in vain.
Leftist origins
Centers around the country are named after Cardinal John Henry Newman, patron of Catholic centers on many secular campuses. Newman was a 19th century theologian who was known for his radical beliefs in theology and scientific investigation.
He was an orator at Oxford University who eventually abandoned his beliefs after Catholic bishops prohibited their students from attending Oxford. After his death, a group of former students established the first center.
Centers around the country continue to push the borders of Catholicism politically to the left, including the University’s.
The priests, of the Paulist Order currently running the center, have a reputation for a strong devotion to social justice. In the past, non-ordained members have delivered sermons during mass, a practice normally reserved solely for priests.
The controversial nature of the centers depends on whose eyes they are seen through, said Scanlon, director of the Purdue center.
“Many of the parishes in Lafayette would consider us liberal,” she said. But, she added, because Purdue is a science school, they do have more conservative students than a liberal arts college would.