Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Newman Center Halls

As the Associated Press reported today, the University of Wisconsin-Madison's St. Paul Catholic Center plans to open a residence hall in the near future. While I don't know much about Madison's Newman Center, I have believed for a long time that other Newman Centers here in Wisconsin are in need of a an overhaul. Why do young adults continue to lose their faith in college? I believe it's because most Newman Centers offer very little of equal caliber to what students encounter in their secular, humanistic college courses. And nowhere in the state (to the best of my knowledge) does a Newman Center offer an alternative to the hedonistic lifestyle that characterizes college dorms.

Yes, Newman Centers can be done right. An example that a former University of Illinois-Champaign student brought to my attention is that school's St. John's Catholic Newman Center. Although I haven't visited, what this alumna described really impressed me. Novus Ordo Latin liturgies, replete with Gregorian chant, provides a sense of sacredness that apparently attracts large numbers of students. The Center's Newman Hall is a place where positive peer pressure encourages students to grow in vitue. And what I consider most important isthe academic component. After all, these Centers are located on secular university campuses. Any outreach to students needs to have an academic component. And if erroneous elements of the secular education provided there need to be set straight, then these Centers have an obligation to do so. There are actually two highly qualified professors on the Champaign Center's staff, who teach for-credit courses through the university.

So there's my Newman Center vision in a nutshell. When I head off to a secular school for the first time in my life (I'll be starting studies for my English MA at Winona State), I suppose I'll have more to say. In any case, pray for college students and those who minister to them. And pray for bishops as they decide what personnel and resources to allocate.

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