Lexington – Eighty people gathered as “friends of the Newman Foundation Inc.” on April 20 at the University of Kentucky’s Spindletop Hall for dinner, to celebrate the new partnership with the Diocese of Lexington, and for a major address from Bishop John Stowe.
“The Newman Foundation has expanded its mission as a Newman apostolate to work with secular universities, colleges, and local parishes who currently have Newman centers, clubs and/or Catholic campus ministries to strengthen their own missions,” explained Jan Swauger, chairwoman of the Foundation board. “But, we also are committed to help other communities establish Newman Centers (i.e. Kentucky State University and Good Shepherd Church in Frankfort have a desire to start a Newman Center). In addition to Frankfort, we are currently working with St. Clare and Berea College, St. Francis & John Georgetown College, St. Gregory (Barbourville) and Union College, and St. Mark and Eastern Kentucky University. Representatives from these five new partners are now serving on our board as well.”
Giving a brief history of the Newman Center and introducing Bishop John Stowe, Father Lawrence Hehman recounted that Father Elmer Moore started the first Newman Center parish named Holy Spirit parish in 1963 at the University of Kentucky. It was called a “personal parish” and was the only one in the U.S. at the time.
“The ‘Newman Movement’ in the United States began in 1883 at the University of Wisconsin to help Catholics live their faith on campus amid perceived anti-Catholicism. Ten years later, the University of Pennsylvania started a Newman Club, taking on John Henry Newman, the convert’s name three years after his death.” said Fr. Hehman. “parents and others did not want their children to lose their Roman Catholic faith on secular campuses. Eventually the National Conference of Bishops recognized the importance of Newman Centers.
“I am glad the Newman Foundation has a new home with the Diocese of Lexington. Looking back to 1969 when I first came to the University of Kentucky Newman Center, I was amazed that Father Moore had four outstanding men who gave leadership and donations to finance the present building. They were John Gaines, a horseman; Robert Hillenmeyer, who provided nurseries and landscape services; Dr. Ward Griffen, U.K. Medical Center surgeon; and Dr. Paul Oberst, of the U.K. Law School. Another leader in the past was Dr. Marcus McEllistrem, a U.K. physics professor,” Father Hehman said.
In Bishop John Stowe’s opening remarks, he said “I am very grateful to the Newman Foundation, not only for this opportunity to address you, but for your commitment to be a part of the church’s evangelization and mission among young adults,” he said. “John Henry Newman was committed to the life-long pursuit of ‘faith seeking understanding,’ who strove to reconcile the values of free thinking and of moral authority for educated people of faith. Our whole diocese can be very proud of the foundation laid many years ago at the University of Kentucky which resulted in Holy Spirit Parish, a Chair of Catholic Studies, and a series of talks by prominent Catholics of national stature.
“The students at colleges prayed for me before I even arrived, and I have had the opportunity to celebrate Masses with them at various places,” Bishop Stowe said. “I am really encouraged and grateful for the Newman Foundation’s willingness to expand its support more broadly to promote a vibrant Catholic presence at campuses throughout the 50 counties of our diocese.”