October 22, 2019

Priests lobby to start Newman Center at Webster University

On Saturday, Jan. 26, Webster University students filled a pew at the Webster Groves Holy Redeemer church at 17 Joy Ave. The students not only came for mass but also for a meal and religious discussion at  Rev. Kenneth Brown’s home.

Unlike other universities in St. Louis, Webster does not offer a Newman Center for its students. Brown, the pastor at Holy Redeemer, and Father Gary Braun, a priest of the St. Louis Archdiocese and director of the Catholic Student Center at Washington University, are working to create a Newman Center near Webster University.

Reverend Kenneth Brown talks to Colleen Gillis, sophomore, at dinner Saturday night, Jan. 26, at his home behind the Holy Redeemer Catholic church. Saturday night dinner is a weekly ritual brown hosts for a group of Catholic Webster University students. PHOTO BY CAILLIN MURRAY

“A Newman Center would be a Catholic presence on a non-Catholic university campus that serves the Catholic students, and really all students,” Braun said.

Suhani Fernando, sophomore, Elena Marroquin, junior, Mike Heumann, senior and Colleen Gillis, sophomore, sing a hymn during mass on Sat., Feb. 26 at the Holy Redeemer Catholic church at 17 Joy Ave. PHOTO BY CAILLIN MURRAY

Through the Newman Center, students can take part in discussion groups, mass, dorm programs, couples counseling/marriage preparation and discernment.

“We fill the one gap that the university can’t meet, which is a meaning, a purpose of life, the spiritual life of students,” Braun said. “The spiritual side of the normal growing pains and crisis of life.”

Webster has many religious organizations on campus such as the Muslim Students Association, Catholic Student Union (CSU), Campus Crusade for Christ and Encounter.

“Personally it’d be nice to know I have availability to religious aspects here instead of having to seek it on my own. It would be nice knowing there was religious counsel (near) Webster’s campus,” said Lisa Adden, president of CSU.

A Newman Center has been associated with Washington University’s (WashU) campus since 1964. The program began with 45 registered students and now has 12,000 registered students with the center.

Braun said Newman Centers are funded by the Archdiocese of St. Louis and not by universities. He also said the Archdiocese gives WashU a grant of about $160,000 a year. WashU’s Newman Center also receives donations from alumni.

Besides a location, Brown is looking for a part-time priest to run the center.

Webster University is still in the initial stages of developing a Newman Center. On Feb. 19, Brown will meet with other campus ministries to promote further assistance for Webster’s Newman Center.

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