What is Newman?

Preface:  There are approximately 250 “Catholic Newman Centers” in the United States.  The Prince of Peace Catholic Newman Center at the UW, first founded in 1908, is the first Dominican-run Newman Center and the 5th oldest Newman Center in the US.  In 2008, the Prince of Peace Newman Center celebrated 100 years of ministry.  Currently, the center serves approximately 800 students, staff, faculty and surrounding Catholics of the University of Washington.  To order “To Praise, To Bless, To Preach”, the professionally designed centennial publication of the Newman Center and Blessed Sacrament Church, please contact the main office at 206-527-5072 or by email at info@uwnewman.org.

Newman History

The year 2001 marked the dedication of the magnificent new Prince of Peace Catholic Newman Center at the University of Washington. The history of this Newman Center, the first Dominican Newman Center and the fifth such center in the country, dates back to the beginning of the last century when it was founded in 1908 as a small student club. Newman Centers are the Catholic organizations at State or private (non-Catholic) campuses and are named after John Henry Cardinal Newman, the author and theologian who pioneered ecumenical relations in Nineteenth Century England.

The University of Washington, the first public institution of higher learning on the West Coast, was Founded in 1861, six years before the founding of Seattle's first Catholic parish, Our Lady of Good Help. With Seattle's explosive growth, especially after the Yukon gold rush, a group of families requested priests to serve Seattle's university area, at that time basically a wilderness. Bishop Edward O'Dea responded by first inviting the Benedictines in 1906 to begin a parish in the Wallingford area and then in 1908 inviting the Dominicans to serve the students at the University.  The Dominicans began work quickly by simultaneously building Blessed Sacrament Parish and establishing the Newman Club.

The first Dominican to arrive was Fr. Francis Driscoll, O.P. and on October 9th, the anniversary of Cardinal Newman's entrance into the Church, he met with a group of UW students at Blessed Sacrament Church forming a UW Catholic club. They took the name "Newman", a tradition begun some fifteen years earlier when the first such Catholic student organization was formed at the University of Pennsylvania. The first Mass in the University area was celebrated on December 6, 1908, the Second Sunday of Advent, which marked the beginning of Blessed Sacrament Parish. The Mass was celebrated in the Masonic Hall on University Way & 42nd Street. It is somewhat ironic that the new UW chapel is now built on the site formerly occupied by Acacia, the national Masonic fraternity.

Early on, the Seattle Dominicans continued to organize social, educational, and theological discussions near campus but the focus was on building a large parish church a mile from campus. Just as the exterior of the magnificent Gothic Structure was being completed in 1925, the parish was divided in half with all the families in the Laurelhurst region forming a new parish. For the next seven decades, the Dominicans struggled with trying to finish the parish church.

For several decades, the Newman Club rented facilities in various houses, including renting the old Idaho pavilion at 4518 17th Avenue, left over from the Alaska-Yukon exposition. In 1934, with help from the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, the first Newman House was purchased at 4508 16th Avenue N.E. where Catholic women students lived under the leadership of the Dominican Sisters of Edmonds.

In 1946, Fr. Thomas Morrison purchased a house at the corner of 47th and 16th, transferring activities up to this site.

When Fr. Dean Dooley returned to the Newman Center in 1948 - he had begun in 1941 and left after Pearl Harbor to serve as war chaplain - he immediately set out to raise funds for a new Newman Center. Believing that the house on 47th was too far away from the center of campus, he managed to purchase two houses next to the original Center, including the Pi Kappa Sigma Fraternity house on the corner of 45th & 16th Street, a perfect location for the future chapel.  The fraternity house was purchased for $35,000 and the adjacent house for $25,000 in 1954.

Fr. Dooley remained as Chaplain through the 1950's and into 1960. He not only bought land for a new center, acting as landlord all during these years, but he introduced a number of innovative ministerial programs. Out of his experience of using lay instructors during his South Pacific war years, he trained students to conduct convert and Confirmation classes. His philosophy classes filled the living room, often spilling over into the entire house year after year.

As the popularity of the Newman Club grew among students, it was soon realized that more facilities were needed. Many sites were investigated and in 1970 the Newman Center moved to a former Presbyterian chapel on 17th & 47th Street.  As the club grew through the 1980s, and desires for a more visible presence near campus increased, Pastor Kieran Healy purchased a small one-story house at 4548 20th Avenue for $160,000 in 1989. This provided a place for three students to live and out of this experiment developed the first peer minister program.

During the first year of operation of this house, still much too small for Sunday Masses, the Acacia Fraternity House at 4502 suddenly came on the market.  Archbishop Hunthausen immediately moved to purchase the site. Several other fraternities were interested in the property and many at the chancery are still amazed that the Archbishop was able to move so quickly, raise the purchase price of $640,000 and get the approval of the priests' council - all in three days. In the fall of 1990, four peer ministers moved into the renovated building and Fr. Thomas DeMan set about growing the ministry into a thriving Newman Center.

Knowing that the original fraternity property was still not sufficient for a large Center, the owners of neighboring houses were approached about selling. Slowly, with the help of the Archdiocese, three additional houses were purchased making for the present half-acre property. All became student residences: on the north, Siena House, then Angeline House, Grad House and finally, the house next to the Center, Dooley House.  At one time there were as many as twenty-eight students living in the five houses, creating a unique pool of talent and energy for the Newman community.

During the decade of the 1990's, despite continual breakdowns in plumbing, electrical explosions as well as rat, raccoon, and various other rodent invasions, the center developed into a real place of prayer and celebration for thousands of students. One student even said as the old place was being demolished: "I only hope the new chapel will have a similar alive spirit that we came to experience in this old place."

As work began to raise money for a new chapel, costs increased from an estimated $1 million to $3 million, and many were concerned the costs were too great. 

In the tradition of St. Francis, a great church can be built brick by brick by many hands. While a few charitable foundations were very generous along the way, over a thousand people, many anonymous, contributed to build the current Newman Center – dedicated in 2001.  Early on the students were challenged to contribute a "hamburger" a week, and it is humbling how many accepted the challenge. These small monthly donations grew not only into $1 million but amazingly, into the $3 million needed to construct the beautiful building we enjoy today.

Newman’s future is bright.  With an estimated 12,0001 Catholics on campus at the University of Washington, our mission calls us to continue to grow.  If you’re interested in helping us for the future leaders of the Church and world, please consider making a gift or registering to get involved.

Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman 

John Henry Cardinal Newman, a nineteenth-century Catholic theologian, spent much of his life advocating for the Catholic student.

Originally ordained in the Church of England, he stressed the similarities between the Catholic and Anglican traditions. His work heavily influenced the Oxford Movement, an effort to reform the Church of England. During this time Newman had become convinced that the Catholic Church represented the true Church, and he converted in 1845. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1847, and in 1879 Pope Leo XIII made him a cardinal.

“In a word, Religious Truth is not only a portion, but a condition of general knowledge. To blot it out is nothing short, if I may so speak, of unraveling the web of University Teaching,” claimed Newman in The Idea of a University. The cooperation of Catholicism and higher education, both influential in forming culture, was a central theme in his writings, work, and beliefs. Newman devoted much of his life to working to create a Catholic university in which theology held a prominent place alongside the liberal sciences. Only a union of the two, he believed, would lead to wholeness of knowledge, for true faith relies on intellectual arguments, and full understanding of the arts and sciences requires a study of their Creator.

In 1893, three years after the death of Cardinal Newman, a small group of Catholic students at the University of Pennsylvania joined together with the goal of ministering to fellow students. Inspired by Newman’s devotion to the Catholic university student and the Catholic intellectual, they named the group after him, becoming the first Newman Club. Similar Catholic student organizations of the same name arose at other universities, and in 1908 they formed a national organization that came to be known as the National Newman Club Federation.

On October 9, 1908, the same day in October that Cardinal Newman had entered the Church, Fr. Francis Driscoll, O.P., met with UW students at Blessed Sacrament Church and founded the very first Dominican-run Newman Club.  Out of approximately 250 Newman Clubs nationwide today, the Newman Club at the University of Washington is the fifth oldest, and the very first run by the Dominicans.

Cardinal Newman was made “venerable” by the Church in 1991.  The Church declared him Blessed September 19, 2010.  In honor of his beatification, the Newman Center received a gift of an orginal letter written by Cardinal Newman in 1863 when he was an administrator at the Oratory.

Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman

Born:  February 21, 1801

Received in the Church:  October 9, 1845

Named Cardinal:  1879

Born to Eternal Life:  August 11, 1890

Declared Venerable:  January 22, 1991

Declared Blessed:  September 19, 2010

Feast Day:  October 9 

 

The Prayer of Blessed Cardinal Newman

“God has created me to do Him some definite service.  He has committed some work to me which He has not committee to another.  I have my mission.  I may never know in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.  I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.  He has not created me for naught.  I shall do good.  I shall do his work.  I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place while not intending it – if but I keep his commandments and serve Him in my calling.

Therefore I will trust Him.  Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away.  If I am in sickness, my sickness shall serve Him; In perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him...

He may prolong my life, he may shorten it; He knows what He is about.  He may take away my friends; He may throw me to strangers, he may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me - still He knows what he is about.

O Adonai, O Ruler of Israel, Thou that guidest Joseph like a flock, O Emmanuel, O Sapientia, I give myself to Thee.  I trust Thee wholly.  Thou art wiser than I - more loving than I myself.

Deign to fulfill Thy high purposes in me whatever they be - work in and through me.  I am born to serve Thee, to be Thy instrument.  Let me be Thy blind instrument.  I ask not to see - ask not to know - I ask simply to be used."

 

[1] A Report of Findings from CARA’s Catholic Campus Ministry Inventory, September 2003, Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. Report indicates 28%-38% of students at Western US universities are Catholic.