Ambassador's Fund for Catholic Education
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Multiple Philadelphia-Area Universities Since 2015-16
Temple, West Chester, Widener, Newman Apostolate at St. Agatha-St. James Church (Penn-Drexel)
Grant: $15,000 for Each of Two 2020-21 Grants to Newman Center at St. Agatha-St. James
The Newman Center is the Catholic Church on the campus of non-Catholic universities, where it proclaims the Gospel, embodies a Catholic culture, and ministers to the university community. Named for England’s Saint John Henry Newman (1801-1890), a Newman Center provides residence, ministry, and pastoral services to the university’s Catholic students. Temple was the first local institution to host a Newman Center director, an ordained priest, in launching this outreach initiative through a Mission Team from the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). This relationship ended in 2011, leaving a void in a comprehensive connection to Catholic students. West Chester and Widener universities followed, with the same outreach intentions but budgetary limitations. The fourth Newman Club, located in West Philadelphia and serving Penn and Drexel students, further recognized two specific ministry groups to focus attention if funding would be available.
The Temple Newman Center director requested a grant for 2015-16 and the following year that would reestablish a team of FOCUS missionaries in service at the university’s Newman Center. FOCUS requires a campus fee of $60,000 each year to provide four missionaries who will support the director in his objectives. These team members invite students to weekly small-group Bible studies designed to thematically convey significant points of Catholic faith. They also advance goals of moral formation by stressing Catholic values in group discussions and invite especially enthusiastic students to a mentoring relationship built on daily prayer, catechetical formation, and leadership opportunities. Widener and West Chester mirrored many of these initiatives for potential introduction, while the Newman Center director at Penn and Drexel identified Catholic athletes and college seniors as two core groups for targeted, structured programming and outcomes.
Immediate growth indicators are evident across the programs initiated at Temple, West Chester, and Widener. The two funded programs at Penn and Drexel are launching in 2020-21 but modified because of pandemic-caused restrictions. Since relaunching, Temple reported increases in the number of weekly Bible study sessions from one to 17 and in the number of participating students from 10 to more than 100. Similar increases occurred with daily Mass and post-graduation mission team volunteerism and religious vocations. West Chester, site of the most recently completed two-year grant in June 2019, continues to experience dynamic growth, with increases in every aspect of Catholic student outreach: in weekly Bible studies, total number of students in weekly meetings, service projects, catechesis discussions, Sunday night dinners, retreats, daily Mass, and mentorships. In addition, three students served on the university’s student executive board, indicating success in engaging and recruiting from a wider population of students.