The Newman Center Catholic Community at UC San Diego came into existence with the founding of the University in 1966. At the invitation of the Bishop of San Diego, the Paulist Fathers became the first campus ministers. The Paulists served the community for thirty-two years, establishing many important connections to the university and building a vibrant community. Two notable contributions of the Paulists were the building of a wonderful student leadership program for undergraduates and encouraging a spirit of interfaith dialogue among other participating campus ministers. This spirit of interfaith dialogue was fundamental in the establishment of the Newman Center. As the community struggled to find a suitable space for the ministry, the University Lutheran Church generously offered to house the Newman Center, a relationship that lasted several decades. One of the great imprints of the Paulists were the Burke Lectures, which are still ongoing. These lectures promote dialogue between religion and society and feature world-wide renowned scholars.
In the fall of 1998, the Dominican Friars of the Western Province came to UC San Diego and continued the great spirit of campus ministry begun by the Paulists. The Dominicans grew the campus ministry by expanding the number of students attending Mass and retreats, establishing a great financial base, and expanding the programs offered by the Newman Center. As the community grew, so did the University Lutheran Church’s need for their own space. Thus, the Newman Center moved to its current location at the Good Samaritan Episcopal Church, two blocks from the east parking lots of UC San Diego. This new interfaith relationship grew from the use of a couple of offices and the church, to the use of more offices, the renovation of Rotter Hall, greater communication, and respectful cooperation, as colleagues in ministry. Some hallmarks of the Dominican contribution to the mission and ministry at UC San Diego and the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego were: the establishment of a firm foundation for an effective campus ministry to flow at UC San Diego; a deepening of an active desire to collaborate with other faiths through our collaboration with Good Samaritan Church, The Center for Ethics and Spirituality, and the Burke Lectureship at UC San Diego; and a commitment to support the goals and development of effective preaching and the formation of faith and young adult life in the Diocese of San Diego and Beyond. At the end of the Fall Quarter 2016, the Dominicans announced their withdrawal at the end of the academic year from this vibrant ministry at UC San Diego, due to a desire to not over stretch the Friars of the Western Province and to strengthen the community life and mission of the Dominican Friars in the West.
In the Summer of 2017, the Society of Jesus, “The Jesuits,” answered the call to continue the great ministry and spirit at the Newman Center Catholic Community at UC San Diego.
History of Newman Centers
Newman Centers, often referred to as Newman Societies outside of the United States, started to be established in the late 19th century and early 20th century as a way to encourage people to live out their Catholic faith on secular campus in the midst of perceived anti-Catholic biases. They are named after an English convert to Catholicism, Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, who encouraged Catholic students to form societies to support one another as they pursued higher education.
After his conversion, he was ordained a Catholic priest and later a cardinal. He helped establish the Catholic University of Ireland, which was later became University College, Dublin.
Newman Centers across the country have active ministries to the campus they serve. In addition to providing access to the Sacraments in a location on campus or close to campus, they also provide many programs for students to connect with other Catholics and like minded individuals, grow in their faith, live out their faith in the world through service opportunities and other social justice ministries.
A list of Newman Centers and other Catholic campus ministries can be found on the Catholic Campus Ministry Association website.