History of Newman Center at UC San Diego

processional_crossThe Newman Center Catholic Community at UC San Diego came into existence with the founding of UC San Diego in 1966. At the invitation of the Bishop of San Diego, the Paulist Fathers became the first campus ministers at UC San Diego. The Paulists served the community well, establishing many important connections to the university and building a vibrant community. Two notable contributions of the Paulists were building a wonderful student leadership program for undergraduates to participate in the community, as well, as to encourage a spirit of interfaith dialogue among other participating campus ministers of the UC San Diego campus. One of the great imprints of the Paulists is the Burke Lectures which promote the dialogue between religion and society and feature world-wide renowned scholars. The Paulists Fathers served the Catholic Community at UC San Diego for thirty-two years.

In the fall of 1998, the Dominican Fathers of the Western Province came to UC San Diego and continued the great spirit of campus ministry begun by the Paulists. As the Catholic student community began to grow, so did the Lutheran church’s need for their own space. Thus, the Newman Center, which had been housed there for several decades, moved to its current location, Good Samaritan Episcopal Church, two blocks from the east parking lots of UC San Diego.

History of Newman Centers


“John Henry Newman by Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt” by John Everett Millais – National Portrait Gallery: NPG 5295

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.