From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

EWU’s Newman Center working toward new chapel space

by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the June 13, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)

The Catholic Newman Center at Eastern Washington University needs a bigger chapel. The Center, at 837 W. Elm in Cheney, is housed in what used to be a residence. Right now, said director Tara Young-Brown, “we use the living room (for Sunday Mass) and have to move all the furniture.” Even when they move the furniture, she said, if there is a large group at Mass, such as when Bishop William Skylstad visits, it’s standing-room only.

The Newman Center helps provide Catholic presence on the EWU campus. Washington State University, Pullman, also has a Newman Center, St. Thomas More.

Young-Brown and the EWU Newman Center student council have made plans to convert the garage of their center into the chapel. They have about half the money they need: a $3,000 grant from the Catholic Foundation and $1,500 in savings. “We need about $4,000 more,” Young-Brown said.

A contractor is willing to donate some labor for the garage conversion and the Knights of Columbus from Cheney’s St. Rose of Lima Parish are also willing to lend a hand. The garage is currently used for storage and Young-Brown said they will get a storage shed for those items.

Father Tom Caswell, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Cheney celebrates Mass at the Center at 7 p.m. on Sunday evenings during the school year. Young-Brown said average attendance at Mass is about 25 persons. “We have had as many as 45,” she said. The proposed chapel would hold about 60 people.

St. Rose Parish gives the center $300 each month. The parish’s Knights of Columbus council also helps the students with various projects. The students hold fund-raisers for their SEARCH retreat each fall, and they don’t want to “max out parishioners in asking for money,” said Brown.

Newman Centers were designed to minister especially to Catholic students in public colleges. Their history dates back to 1893 when the first Newman Club was formed at the University of Pennsylvania.

It was named for St. John Henry Newman, an Oxford scholar, convert to Catholicism and cardinal in England. Around the end of World War I, a National Newman Club Federation came into being.

Today there are over 2,000 Catholics ministering on college campuses. There is great diversity among the Newman Center ministries, from those with full-time staffs to those with a part-time student minister.

Father John Blake started the Newman Club at Eastern in the 1930s. Young-Brown serves in a “ministry of presence” there 10 months of the year. She said she sees an average of about eight students a day at the center. They come to “eat and hang out.” They also come to cook, to type papers, to get books from the library that Young-Brown put together and to attend Mass. There is also a weekly potluck dinner and Bible study on Wednesdays.

One of those students is Jared Black of Bremerton, who attends EWU to study computer science. He has been coming to the Newman Center for two years. Last year he converted to Catholicism and is now the counselor for the center as well as its public relations representative. He said he appreciated the center and how he was made to feel welcome.

Casey Purcell of Clarkston, another computer science major, calls the Newman Center her “home away from home.” She likes to “play in the yard,” and is the one who plants all the flowers at the center. She also cooks at the center, giving her a change from microwave cooking.

Ginelle Pfiffner of the Tacoma area is new to the center. She likes what she’s learning in the center’s environment. “I enjoy coming in,” she said.

Students have special needs, said Young-Brown, and ministry has to try to fit those needs, in worship and in community. Right now, she said, “students need an even stronger sense of identity.”

Donations to the chapel project would be most welcome. They can be sent to the Newman Center, 837 W. Elm, Cheney, Wash. 99004.

Also, “If someone has a computer they could donate, that would be welcome, too,” said Young-Brown.

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