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The History of Newman

"We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe."
- John Henry Newman

In the 1800s, Blessed John Henry Newman wrote that “religious truth is not only a portion, but a condition of general knowledge.” Catholics who attended non-Catholic universities are likely to have encountered one of the hundreds of centers inspired by the 19th-century Catholic intellectual.

The “Newman Movement” in the United States began in 1883 at the University of Wisconsin to help Catholics live their faith on campus amid perceived anti-Catholicism. Ten years later, the University of Pennsylvania started a Newman Club, taking on the convert’s name three years after his death.

In 1908, the Catholic clubs began an association which eventually became the National Newman Club Federation. From the beginning of World War I until 1969, the Newman effort was “characterized by a defensive and even hostile attitude on the part of Catholics students and their chaplains toward the academic world,” according the 1985 U.S. bishop’s pastoral, “Empowered by the Spirit: Campus Ministry Faces the Future.”    

During that time, many felt a lack of support and connection with the hierarchy. Things changed significantly with the influence of the Second Vatican Council. The church began to support campus ministry, though is seems misunderstandings between the campus efforts, parishes and diocesan leadership continue. The U.S. bishops placed Newman Centers under the care of the Catholic Campus Ministry Association.

“Campus ministry is an integral part of the church’s mission to the world and must be seen in that light,” the bishops said in their pastoral. Through the years, Catholic campus ministries have improved their relationships with the academic community.

In the Fall of 1991, Catholic Newman Ministry (CNM) was founded at Mercer University.