SIU-Carbondale Newman Center is pipeline for vocations

Four current seminarians connected to SIUC Newman Center

By LINDA BEHRENS | Contributing writer

In 1958, as an outreach of St. Francis Xavier Church in Carbondale, the first chaplain was assigned to the Newman Catholic Student Center that serves the Catholic community at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale (SIUC).

Five years later, the Newman Center building, located near the college campus, was built.

“Today, that building is surrounded by the campus. We are located near the Rec Center,” says Tim Taylor, the diocesan director of campus ministry and the director of the Newman Catholic Student Center at SIUC.

The 60th anniversary of the building will be celebrated at the Newman Center Gala in the fall.

“Many older alums from SIUC will remember the Snack Bar located at our Newman Center,” Taylor says. “In those early days, there weren’t any other dining options on campus.”

Countless students, both Catholics and those of other faiths, have lived the mission of the SIUC Newman Center: “We dedicate ourselves to proclaiming and sharing the Word of God, to celebrating the sacraments, to fostering community, to offering service to those in need, to attending to the faith dimensions of personal growth, and to promoting peace and justice.”

Some of the center’s events and services include Bible studies, retreats, free Thursday night dinners for students, service opportunities and various social activities.

Mass at the Newman Center is open to the public. Mass times are 11:15 a.m. on Sundays, with an additional Mass at 5:15 p.m. during the SIUC academic year. The daily Masses are Tuesday and Thursday at 5:15 p.m. and Wednesday at 9 a.m.

“We have a close relationship with St. Francis Xavier Parish,” Taylor says. “Many parishioners from St. Francis Xavier attend Mass at the center, especially because daily Mass is not held there on Tuesdays through Thursdays.”

Father Robert B. Flannery, pastor at St. Francis Xavier, serves as the Newman Center chaplain.

Newman Centers, Newman Houses, Newman Clubs or Newman Communities are Catholic campus ministry centers at secular universities. The movement was inspired by the writings of Cardinal John Henry Newman, encouraging societies for Catholic students attending secular universities.

The “Newman Movement” in the United States began in 1883 at the University of Wisconsin.

Many priests, deacons, women religious and seminarians were actively involved in the Newman Centers at their higher education institutions. College students living away from home can find a faith community at a Newman Center. Others have reconnected with their Catholic faith by being involved with a Newman Center. Some have found their faith there.

“Seeing others living out their faith every day is a powerful component of what we do,” Taylor says.

Religious pipeline

Sometimes that leads to a religious vocation.

Taylor says he thinks many young men have trouble seeing themselves as a priest because they do not feel that they are “holy enough.”

“I think that growing in our desire for personal holiness is the first step in overcoming that obstacle,” he says. “The second step is growing in our sacramental life, and the men most in love with the sacraments are the ones most open to a vocation to the priesthood.”

Taylor adds, “And finally, I think that becoming more involved in the work or mission of the Church – in helping to spread the Gospel and bring God’s mercy and compassion and care into the world – all of this helps young men to feel that they really can make a difference with their lives if they open themselves up to God’s plan for their lives.”

Becoming actively involved at a Newman Center, especially serving on the student leadership team or leading small group discussions, helps college students become more involved in the work of the Church.

Four current seminarians have connections to the SIUC Newman Center, two of whom are from the Diocese of Belleville and two from the Diocese of Springfield.

Terry Marmion, a 27-year-old seminarian from the Diocese of Belleville, was active at the Newman Center at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he earned his undergraduate degree in history.

He admits that during his freshman year of college, he didn’t “practice his faith.” But the next three years, he was very involved with the university’s Newman Center, serving as president of the student ministry team.

“After graduating, I felt called by the Lord to serve in campus ministry while attending an online school for my masters,” Marmion says.

That’s when he saw a posting for a male campus minister at the Newman Center at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He served in that position for three years, followed by a year as the development director for the center, before entering the seminary last year.

“It took me a couple of years to figure it out, where God was calling me,” Marmion says. “But I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without my experiences with these two Newman Centers – as a student at one and as a member of the staff at SIUC.”

Other students have expressed their appreciation of their experiences with the SIUC Newman Center.

Jennifer Rudolphi from Olney, Illinois, is a junior majoring in agriculture business economics.

“The Newman Center has been my home away from home,” Rudolphi says. “I left all my comforts of my community and moved more than two hours away. The people of Newman have become my new community.”

She adds, “I have been able to strengthen my relationship with God through the people I have met at the Newman Center. I will hold all the memories and experiences with me as I move through life.”

Tony Fanelli of Le Roy, Illinois, a junior majoring in computer science, says, “The Newman Center means so much to me, as it has been the center of all my growth throughout college. Throughout high school, I always had Christian friends, but never really other Catholic friends I could confide in or discuss and grow in faith with.”

He adds that one of the benefits of these new friends from the Newman Center is that they were all involved Catholics.

“Not people who were Christian because their parents made them, but people who actively enjoyed worshipping God and wanted to explore their faith further. Having friends like this has allowed me to take my faith to heights I have never thought possible before,” Fanelli says.

For Tyler Timm of Tracy, Minnesota, a senior majoring in zoology, connecting with the Newman Center eventually led to his conversion into the Catholic faith.

“My experience at the Newman Center means the world to me. This place gave me the opportunity to meet amazing people. But most of all, it helped me find my faith. For that I am forever grateful,” Timm says.

“It’s a blessing to see students take their faith seriously,” Seminarian Marmion says. “With the community at Newman Center, we help each other grow. I helped them grow; they helped me grow. It’s such a good relationship.”

He adds, “When we invite others to the Newman Center, we walk with these individuals on their journey, just like Christ walked with the apostles and disciples.”

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