Fr. Rob Clements celebrated the first Mass at the new church at All Saints Catholic Newman Center on Ash Wednesday. (J.D. Long-Garcia/CATHOLIC SUN)
Fr. Rob Clements celebrated the first Mass at the new church at All Saints Catholic Newman Center on Ash Wednesday. (J.D. Long-Garcia/CATHOLIC SUN)

TEMPE— Years of hard work led to the first Mass celebrated in the church serving All Saints Catholic Newman Center on the Arizona State University campus.

The campus ministry community, which serves the largest university in the United States, has been working on building the new church for more than a decade. The staff serves thousands of students and other community members.

Fr. Rob Clements celebrated the first Mass at the new church at All Saints Catholic Newman Center on Ash Wednesday. (J.D. Long-Garcia/CATHOLIC SUN)
Fr. Rob Clements celebrated the first Mass at the new church at All Saints Catholic Newman Center on Ash Wednesday. (J.D. Long-Garcia/CATHOLIC SUN)

The new church, once seating is added in the balcony, will seat more than 600. Also in the works are a social hall, student center and lounge and office space.

“It’s been a tremendous effort and a lot of hard work by a lot of people,” said Neil Brown from the finance council. “There’s a total commitment from the community. But there’s still a long way to go.”

The Newman Center continues to raise money for the church building, adoration chapel, offices, rectory and classrooms. While they’ve raised over $4 million, the “Raise these Walls” campaign set out to raise more than $5 million more to finish the project.

Dominican Father Nathan Castle began raising money for the new church in 2001. The Dominicans, who took over the campus ministry from the diocese, headed up the campus ministry for 40 years. Diocesan priests took the reigns in 2010.

Dominican Father Thomas Becket Mullady, in town for a parish mission, delivered the homily during the first Mass.

“We come together to celebrate Mass and to worship Christ. That’s what this is,” he said after Mass. “The styles are different, but that’s all part of change.”

In his homily, the friar spoke of Lent through the original meaning of the word, “spring.”

“We still suffer from weaknesses. We have to ask the Lord to enter deeply into our souls so we can have a new springtime in our souls,” he said. The ashes should be a sign of our own change, he said.

“It’s renewing us right now,” said longtime parishioner Kathy Gibbons. She compared the blank walls to empty canvases on which the community could start anew and build on a solid past.

“It’s like a new landscape,” she said. “Change is not comfortable, but in the long run, it’s good. Like seeds that have to die to bring new life. We’re called to abandon grudges.”

She said the timing of the first Mass on Ash Wednesday was no mistake. The work goes on.

“It’s beautiful,” said Anderson Jackson, an ASU student and an intern at the Newman Center. “It’s definitely an attraction.”

He said students are excited and glad to see the church finished.

“It puts things in perspective,” he said. “God always takes care of you. God provided, as always.”

Elements from the old church, like the stained glass window from the adoration chapel, will be kept.

Fr. Rob Clements, director of the Newman Center, blessed the doors of the new church before the first Mass.

“We are here to promote the vital interaction of faith and reason, to provide for a university community a locus to foster that freedom of the spirit that is to mark us as children of God,” he wrote on asucatholic.org. “That’s a mission God looks for us to take on and to support with all that’s in us for the sake of our young people who will be tomorrow’s Catholic leaders.”

J.D. Long-Garcia is the former editor of The Catholic Sun. He joined the staff in 2004. J.D., a lay Dominican, studied journalism and psychology at Arizona State University, philosophy at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, and theology at the Graduate Theological Union. He's taught classes at the Kino Institute, worked as an outreach intern at All Saints Catholic Newman Center, led a deanery confirmation program in Berkeley, Calif., and served as a catechist for children of various ages. He was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

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