Grand Canyon Newman Center connects students to faith, community, service

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Holy Spirit Newman Center chaplain Fr. Joseph Francis LePage, FHS, distributes ashes to Grand Canyon University students during the center’s noon Ash Wednesday service in the 45-person chapel Feb. 14. (Billy Hardiman/CATHOLIC SUN)
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With the Holy Spirit guiding them, Fr. Joseph Francis LePage, FHS, and his brother Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit are building and breathing life into the newly established Holy Spirit Newman Center at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.

By the Numbers

20%

Of the more than 11,000 students at GCU are Catholic

25%

Annual rate at which the Newman Center community is growing

4-7

Years that Catholic population is expected to double

45

The number of people that can fit into the Newman Center chapel

12

Students participating in a spring break mission trip to the Philippines

6

People enrolled in the Newman Center RCIA program

According to a 2011 Pew Research study, the majority of people who leave their faith do so before the age of 23. Yet more than 100 students attend the GCU Newman Center Masses throughout the semester, 22 attend daily Mass and a consistent group also attend a communal Rosary, Bible studies and praise and worship events.

“It is our desire to help young people encounter Christ through His Church,” Fr. Joseph Francis said. “We believe that it is not simply a matter of devotion, but includes a personal relationship with God.”

The GCU Holy Spirit Newman Center has quickly grown from its beginnings in 2015. Their newly dedicated chapel, converted from a 2,500 square-foot home across from the university, holds only 45 students and is bursting at the seams. The recent Ash Wednesday service drew about 75 people, with students spilling into the kitchen and administrative office’s halls, Fr. Joseph Francis said.

“The Newman Center has been an amazing blessing to the Catholic community at GCU,” senior Benjamin Byrom said. “I remember just a few years ago we carpooled to Mass, and now we’re grateful to have access to the sacraments right across the street.”

The fruit of the Holy Spirit Newman Center doesn’t stop at Mass. There are six students now attending RCIA, there are three women exploring religious life and a student who was recently accepted as a seminarian for the diocese, a dedicated group of students involved in music ministry and an 18-person (including 12 students) spring break mission trip to the Philippines.

“The Newman Center has been the foundation in which I have been able to build a strong, personal relationship with the Holy Spirit,” said senior Marian Escio. “It has given me a community to fall back on, an opportunity to develop my spiritual gifts and a place to be free in my Catholic faith.”

EN ESPAÑOL: Crecimiento explosivo indica una gran necesidad para de un Centro Newman más grande para GCU

 

Fr. Joseph Francis preaches to the assembly of students during the Feb. 14 Ash Wednesday service. (Billy Hardiman/CATHOLIC SUN)
Holy Spirit Newman Center at Grand Canyon University
3057 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
Sunday Mass Times
  • 10 a.m.
  • 6 p.m.
Confession Times
  • Sunday, 5-6 p.m.
  • Wednesday, 5-6 p.m.
(602) 774-4232

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With a rapidly expanding attendance and an upcoming growth expected for Grand Canyon University, the Newman Center hopes to use a nearby two-acre parcel of land and a $1.5 million endowment from the “Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante” campaign to build a larger chapel and student center to accommodate the growth.

“The Holy Spirit Newman Center encouraged me to form a personal relationship with every person of the Trinity, especially the Holy Spirit,” said sophomore Beatrice Berthiaume. “It has provided me with a Catholic community that I can call home while furthering my education at Grand Canyon University.”

According to Candelario de Leon, executive director of the Office of Mission Advancement, the work of the Holy Spirit Newman Center ministering to young adults matches well with the mission of discipleship and evangelization through the “Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante” campaign.

De Leon called the relationship between the Newman Center and Grand Canyon University, an interdenominational, Christian-run university, a “partnership in producing Christian, ethical, educated young adults to be leaders in society.”

“… We both share the same hope — to bring people to a personal relationship with Jesus and to share their gifts to the world,” de Leon said. “We stand shoulder to shoulder and respond to the needs of the young adults. It is an exciting thing.”

Fr. Joseph Francis said that the $1.5 million from the campaign will “give us a new home.”

“Starting from nothing, we are seeking to build a culture of praise to God,” Fr. Joseph Francis said, “one centered on Christ in the Eucharist and lived out through the sacraments. They are the breath of life for our youth who are so struggling with their faith lives.”

“The Newman Center is a place of spiritual comfort, where I can go whenever I need to recover from the stress of college life,” said freshman Thomas James. “Knowing that the community there is going to always be there for me has really strengthened my faith.”