TEMPE — Students have a new Catholic “home away from home” near the nation’s largest university.
At a Jan. 24 dedication Mass at All Saints Catholic Newman Center Fr. Rob Clements, pastor and director, handed over the architectural plans to Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted.
The gesture signaled completion of a 15-year-old dream to build more efficient space for worship and fellowship. The Old St. Mary’s Church, the site of many weddings past and present, now complements the new Newman Center, which some 1,500 ASU students and nearby families call home. Nearly 1,000 attend weekend Masses.
“It’s a blessing to be able to work here and watch God change them before our very eyes,” said James Timberlake, development director and former campus missionary with Fellowship of Catholic University Students.
All Saints Catholic Newman Center
230 E. University Drive, Tempe
He briefly addressed supporters during the first Newman Gala following the dedication Mass. It fell on the 111th anniversary of the dedication of the Old St. Mary’s Church.
John Fees, a 1989 ASU alum who served as emcee, said his wife has generations of family ties there.
“What has been designed here, such a great beauty, is going to inspire hearts and minds in the Church,” Fees said.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted acknowledged the great sacrifices made to build something beautiful for God. Liturgical beauty lifts the human gaze above this world.
“A beautiful church aids us in remembering God’s ultimate goal for our lives,” the bishop said. “We need this message of beauty from God because, all too easily, our vision can get stuck on passing things that will not last. We can get caught up in our own concerns and forget the needs of others and the things of God.”
Not so for the countless who called Newman Center home over the past century. The Hispanic community built what was then St. Mary’s in 1903 with a two-story building added in the ‘60s. A “Prepare Him Room Campaign” that wrapped up in 2004 raised nearly $6 million. Another $500,000 via a “Raise These Walls” campaign ended in 2012 and sandwiched the beginning of construction for the current center.
Trevor Barger, a 1995 graduate of ASU and Newman Center member the last 14 years, applauded the efforts of the city, the university and the church community to genuinely understand each other’s needs and visions. The Newman Center is a church without its own parking lot but permission to use an ASU garage on the weekends.
Barger loves the quality the new worship space projects. It features a shiny center aisle, interior arches and simply decorated walls. The days of folding chairs and overflow Mass seating on the stairs are gone, Barger said, leaving a message that Catholic young adults are important within parish and campus life.
“It’s fun to have the most holy living room at ASU,” Barger said.
Bishop Olmsted consecrated the altar. Former leaders including Dominican Fathers Nathan Castle and James Thompson shared privileges of anointing the walls with holy oil. Fr. Clements blessed the people and student leaders lit the dedication candles.
Fr. Clements, an ’83 ASU alum, recalled the Newman Center once sitting amid a mix of declining residential, distant dorms for athletes, a Greyhound bus station and crime-ridden biker bars. He said the Newman Center stood in contrast to its surroundings as a place of Catholic prayer and action.
“On a smaller scale, our mission is nothing short of world domination,” Fr. Clements told the Newman Gala crowd.
More than 250 come throughout the week for programming with FOCUS missionaries drawing more souls in via one-on-one small group evangelization, Fr. Clements said. Students count on the availability of the sacramental life — even confession via priestly encounters in the library — and opportunities for short courses and formation opportunities.
Senior Annie Richards felt she lived a double life for a bit showing up to both the party scene and to Mass. A friend invited her to a FOCUS Bible study and Richards kept going back. She had encountered Jesus for the first time.
“I cried because I realized how relevant the Bible was to my life and to my struggles,” Richards said. “Each time I took that step of faith, He gave me more than I ever could have imagined.”
She feels sad for the men and women on campus still living in darkness. Carlos Caraveo wants to reach them too, especially those who speak Spanish and Portuguese.
The ASU senior and Newman Center intern found himself welcomed as a transfer student last year and went on to establish a Catholic fraternity. Caraveo wants to help men combat strong societal pressure and remember the Lord’s embrace.
Fr. Clements is excited for direct campus outreach that also encourages those with little religious affiliation “to search for God, to ask intelligent questions, to experience the beauty and dynamism that life in Christ provides us.”
Editor’s Note: The airdate of the Mass is Jan. 25. It’s a rebroadcast of a live filming of the Jan. 24 Dedication Mass.