Andrew Olson had his life planned out: After graduating from Arizona State University, he’d find happiness in being a professional musician. That plan dissipated when he started feeling a tug on his heart during Mass. Olson wanted to deny the feeling, but after seeking guidance from ASU’s All Saints Newman Center director Fr. Rob Clements, he began discerning a call to the priesthood. Now, Olson is entering his third year at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.
Olson didn’t grow up Catholic. He was invited to Mass during his freshman year at ASU and instantly felt at home at All Saints. He recognized the joy of the Catholic students he interacted with and wanted that for himself.
“What really helps a young Catholic at a university stand out is their joy. The more they live that boldly and unapologetically, the more obvious it is that they have something that other people want,” Olson said.
He was welcomed into the Church during the Easter Vigil his freshman year and still considers All Saints home.
“Countless students are so on fire for the faith. The Newman Center gives them a place to tend to that fire and help it to stay lit,” Olson said. “What’s so important about having a Newman Center is that you’re welcomed and you belong. That’s something not just young people need, but people in general need, that they belong and they are loved.”
Fr. Clements, a third-generation ASU alumnus, has been welcoming students to All Saints for nine years and has enjoyed being a part of St. John Henry Newman’s vision of creating a Catholic presence on university campuses.
By the Numbers
Number of students who attend a Bible study or small group
Number of students who attend daily Mass
Number of students who attend the weekly College Night
Current seminarians for the Diocese of Phoenix who began discerning a vocation while students at the Newman Center
Number of young men in the last 10 years who have discerned priesthood or religious life after involvement in the Newman Center
Number of young women in the last 10 years who entered religious life after involvement in the Newman Center
“Newman’s vision was that the Church needed a presence at universities and for the Church to keep on top of trends and ideas in thinking, especially among the young,” said Fr. Clements. “He also thought [his vision] was evangelistic and an anchor for Catholics to stay connected to the Church.”
Opportunities offered at All Saints continue to speak to evangelization, as St. Newman intended. Missionaries from St. Paul’s Outreach, or SPO, invite students to live with them in housing complexes and lead student formation activities. All Saints also offers three mission trips throughout the year. Students have served with the Missionary Brothers of the Poor in Jamaica and also served in Mexico with PEMEX in an outreach to at-risk children.
These evangelization efforts have resulted in extraordinary growth at All Saints and new facilities are needed to tend to the influx of students. Fr. Clements said he is thankful for support from “Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante” Campaign funds that will be used to update facilities such as a four-story addition to the existing center that will provide space for offices, social facilities for student gatherings, a community lounge and a residence for priests.
“[Students] want to belong to something,” said Sr. María José Correa — a sister of the Servants of the Plan of God who has been serving as one of All Saints’ campus ministers for three years. “The Newman Center provides them with that community that they need to grow in their faith.”
With this in mind, Sr. María José has encouraged students to be a part of the mission of the Newman Center by becoming leaders. Student leaders are divided into teams, each team focusing on various aspects of student life: mission trips, retreats and small groups to name a few. Each team is meant to help students to eventually become student missionaries.
During her first year, there were 10 student leaders, last year there were 30 and now, 50. Sr. María José said she enjoys being a part of that mission and reaching out to students on the ASU campus.
“In my case of being a sister, and I wear a habit,” she said, “it’s a blessing to be on campus and show [students] that God exists.”
All Saints Newman Center at ASU
230 E. University Dr., Tempe
Sunday Mass Times
4 p.m. (Saturday Vigil)
9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. (Spanish), 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Since being received into the Church his freshman year, ASU junior Herman Flores has been consistently involved at the Newman Center.
“I started making steps toward becoming Catholic when I started going to the Newman Center,” said Flores, who was raised as an Evangelical Christian and was introduced to Catholicism in high school by some friends.
Last year, he was a part of the team that planned student mission events, and over the summer he served on a mission trip with the Missionaries of Charity. This year, he lives with SPO missionaries and leads small groups.
He feels blessed to have the sacraments available to him, just a five-minute bike-ride from where he lives.
“If I need a place where I can be my honest self and find people that I trust, and [people who] I know care about me and want what’s best for me, I know I can go to the Newman Center and find that with anyone there,” Flores said.