By Catherine Mulhern, The Catholic Sun
On any given day, most college students can be found napping, grabbing coffee, or hanging out with friends in between classes. But at Grand Canyon University it’s commonplace for students – Catholic and Protestant alike – to walk across the street, step through the bright purple door of Holy Spirit Newman Center and spend their down time praying in the chapel.
It’s a doorway into a deeper connection with God – and each other.
With your gift to the Charity and Development Appeal (CDA), you foster the faith of young adults and help our Church come more fully alive. Additionally, you bring hope to thousands of other individuals and families in need through more than 70 CDA-supported ministries and charities.
Holy Spirit Newman Center is one of more than 70 ministries and charities supported by the Charity and Development Appeal (CDA). Established by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted in 2016, this small re-purposed house has become a welcoming home to hundreds of college students over the past seven years. In this place of welcome, young men and women are invited into receiving the Sacraments, community nights, free meals, Bible studies, formation talks, retreats, and well-attended group activities, including hikes and “ultimate” Frisbee.
With an emphasis on vibrant community life, personal and spiritual formation, and fostering a deep sense of belonging, Holy Spirit Newman Center draws more than 80 students to regular participation.
At the heart of this thriving community are a priest and two religious sisters whose love for Jesus is changing the trajectory of college students’ lives.
Fr. David Loeffler, pastor, Sr. Clare Marie, SCTJM, and Sr. Kelly Grace, SCTJM, welcome each young person who walks through the Newman Center door with a huge smile, and an even deeper desire to lead them to the Lord – the only One who can fulfill the deepest longings of their hearts.
“I want them to know Jesus, my best and truest friend,” said Fr. David with a smile. “At the Newman Center, students find a home for the heart, a school of faith, and a path of discipleship. It is such a blessing to watch them discover their true dignity and unique gifts through prayer and authentic community.”
Lane Nelson, a Grand Canyon University sophomore, has personally experienced the impact of being part of the Holy Spirit Newman Center family.
Nelson had never met a religious sister or had a deep conversation with a priest before encountering Fr. David, Sr. Clare, and Sr. Kelly at Holy Spirit Newman Center. Having only gone to confession a few times in his life before college and rarely encountering Jesus in Eucharistic adoration, his Catholic faith was present but not personal.
“I always had kept my faith at an arm’s length of me throughout my life,” Nelson said. “That is, until I began to attend the Newman Center. It was there, in that little humble house with the purple door across the street, that I actually began to deepen my relationship with Christ.
“Now I have Catholic friends who I can grow in my faith with, a place nearby where I can repent and ask for forgiveness, and it’s such a blessing to go find solitude in the Lord. The amount of love God has given me through Fr. David, the sisters, and this community is immeasurable.”
Nelson isn’t the only student who has experienced the immense impact of Holy Spirit Newman Center. In 2022 alone, one student converted to the Catholic faith and six others received the Sacrament of Confirmation. Since opening in 2016, Holy Spirit Newman Center has fostered at least one vocation to the seminary and six marriages.
In short, Holy Spirit Newman Center is changing lives. And in a much deeper sense, it is changing hearts.
Sr. Clare’s eyes reflected deep gratitude as she spoke about the Newman Center students. “You can see the difference in their faces over time as they come to know Jesus and their lives are changed. Then these young men and women, with real joy and peace, go out into the world and are witnesses to others.”
The CDA makes this life-changing ministry possible. CDA funding allows Holy Spirit Newman Center to flourish with its staff of Fr. David, Sr. Clare, and Sr. Kelly. Those dollars also provide meals and retreats for the students as well as keep the lights on and the bright purple door wide open to any college student who wants to come in.
“Parishes run on plate collections, and this Newman Center runs on the CDA fund,” Fr. David said.
Fr. David, Sr. Clare, and Sr. Kelly want those who give a gift to the CDA to know that they are part of the Holy Spirit Newman Center family, too. Not only do they support this little house that is changing lives, but they also play a crucial role in introducing college students to Jesus Christ – their true Home.