Two weeks ago the UNM community was informed of changes to the Aquinas Newman Center on Las Lomas. Archbishop Sheehan informed the Dominican priests that they must be out of the Newman Center by July 1. Diocesan priests will continue the work at the Newman Center. Following this announcement, upset parishioners held a town hall meeting and began circulating a petition of support for the Dominican priests. Interestingly, most of the parishioners are not UNM students.
Newman Centers were established at universities across the country for university students to practice their Catholic faith; to be places where students could go and deepen their understanding of the teachings of the church; to be places to showcase the vocation of the priesthood.
UNM has more than 21,000 undergraduate students and did not produce a single candidate for the priesthood last year. This does not speak very highly for the current leadership of the Newman Center. When coaches fail to win games they are replaced. Should our spiritual coaches be treated any differently, and should students’ fates be determined by non-students?
So why did the Archbishop decide to make these changes at the Newman Center? First and foremost, students no longer wish to attend Mass at the Newman Center. The vast majority of students find the Newman Center a strange and foreign place that does not follow the teachings of the Church with the reverence she deserves.
The Newman Center needs to be a Catholic church, the Church I love, and one which will help deepen my understanding and the growth of my faith. It needs to be a place where the body and blood of Christ is adored and worshipped, not a place where the altar servers wear polo shirts and fail to honor and respect our Lord Jesus Christ. If the present priests have failed in providing students the essence of their Catholic faith, then they should be replaced.
The fact that no one answered the call of the vocation of the priesthood from the Newman Center last year is disheartening. An opportunity exists at UNM to encourage young men to consider the priesthood. To accomplish this, their religious experience needs to be profound and stimulating. The Church needs to be represented in all of her glory and history; a place to come for spiritual strength, guidance and direction. Unfortunately, this does not exist at the Newman Center and change is called for.
To the angry parishioners signing petitions and complaining about the decision, stop and think about your faith. The Catholic Church is not a democracy, it is over 2,000 years of teaching and tradition. Being a Catholic is a choice, and selecting things that fit you personally from a menu is not an option.
I say love your faith or leave it, the choice is yours.
Mass is the same each day worldwide. Each day billions of Catholics hear the same gospel and receive the Holy Eucharist, a celebration of the Last Supper and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. I, for one, as a student at UNM, prefer to deepen my faith, not dilute it.
I want to thank the Archbishop for his courage to be proactive and not reactive. I want to thank him for listening to the voices of UNM students and their religious rights to enjoy a campus church that was created for them many years ago. Thank you, Archbishop, for making the Newman Center Catholic again. My friends and I will no longer have to travel to other parishes to attend Mass.