Historically Newman ministry began in the United States with the founding of the Melvin Club at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1883. One of the founding students Timothy Harrington, later began medical studies at the University of Pennsylvania in 1892. It was here, after reading one of John Henry Cardinal Newman’s works that Timothy and other students began a club they named after Newman. Cardinal Newman, a university teacher and perhaps the most noted convert to Catholicism in the 19th century, insisted that a higher education without God was an incomplete education. He worked for the establishment of houses or centers for Catholic students on university campuses in England. In 1915 the National Newman Federation was formed and it adopted the both the name and aims of Cardinal Newman - to enrich the spiritual, the educational, and the social aspects of the Catholic students in a secular institution.
The history of the Newman Center at Mankato State University officially began in 1921 when Miss Margaret Biewett became instructor of Physical Education at Mankato State Teachers College and began to organize a Newman Club similar to the one at Columbia University where she had
been an active member. With a membership of 32 women the Club began to grow and expand its programs. At first meetings wer
e held at the home of Dr. Jane Sullivan and other Newman Club sponsors and associates with local priests participating. In 1929 the Mankato Newman Club became affiliated with the Federation Catholic Clubs and in 1932 Father John Bergman, S.J. was appointed the Newman Club’s first Chaplain. The facilities of Loyola Hall were open to students and until 1961 the organization met there. In 1956, under the direction of Father Raymond J. Ireland S.J. the first permanent structure was acquired as a New
man Center located at 518 S. 5th St. At that time there were approximately 700 Catholic students attending Mankato State Teachers College.
In 1961, under the leadership of Father Paul Hallora
and with the support of the Diocese of Winona, a new Newman Center was constructed on the same location at a cost
of $300,000. Named the St. Thomas More Newman Center, it was a two-story structure with a library containing over 3000 books, an auditorium that accommodated up to 400 students, a chapel, classrooms, boardroom, cafeteria/rec room, and complete housing facilities for the chaplain, visiting priests, and club president.
As Mankato State expanded, it became necessary to move some and eventually all of its facilities to highland campus. T
his left the Newman Center with a very painful decision - to sell a beautiful facility and move "up the hill" with the college or to attempt to draw the students off campus. In 1978 the Diocese of Wi
a with chaplain Fath
er Gerald Conway decided to purchase a two-story house at 1331 Warren Street, a
cross the street from the campus. This present center is roomy enough for a large meeting room and kitchen in the basement, living room, reception area and two offices on the main floor, and a chapel for daily liturgy and private prayer upstairs. Weekend liturgies are celebrated o
n campus in the Student Union.
After Fr. Conway left, the ever-popular ministry team of Fr. Joe Fogal and Sr. Joyce Kolbet, SSND followed. They built up the campus ministry in many different ways. The liturgies were very inspiring and particpation on campus, whether in the dorms or in the student union was very high. Upon their departure, Fr. Timothy Hodapp followed as the Chaplain and Director of the center. He will be remembered for the large number of RCIA participants he worked with on campus. Following Fr. Hodapp's tenure, realizing the shortage of priests, the Diocese of Winona hired the first lay-person to direct the activities
of the Newman Center. Sydelle McCabe, a native of Mankato, received the position in 1995. Several chaplains were assi
gned to assist in spiritual and sacramental ways. The list of priests included: Fr. Russell Scepaniak, Fr. Rick Colletti and Fr. Kurt Farrell. Fr. Tim Biren joined Sydelle in team ministry in the summer of 2001. During their time of working together, the
Catholic Newman Center has seen a great expansion in participation from the students on
campus. In the Summer of 2008 the Newman Center added another staff member, David Pederson, to become the first-ever Director of Development for the Newman Center. Four FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic Univers
ity Students) joined the ministry for the Fall 2009 semester.
Over the past four years the Newman Center has grown in size in terms of student involvement and in staff. Currently we have added a full time Campus Minister and Administrator to help with the rapid expansion of t
he Center. In the Spring of 2014, The Catholic Mavs broke ground on a new 16,000 square foot building after an extensive building campagin and years of prayer. The NEW St. Thomas More Catholic Newman Center has been open to the public since Spring 2015 and welcomes hundreds of Catholic students on a weekly basis.
The ministry continues to make sure the motto of Cardinal Newman rings true...cor ad cor...heart to heart. We look for the heart of Christ in one another and pray they may find it in us.