Catholic leader visits Elon, blesses Newman Center
Hundreds of hours of planning, countless prayers and the collaboration of many came to a climax last Saturday when Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh visited Elon to celebrate Mass and bless the university's new Catholic Newman Center.
Now housed in the Holland House on South Campus, the Catholic Newman Center is the sixth facility supported by the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh. Newman Centers already exist at Duke University, East Carolina University, North Carolina State University, UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Wilmington.
Named in honor of John Henry Cardinal Newman, a highly influential 19th-century British priest and cardinal, Newman Centers are residences and Catholic ministry centers at non-Catholic universities throughout the world. The blessing ceremony is a tradition that accompanies the official installment of the facility.
At Elon, Associate University Chaplain Phil Smith presented the welcome. President Leo Lambert gave the introduction and reflection for the blessing. Burbidge offered the official blessing of the Diocese of Raleigh, and The Rev. Gerry Waterman and senior Justin Sposato, president of Catholic Campus Ministry, reflected on the gratitude of the program.
The blessing marked the first time an Elon religious organization has received a house of faith.
"This is the first of several houses (at Elon) affirming faiths," Lambert said. "There's a reason why the Catholics are first and that reason is the Rev. Gerry Waterman. He was the visionary who convinced us all."
Waterman is the Diocesan representative who has been serving Elon Catholic Campus Ministry for the last four years. He regularly presides over Sunday night masses as well as the Wednesday night Catholic mass.
"I am an external shepherd of the Diocese," Waterman said. "Having Bishop Burbidge come to campus shows our universality ... it connects the Catholic community at large."
At the blessing ceremony, Waterman thanked the many benefactors who made the Catholic Newman Center a reality.
"There's a saying that when it is in your power to do good, do not hold back ... your support and dedication have not gone unnoticed," he said.
Sposato echoed Waterman's gratitude.
"It's a pretty big thing to have the president of your university and the bishop of your Diocese at the same event," Sposato said. "It's a blessing to have that kind of support."
Twenty-five percent of Elon students, roughly 1,200-1,300 of the overall student body, are Catholic. Two hundred students regularly participate in Mass and 40-50 are actively involved in Catholic Campus Ministry programming, Sposato said.
The blessing of the Catholic Newman Center opens a new chapter for the Catholic Campus Ministry and its role on Elon's campus.
"We really do appreciate this amazing opportunity we have," Sposato said. "We have a lot of programming in the works. From Monday Night Football fellowship to small group discussion, we have a lot in store."
Catholic Campus Ministry invites all students to come and visit the Catholic Newman Center.
As Lambert said in his closing remarks, "the best purpose (of Holland House) is yet to come."