Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, 1801-1890, Beatified in 2010
The Catholic Church has always had a serious interest in higher education. The first universities in Europe, from the 12th century on, were Catholic intuitions established for training clergy. Secular universities are actually a novelty, coming mostly from the early 19th century. Even on the secular campuses, the Church has seen fit to minister to the Catholics who study there, so Catholic Campus Ministry was begun on secular and other non-Catholic college campuses.
In the United States, these Catholic Campus Ministry offices are known as Newman Centers, named after the great English Catholic convert, priest, and Cardinal, John Henry Newman.
Newman had been a professor at Oxford, and an Anglican priest, and as he studied early Christian writing, he grew more and more convinced of the authenticity of the Catholic Church. He led many other Anglican scholars and clergymen in a more “Catholic” direction; this would become known as The Oxford Movement of the mid 19th century.
Eventually Newman realized he could not change the Anglican Church, and he became a Catholic. He wrote The Idea of a University, would found University College in Dublin, and he established the London Oratory, which still thrives.
He was a man of letters and still considered to be one of the major writers of the Victorian era in England. His writings on Theology have remained enormously influential in the life of the Catholic Church, affecting many of the reforms at the Second Vatican Council. Newman’s writings are cited in council documents more than any other writer, including Augustine or Aquinas.
It is because of Newman’s own attentions to serving Catholic students at the college level that his name has become synonymous with Catholic Campus Ministry.