Over the past few months, you have heard what the Newman Center means to the students who attend the University of Maine in Orono. They view it as a home away from home, a place to build friendships and share a meal, a place where they can develop leadership skills, and most importantly, a place where they can find God within the often hectic experience of college life as they nurture their evolving faith.
Across the diocese, the Newman Center is looked to as a place that develops tomorrow’s Catholic leaders. Fr. Seamus Griesbach, Vocations Director for the Diocese of Portland, explains: “The Newman Center here at the University of Maine is really the flagship of all ministry that we do within the state for college-age Catholics. We are able to do so much more for students here than we are in other parts of our diocese. A lot of that’s because we have a facility, and obviously there’s more to try and improve. But there has been a presence here on campus, a place where Catholics can come and gather, can pray, can study, and just build community together. That does not exist, really, on any other campus.”
The Newman Center was constructed in 1969, and it has supported our students through all of those years. What do they – and we – hope that the Newman Center will provide in the future? A re-envisioned center will allow this flourishing, active community of young adults to grow and thrive. It also would allow us to have a properly centered worship space that shows our students by design and example how to put God quite literally at the center of their lives.
The open design of the space today means that we cannot have simultaneous events, whether that’s Wednesday evening suppers, Bible study, Men’s and Women’s groups, Mass or Adoration. The sound from one area travels to the next.
And since our building was not designed for our rugged Maine winters, the new design will correct longstanding issues like large expanses of glass that make the space difficult to heat in cold weather, sanctuary steps that make it challenging for older parishioners to navigate and impossible for those in wheelchairs to participate, and a flat roof that allows snow to seep into the structure and cause damage.
How can we as a community come together to accomplish these goals? I ask that you visit our campaign site to learn more about our plans, listen to the words of our students and faith community, consider opportunities for giving, and keep in mind and in heart the work that we do here.