Newman Center celebrates 50th with Mass and Dinner
Photos and story by Stephen Kiltonic
AMHERST – UMass alumni and friends of the Newman Catholic Center flocked to the Amherst campus from across the state and throughout New England this past weekend to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Newman Center’s apostolate in the Springfield Diocese.
On October 13, a Pontifical Mass of Thanksgiving, held in Newman Center’s Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Chapel, was concelebrated by Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell; Father Gary Dailey, Newman Director and Chaplain; and Father James O’Leary of St. Camillus Parish in Arlington, which is part of the Archdiocese of Boston.Many of Newman’s former campus ministers and priests who are products of the university vocations program also attended. The center was dedicated on May 15, 1963 with Boston’s Cardinal Richard Cushing as the presider at the inaugural Mass along with Father David Power, the center’s founder and first director.
During the Mass, Bishop McDonnell shared a story with the many students, family members and priests as he reflected back on his personal “connection” to the Newman Center. He said that in 1930, the Newman Centers at the University of Florida and at UMass merged and became charter members of the Newman Federation, comprised of Newman Centers from across the county. The chaplain of the University of Florida’s Center then was Bishop McDonnell’s great uncle. “I remember wonderful stories growing up about all the good that could be accomplished by a Newman Center on a college campus. I’ve seen the results of that good in my nine years here in the diocese.”
Members of the UMass’ Newman Club, founded in 1929, would meet in student buildings or at St. Brigid Parish in downtown Amherst. “Even those who predated the building found the Newman Club a place of refuge where they could come to share Catholicism with other students and so there became a bond because of that. As a result they come and celebrate this ‘home away from home’ in a sense that they had here at the university. That’s really what they came back for is to really give thanks for what the Newman Center was during their time here as students,” said Father Dailey.
Father O’Leary attended UMass and belonged to the Newman Club for two years where he said he was inspired and initially heard the “call” to priesthood in which he has served for 45 years. “I don’t know whether I joined the Newman Club because we’d have the meetings over at the dining common. They’d have refreshments and I just loved the cakes and cookies,” he said.
One Newman alumni who attended the Mass and Gala Dinner/Dance held at the Student Union Ballroom afterwards was Nancy Stillman of Hyannis and a 1966 UMass graduate.In 1962, she was on a committee to pick out the décor of the Newman building and admits it was an “exciting time” when the center opened. “I come from a small town so when I had the Newman Center to go to it was a group of people who were very friendly. It was like a second home – we would go to Mass. I would eat there very often and you could always find somebody to talk to. It was really an important part of my life here,” she added. “We went out into the community. We taught CCD. We were able to talk about the faith and even back in the 60s it was important to have that place in your life,” she said.
Stillman said Father Joseph Quigley, a legend at Newman who served as Newman’s director and chaplain for nearly 40 years, was someone who “exuded love and welcome.” Father Quigley became known for his three-point sermons and his phrase “Do what you can reasonably and leave the rest to God.”
Holyoke native David Bartley, from the class of 1956, played on the UMass basketball team with fellow Minuteman George “Trigger” Burke, whose number is retired in the rafters of the Mullen Center. “Father Power was just a great, great Catholic and he made sure we attended Mass and took part in various activities around the Catholic faith.” Bartley added that the Newman Center impacted his life tremendously. “It gave me the opportunity to really understand more about my religion; to understand more about the university and to really see why you were here and what good it was going to do. It helped me to point out that education and the church go hand in hand.”
The 50th Anniversary Celebration weekend began on Oct. 12 with a golf tournament at Cherry Hills Country Club along with a barbecue and dance at the Newman Café.Sunday’s dinner/dance concludes a year-long series of events revolving around the anniversary. “I never looked forward to Columbus Day more in my life. This is a great celebration – to be able to celebrate with alumni and friends of Newman coming back here for the first time in a very long while. It’s just a great feeling,” said Father Dailey.
On Oct. 19, “Real to Reel” will feature segments on the Anniversary Mass and the Newman Center’s history.