Northwest Missouri State University Catholic Newman Center hosts First Annual Gala

The Northwest Missouri State University Newman Center hosted their first annual gala April 29.  Bishop Johnston was the keynote speaker.  Gala committee members from left are:  Shellie Parsley, Max Pawlowski, Malerie Davied, Luke Schmitz, Bishop Johnston, Seth Hummer, Megan Frerking,
Ben Mullins and Jake Olson. (Sara Kraft/Key photo)

By Sara Kraft

“Newman Centers are so important to help people to know and love Christ,” explained Bishop Johnston. “People are hungry for community. Students can come and make friends. Young people can make new friendships that can last for life, rooted in virtue.”

In 2014, Northwest Missouri State University Newman Center in Maryville welcomed four full-time Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) missionaries. Since that time, involvement in the Newman Center has exploded. Approximately 200 students have been active in the Newman Center this year, with 150 students attending a bible study at least once and 85 students attending a bible study at least four times. Twenty-one students and five missionaries are leading bible studies. Before the arrival of FOCUS just three years ago, there were no daily Masses and Sunday Mass attendance averaged 15-20 students.

Over the past three years, daily Mass has been added on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights. Confession is offered over three hours a week, and fourteen students have entered the church in the past three years. Forty-nine hours of “perpetual” adoration is offered weekly in the Newman Chapel.

The FOCUS missionaries are not simply leading the discussions; they are equipping students through personal Christian mentorship known as discipleship. Thirty-eight students are currently in discipleship, which means they meet weekly with FOCUS missionaries or other students to train in faith and evangelization. This better equips them to share their faith with others. They build relationships, build up a prayer life, and go out two by two to win others over to Jesus and His Church. Since 2014, nine students have become FOCUS missionaries and one student has entered the seminary for the Diocese of Omaha.

One challenge of this exponential growth is funding for the Newman Center. When a parent of a student suggested the idea of a gala, Newman Center director Max Pawlowski figured he would need external support. “But when I brought the idea up to the students, it was clear that some of them had already had experience of galas in their Catholic schools or home parishes and really wanted to take on the challenge,” said Max. Five members of the student core team (Malerie Davied, Ben Mullins, Jake Olson, Luke Schmitz, Shellie Parsley) along with two other Newman students (Seth Hummer and Megan Frerking) organized the event. They worked together to canvas local businesses for support and donations, identified an auctioneer who agreed to donate his time, and asked each of Newman’s bible studies to prepare a basket for the silent auction. Entertainment was provided by the seminarian band from Conception Seminary College. Bishop Johnston delivered the keynote address. The $5,750 raised will go towards the Newman Center’s general fund to help pay for items such as fall outreach and retreats. Students hope this will be an annual event.

In his keynote address, Bishop Johnston noted the need for Newman Centers. “If our young people are not aware of Jesus Christ, they start seeking other things,” noted Bishop Johnston. According to the Pew forum, 25 percent of Americans mark “none” when asked what religion they are. “This reflects a great need for our young people.”

“I hope campus ministry grows exponentially in the number of students we are able to engage. We have just scratched the surface,” explained Bishop Johnston. “Northwest Missouri State University Newman Center is a great example of our potential and what can be realized and what fruit can be born if we are intentional and provide the right resources. Today, young people are isolated and run the risk of being lost to the faith.”

Northwest Missouri State University students who organized the event saw it as a way of giving back. “My family is not Catholic. When I came to Northwest Missouri State University, I had a friend invite me to the Newman Center and established a community,” public relations major Megan Frerking said. “This Easter, I was baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church. I literally would not be who I am without the Newman Center.”

“Seeing the faith of the college is very inspiring as they face so many temptations. The students have a great desire and capacity for prayer and service,” stated Father Paul Sheller, O.S.B., who frequently celebrates the sacraments for the Northwest Missouri State University Newman Center. “A group of students has then inspired other students to take their faith more seriously. It is a great joy for me to serve Mass and help them out with retreats and spiritual direction. Seeing their desire for spiritual direction shows their interest and desire to grow.”

“Their faith says a lot about the power of witness and how relationships and friendships are important to draw people closer to Christ,” explained Father Sheller.

“We are the most visible campus ministry on campus and we are reaching students all over campus, including a strong contingent in Greek Life,” stated Max. “Students are embracing a life of mission. This summer two students are working Totus Tuus (summer camp) for the Diocese. Students are applying for other ministry-related jobs. It’s like a bug of mission is just biting everyone and they want to be a part of winning the world for Jesus and His Church!”

“The Newman Center helped me gain my faith. Before coming here, it was not as strong,” explained Seth Hummer. “I have gone on a mission trip that was the best week of my life. It kick started my faith. I would give 100 percent of my faith to the Newman Center.”

The Newman Center is truly a part of Northwest Missouri State University’s educational experience preparing students for the future in ways beyond the classroom. “Through this project, I really can see how our students are ‘parish-ready’ to go and tackle projects in a parish setting – not just fundraising projects, but also evangelization and catechesis projects,” explained Max. “I really see that by God’s grace our student leaders have grown in maturity and responsibility; they would be great additions to any parish council or even parish staff. For me, that’s what Core Team is – it’s a cross between something like a parish staff and a parish council and I definitely lean on them.”

For more information about the Northwest Missouri State University Newman Center, visit


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