Bishop visits Missouri Western State University Newman Center

Bishop Johnston recently visited the Missouri Western State University Newman Center and visited with students, faculty, alumni, and friends. (Sara Kraft/Key photo)

By Sara Kraft

“Our Newman Center is important because it gives Missouri Western State University students easier access to the sacraments. It’s a place where students can come and become saints,” explained Missouri Western State University Newman Center Director Leeds Haroldson. “We seek to teach them to pray daily, learn about God, embrace the sacramental nature of the church and live moral lives.”

On Sunday, September 10, Bishop Johnston made a pastoral visit to the Missouri Western State University Newman Center in St. Joseph. He celebrated Sunday Mass for college students, faculty, alumni and friends and blessed a new outdoor statue of Our Lady located near the main drive. The Newman Center is located directly across from the university’s main entrance, so the statue is in a highly visible area. The Knights of Columbus Council 571 donated the concrete work and the center wants to one day add a stone grotto behind the statue. They hope the statue will raise greater awareness of the Newman Center.

“Newman Centers are places where students can find a home and always find friends and always find the presence of Jesus Christ,” stated Bishop Johnston. “They are safe harbors for college students to find support and to realize there are a lot of college students who want to grow in their faith together. Newman Centers are also places where students can find the sacraments and adults who care about them.”

In the last five years, four students from the Newman Center have entered the seminary, one female has entered religious life and a number are still discerning marriage. Typically, approximately fifteen to twenty students are active each semester. “We help students discern their vocation by teaching about the various vocations on ‘Theo’ (short for Theology) Thursday, lots of one-on-one conversations, group discussions. We talk with them and help them see what God’s purpose is for them,” explained Leeds.

“I considered the Newman Center my home-away-from-home when I was studying in St. Joseph,” stated former Missouri Western State University Student Kenny Ang, who entered seminary for the Diocese of Surabaya, Indonesia. “I discovered what it really meant to be a Christian and the mission God has entrusted me in this earthly life. I was strengthened in my faith and made capable, moreover, to respond with a resolute ‘yes’ to God’s calling. I’m thanking God more and more every day for allowing me to be part of the Newman Center!”

The Newman Center offers weekly Mass and confession, both a men’s and women’s group, and “Theo” Thursday that covers the Catechism. This semester, Missouri Western State University philosophy professor Dr. Jason Costanzo will host a six-week session on St. Augustine’s Confessions which will include discussions on both a theoretical and practical level. Although the Newman Center has no official chaplain assigned, priests within a sixty-mile radius are generous with their time to offer the sacraments to students.

“The Newman Center helped me grow as a person,” stated senior Kara Violett. “Since leading women’s group last year, I definitely feel more confident in my faith. I feel like that has allowed me to make friends with similar values which has also helped me to grow as a Catholic. It’s allowed me to feel more comfortable sharing my faith with others. Three or four years ago, I wouldn’t have gone up to someone and asked if they knew who Jesus is or asked if they knew what is special about being Catholic. Sharing my faith has become easier since I have started to lead functions here.”

Students work hard to get the word out about the Newman Center and draw other students to a deeper relationship with Christ. Over the summer, student leadership participated in a number of freshman orientation events to let them know the Newman Center is there.

Additionally, they participated in a number of freshman outreach events and invited them to first week Newman-sponsored events such as a barbeque and open house, an outdoor movie night, and an ice cream social and large group games.

Throughout the school year, they also hold a pumpkin carving contest in October, a Thanksgiving dinner in November, and Finals Week study break with food available and group games in addition to regular weekly events.

“We consider these ‘win’ events and it gives people a chance to come to the Newman Center and develop trust and learn more about what we are about. We hope they will see all the things they can plug into,” explained Leeds.

“College campuses can be a very toxic environment, and the Newman Center provides a positive spiritual place for students to go,” stated Missouri Western State University alum Paul Godberson.

“The Newman Center led me to a deeper relationship with Christ,” explained Paul. “It took me from going through the motions to caring about my faith. The reverence for the Mass, along with instruction and teaching me about the faith helped me to live with Christ on a deeper level. I have met some of the best friends I have ever had at the Newman Center.”

“Seeing the community at the Newman Center has been really encouraging. It has strengthened my faith and given me the courage to live it out,” stated sophomore Sarah Aberer. “I really enjoy my time at the Newman Center and the family I have made. I am very thankful for the Newman Center.”

“Bishop Johnston’s visit really shows that Bishop Johnston does want to be involved and he really does care,” stated Sarah.

For more information about the Missouri Western State University Newman Center in St. Joseph, visit



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September 26, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph