Northwest Missouri State Newman Center builds disciples

Northwest Missouri State University students attended the Fall 2017 Camino Retreat.  The Newman Center teaches students to become servants who build fellowship through faith and bear witness to the Gospel by inviting others in a life-long relationship with Jesus. (Photo – Emma Martin)

By Sara Kraft

“Being in college, it’s kind of hard to keep up with your faith,” explained Northwest Missouri State University sophomore Kelsey Wiederholt. “The Newman Center is just right there. Having strong influences that appreciate the faith makes me appreciate the faith more.”

The goal of the Newman Center is to guide people to a closer relationship with Jesus through Scripture and to help them make the decision to commit to a life-long relationship with Jesus Christ. This year, over two hundred students at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville have attended the Newman Center. The Newman Center teaches students to become servants who build fellowship through faith and bear witness to the Gospel by inviting others in a life-long relationship with Jesus. In addition to a full-time director, the Newman Center hosts four full-time missionaries from the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) since 2013.

“I grew up Catholic, but I was a lukewarm Catholic,” explained Northwest Missouri State University alum Samantha Smith. She and her husband currently attend St. Thomas More Parish in Kansas City. “I met Newman Center Director Max Pawlowski the first weekend. Newman gave me the confidence to go out and share my faith.”

The Newman Center has multiple opportunities for involvement so they can meet the students where they are at. They seek to invest in students and lead them into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. The students reached then work to spread the Gospel to their peers.

One of the most successful events is the student-led Camino retreat which is held three times a year – in the fall, spring, and the summer. It takes approximately twenty-four students five weeks to prepare the retreat. During these five weeks, the team commits to praying the rosary every day. Throughout the retreat, the team perpetually prays before the Eucharist for the participants.

Retreat participants are also brought before the Eucharist often, and that’s where the conversions happen. One such student was Lee Volmer, a native of St. George Parish in Odessa.

Lee attended the Camino retreat his spring semester of senior year of college. “At that retreat, I met Jesus Christ. I had a very strong encounter,” explained Lee. The combination of the retreat, the Newman community, and a FOCUS mission trip led Lee to apply and become a FOCUS missionary in order to spread the Gospel to others.

Additionally, Newman students and FOCUS missionaries host twenty-six bible studies in various locations in Maryville. Twenty bible studies are led by students. Around a hundred students have attended bible studies this fall. Four of these bible studies are specifically targeted to freshman males and are held in the dorms. Thirty-two students are currently in regular spiritual mentorship, called discipleship.

“Newman makes me more confident in my faith and has helped me to spread the Gospel to my peers in my bible study, and my peers on campus,” Kelsey added. Kelsey is currently in discipleship and leading a bible study.

Daily Mass is offered four days a week, with forty-eight straight hours of adoration and five hours of confession offered each week. Wednesday dinners and monthly Masses on campus also provide engagement for students on campus. The Newman Center teaches students to have meaningful encounters and to guide others to a closer relationship with Jesus. Last spring, three students converted to Catholicism. This year three additional students are currently preparing to join the Church at Easter.

What is the secret to the Newman Center’s success? “You have got to go one on one with people through these relationships you build up. You narrow your vision and the numbers explode,” explained Max. “We deepen and go one on one with them so they can become disciple makers.”

“Being so small and being an actual house brings us together like a family. Whenever anyone leaves it’s like saying goodbye to family,” stated Luke Schmitz, seminarian for Archdiocese of Omaha and Northwest Missouri State University alum.

Alum were quick to state their experiences at the Newman Center prepared them for life after college. “My experience at the Newman Center really helped us to share our faith with our close family and friends,” stated Samantha. “I feel we might have held back if we hadn’t learned how to put ourselves out there at the Newman Center. We were really encouraged to have a strong prayer life. We go to adoration as a married couple.”

The Newman Center community of college students gives them a unique opportunity both to explore their faith in a friendly environment and say ‘yes’ to God. “The Newman Center was a turning point in my vocation story,” explained Luke. “My vocation story always starts….and then I got involved in the Newman Center.”

“The welcoming, joyful community at Newman made me feel comfortable enough to ask questions about my faith,” explained Lee. “This opened doors that allowed me to be more open to encounter Jesus Christ.”

“I was really searching for fulfillment. We think the right job or right relationship gives that to us. But in actuality, it’s our relationship with Jesus and actively living out our Catholic faith that provides it. My life has really been changed forever because of the Northwest Newman Center,” explained Lee.

“It was the first time I got to live out my faith every day instead of just sometimes,” stated Luke. “Newman taught me to be a leader not just spiritually, but also to have leadership qualities to actually know how to lead. It gave me opportunities to say ‘yes’ to God. It made the sacraments very accessible and easy to grow in my faith,” stated Luke.

“Whatever my future holds, it will be okay if I am following God’s will. The only reason I am following God’s will is because of the encounter I had in college through the Newman Center,” explained Lee.



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