The Newman Connection

This Spring, Catholic parishes will be celebrating Masses for their graduating high-school seniors — but studies show that nearly one out of every three of those seniors will leave the Catholic faith at some point during their college career, and even more will stop practicing it.

However, campus ministers believe a new high-school outreach program from the Newman Connection will give them a vital tool in stemming the loss of young Catholics from the Church and promote the New Evangelization on America’s college campuses.

The Newman Connection, a nonprofit company that provides support and resources to Newman Centers throughout the United States, has launched a new national outreach program to help Catholic youth bridge the transition from high school to college.

With the tagline “Make a Newman Connection,” the program seeks to work with Catholic dioceses to connect Catholic high-school graduates with college campus ministries and information about the Catholic community on their campus before they arrive as freshmen.

“We have to find ways to keep our kids connected to the Church. That’s really the bottom line of this program and the Newman Connection,” Bill Zerrusen, Newman Connection president, said.

Ninety percent of the 5.5 million Catholics in higher education attend a secular university, and Catholics make up 35 percent of the freshmen at public campuses, according to the Catholic Campus Ministry Association.

But a startling 30 percent of college-aged Catholics (young adults aged 18-24) will leave the faith during these years, and at a higher rate than their peers in other faiths, according to a 2012 study by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA).

The process behind the Newman Connection’s high-school outreach program is very simple: Parishes gather the names of graduating high-school seniors after a Mass or event. A volunteer, staff member or youth minister at the parish then enters the names into the database at NewmanConnection.com.

“They enter in the names, and instantaneously the name is sent to a campus minister who has log-in access to our site,” said Matt Zerrusen, Bill Zerrusen’s son and Newman Connection’s executive vice president and designer of the system. “The campus minister logs in and sees a link that says: ‘View incoming student.’”

Anyone can also visit NewmanConnection.com and enter a student’s name by clicking “Invite a Student to Connect” on the front page. Entering the student’s information will generate an email to the student with a link inviting them to “Get Connected to Campus Ministry.”
Once the program funnels student information to campus ministers, they can contact students over the summer and introduce them to Catholic college life at their Newman Center before they come to campus.

The Newman Connection’s program expands on the College Connection for Catholics (CCC) program pioneered by SerraUSA, an organization promoting Catholic vocations in youth.

Newman Connection fully took over the program in July 2012, with the approval of Bishop Peter Christensen of the Diocese of Superior, Wis., the episcopal adviser for SerraUSA and the SerraUSA board, with a mandate to expand the program to include all Catholic students nationwide.

The original CCC program reached out to seniors in Catholic high schools— but Catholic high schools account for only 10 percent of all Catholic students, meaning that much more to do. And the Newman Connection had the connection to do more.

Newman Connection’s extensive network, with close to 250 Newman Centers, he said, gave them the ability to take the CCC program to a whole new level, “and really do what the program was intended to do.”

The three Serra Clubs in this diocese and Newman Connection-High School Outreach Program have partnered to assist high school seniors with Catholic Campus Ministry before they begin their college career. This is a free service to each young adult whose name is entered in the Newman Connection program this year. Serra Club members are seeking your support to reach all Catholic graduating seniors in our diocese.
In the U.S. last year, with the assistance of Serra Club members, 70,000 graduating seniors registered for the Newman Connection program to find a Catholic presence on or near their college campus. In the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in 2017, 486 names were submitted to the program through the diocesan and private Catholic high schools and parishes.

By working together, we can encourage college-bound young adults to continue to grow in their Catholic faith. Direct all questions to Homer Radford, Diocesan Coordinator for the Newman Connection, (816) 560-2992 or e-mail: hradford2@comcast.net.

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Tuesday
September 25, 2018
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph