Confession time: having gone to a religious college myself, when I first applied to be the Director of the Newman Center, I didn't know *why* the Newman Center was called, well, the Newman Center.
It's an issue that comes up with surprising regularity in ministry--unless someone already went to a secular college that had an active Newman Center, they usually don't know what a Newman Center is, much less why it's named that way! In the spirit of this year's upcoming classes, let's have a moment of learning before I introduce this year's theme:
Blessed John Henry Newman was a well-known English cardinal and theologian in the 19th century. Originally a priest in the Church of England, he eventually became a Catholic priest, founder of University College Dublin, and is now on his way to being Saint John Henry Newman. During his time working in institutions of higher learning (including Oxford!), he started the tradition of Newman Societies--groups where Catholic students could go to find community, friendship, and continue forming their faith.
So that's why the Newman Center is the Newman Center.
But what's that have to do with this year's theme?
Blessed John Henry Newman, when he became a bishop, created a crest and motto (as bishops do). His motto? Cor ad cor loquitor.
"Cor ad cor loquitor" is Latin for "heart speaks to heart".
"Heart speaks to heart" is a fantastic motto for ministry--it recognizes the kind of relationship-based work that is the true spirit of the Gospel, the kind of ministry that Jesus undertook during His time on Earth speaking from the heart and to the hearts of all (especially the outcast and lowly). But "heart speaks to heart" is also a fantastic motto for life. It encourages and equips us to see the God-given dignity in one another--even and especially the people we don't necessarily like.
And once we start seeing that, it becomes harder to do things like lie or cheat or ignore.
It becomes harder to walk past the homeless man on the street or remain deaf to the pleas of the refugee.
It becomes harder to accept the lies and slanders of politicians abusing their way into power.
It becomes harder to judge the person next to us in class based on their clothes or their hair or their attitude.
Indeed, hearts speaking to other hearts could save the broken state of our world.
So we'll be looking into how Jesus set this example, going through Scripture to find places where His heart spoke to someone else's. We'll be learning to speak from our own hearts but also looking--perhaps for the first time--into others'. And we'll be diving into the kinds of issues that naturally come up when you start this kind of heart-based living: what justice means, how it looks on our streets and in our dorm rooms, how it should inform what we do with our money, in our conversations, and in the voting booth. We'll be welcoming friends from the Parish, College and community into our space for monthly "Cor ad Cor" talks where we hear their stories and find new ways of looking at them. Theology on Tap (which is being renamed, but we'll talk about that later) will have new and exciting topics. The Common Room is getting a makeover! The Newman Student Organization is changing its name. We'll focus less on events and more on relationships. The website already had a facelift and will have more interactive resources for students. And there will be a few surprises along the way too!