Monday, February 23, 2015
Blanca Morales - Florida Catholic
When the University of Miami was established in 1925, the prospect of a Catholic student center was far off. It wasn’t until 34 years later that the St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center opened its doors to the U’s Catholic students.
At that time, the Newman center held Mass every day at 7 a.m. and noon in the old Dominican Rite. Confession was available daily a half hour before the second Mass.
Today, around the parish lounge, one can see black and white photos of a time gone by: Young men and women in Mad Men-esque outfits, partaking of one of the many dances the Newman Club, as they called it, would host. Those were the days men (including college students) wore suit and tie to parties and dates, and the ladies matched their shoes, gloves and purses to their dainty dresses.
The Newman Club also hosted lectures and discussions for the students, organized by the chaplains, Dominican Fathers Thomas Clifford and Matthew Hanley, who were, according to one alumnus-turned-priest, “intelligent, articulate, zealous and caring.”
This January, the student center marked its 55th anniversary, and 45 years as a parish community.
Though it has since been named St. Augustine Church, some things haven’t changed.
The student ministry still hosts dances and lectures, but now there are also retreats, adventure and service trips, men’s and women’s formation groups, and more.
Weekday confession takes place on campus, and the Catholic Campus Ministry has invited religious men and women to witness to students on campus.
The parish community consists not only of students, but is an intergenerational, diverse group — many of whom are alumni of the university.
Among the church’s many ministries is the young adult group, which meets weekly, and also hosts men’s and women’s formation, along with community service opportunities and retreats. Many of the young adults make themselves available to serve at various parish functions, including the campus ministry.
As one student told me, “It’s wonderful to see young adults who talk to us and take notice of us.”
On average, about 40 people gather weekly for meetings, coming not only from Coral Gables but as far out as Pembroke Pines, Homestead, Key Biscayne, Brickell and Kendall.
On Jan. 31, many of these young adults joined over 300 others from all over the state of Florida for the sixth annual young adult retreat held at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach.
The retreat continues to double in size, as more and more college students and young adults invite their peers to partake of a day dedicated to growing deeper in the faith. The retreat also serves as a sort of reunion for young adults of the state, who arriving at the seminary, find former college friends as well as brother seminarians from their own dioceses.
Are you a college student or young adult looking to find your place in the Church? Check out the U’s or St. Augustine’s groups, or look for a group near you by checking with the archdiocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.