Montclair State’s Newman Catholic Center, an organization which has had a presence on campus for over 50 years, was ranked the third best Newman Center by the Best College Reviews website, which took into account factors such as regular mass times, community-building events and a relationship with the local parish in its analysis of Newman Centers across the country.
“We have a little bit of everything,” said Father Jim Chern, the organization’s director and chaplain. “We have spiritual activities, mass at the Student Center every Sunday and daily at the Newman Center, weekly Bible studies, lots of community service events, three major events every month and lots of social events.”
The Newman Center currently boasts over 300 members, making it one of the Student Government Association’s largest organizations.
Last May, the Newman Center was named the SGA Class I Organization of the Year for both its high activity and membership.
“I realized I had big shoes to fill after we received the SGA award last year,” said Aaron Kurtz, President of Newman and a senior Music Therapy major. “It was really intimidating and put pressure on me. When I heard about this ranking article, I nearly had a heart attack. It was awesome and what this really was hit me. I’m always freaking out with logistics and looking at the negative to see how I can make it positive and forget about the positive impact we’re already having.”
Catie Kunkel, a senior physical education major, said she has been involved in the organization since her freshman year when a friend invited her to attend mass. The welcoming environment had her hooked. She said that she could not picture what her college experience would have been like without it.
“Newman means the absolute world to me,” Kunkel said. “I’ve made lifelong friends and learned a lot about myself and others and found true happiness. There are so many small, unique concepts that make it what it is and I love it all.”
When asked about what makes Montclair State’s Newman Center special to him, Jeff Baker, a senior geography and German major, said, “They provide you with community and friendship and the opportunity to do fun things. They make being a Catholic in a university setting cool and normal. It’s great.”
Being a member of the SGA and having the ability to reach out to other groups on campus as well as cosponsor events with them is part of what truly makes the organization special and different from other Newman Centers, according to Mariama Roldan, a missionary working with the organization.
“The students have really taken ownership and made Newman their own,” Chern said. “This ranking is such a surprise and a beautiful affirmation because it wasn’t like we applied. We had no idea. We don’t do it for the recognition. These kinds of things are bonuses and celebrating all the work the students do and continue to do is the cool thing.”