Monday, March 26, 2012

Newman ~ The Next Generation

During my college years I was blessed with wonderful friendships that were made strong through the  opportunities provided by the Newman Center~home of our Catholic Campus Ministry.  Those friendships have lasted through the past 18 years.  And as our families have grown so have our friendships.

Father Bob, aka FB, aka Bobert is the Patriarch of our Newman Family.  I have admitted on more than one occasion that I was reluctant to go to the Newman Center the first time.  My mother saw a flyer for the "Newman Dinners" posted during my first week on campus.  She had met FB at a parents orientation session and convinced me that I MUST go to the dinner to meet new people. UGH! I was shy, I was new to the campus environment and would have rather stayed in my dorm than hang out with a bunch of strangers, and religious ones no less.  My mom reminded me that I enjoyed outings and retreats with my high school youth group and that this would be a good way to get to know people on campus. AND dinner was free and home-cooked.  After a few days of eating the cafeteria there was no doubt left in my mind- I would go to that dinner.  I couldn't convince any of my new friends or even my wacky roomie to go with me. So I ventured alone over to the Newman Center.  It was a 3 family house converted into a community center.  The staff provided free food and free laundry services.  The washer and dryer ran all day and night. And usually the dinners were packed with a couple hundred students.

However, that first night I stopped by the Newman Center was empty.  Except for an alumni couple that were hanging out in the house.  Apparently the dinner was canceled but I didn't realize it.  I tired to make a quick getaway before anyone noticed me, but the couple saw me. I learned their names were Cathy and Greg and they had gone to the college and were a part of the Newman Community.  They were so friendly and as we chatted, FB appeared.  I wasn't quite prepared for FB.  He had shaggy black hair and a white beard, and he is a Franciscan Friar so he wore a black robe.  I had never seen a priest dressed like him before.  Even when he changed into his "regular priest clothes" he still looked a bit more casual than the prissy priests I was used to seeing at Church.  And FB had an energy about him.  If you have ever met a Charismatic spiritual leader you know what I am talking about.  FB is a force of nature.  He has a vision that God alone could have created.  He is holy and wonderful and can inspire people like no one I have ever known before him.  He has his mind on Jesus always. He is good and kind and lives his life as a true testament of faith and an example of St. Francis.  Of course, it took me years to learn that. At 18 I wasn't sure what was up.  I just knew FB was friendly and funny and he felt so bad that the dinner was canceled that he and Cathy and Greg insisted on taking me to the dinner for food.

I didn't know that simply walking across the street to the Newman Center and accepting an invitation to a local diner would change my life forever.  I don't believe it was coincidence that I walked into that house.  It was by mothers prompting and Divine Intervention.  It was a God-incident.

That day began a life I hadn't expected.  I still stayed friends with my "dorm friends" and some of them started coming to the Newman Center too. To be perfectly honest, my friend Tammy had to work REALLY hard to get me to go the Newman Center for anything other than free food or laundry. It took a lot of persuading for me to try a Newman Club meeting.  A prayer group sounded boring and was the last thing I was interested in. Little did I know that group of people would be some of the funniest and most loving friends I could ever ask for!

Over the 4 years I spent at college I went to countless Newman Dinners, retreats 2 or 3 times a year, took many MANY road trips and adventures with my Newman friends, laughed, cried and prayed with the friends that would become my Newman Family.

My Newman years changed the direction of my life.  When I started freshman year I was an English major with the goal of writing for a newspaper or maybe having a novel published.  However, by the time I had graduated my eyes were opened to new and awesome possibilities and the vision I had was through faith-filled eyes.  After graduation I worked for a year with a volunteer corp as a teacher.

Then I returned to the Newman Center, where I would spend the next 8 years being an Associate Campus Minister. FB would move on to a new assignment and I stayed behind at Newman though a succession of priests and staff.  My mother came on board as office manger and took over as the Newman Dinner Coordinator and Chef.  Through community outreach and service and prayer we met so many students one rate years. SO many wonderful people that left an imprint on my heart in their own way.  I treasure those years.  

As with all things in life sometimes you must move on and part ways.  Eventually it was time for the Newman Center to go in a new direction. At one point yet another new priest came on board.  Each leader has their own vision and brings along something to their ministry.  And so it happens that sometimes anothers vision does not align up with your own.  I knew I had to stay true to the faith I had within myself and so it was time for me to move to a new chapter.  So I began to focus my time and energy on my marriage and we began our family together.

 Hubby and I have been blessed with 3 beautiful children, supportive and loving families, and blessings of the Newman friendships that have stayed strong through the years.  After college we all went on to different adventures and experiences.  Yet, we will still reach out to one another and get together as often as possible.  We have celebrated weddings, babies, christenings, birthdays, and mourned losses.  We still laugh together.  Nothing is funnier than begin with an old friend who "gets it."

There are LOTS of babies in our Newman Family now.  It gets hectic! But, we still manage a couple times a year to get together and somehow incorporate prayer.  One of our families recently hosted a St. Patrick's Day Rosary.  Three of our families congregated for pizza and prayers.  Between us we had 10 children age 6 and under.  There was quite a lot of energy to go around! It was so great to see our children play together.  They are really starting to become friends.  Even the youngest little ones were interacting.

Good friends are priceless! SO thankful for the friends I have and for the opportunities for our children to have those wonderful moments together too.

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