Newman Catholic Center Celebrates two anniversaries

By Gus Bode

Newman Catholic Center Celebrates two anniversaries

75 years of Catholic Ministry at SIUC and the 40th anniversary of the dedication of the Newman Center

The green capsule with two entangled hearts held brochures, information on programs, and news about the Newman Catholic Student Center when it found its home underneath a foot of mud Sunday.


The burying of the time capsule was a part of the weekend-long celebration of two milestone anniversaries for the Newman Center. April 6 marked 75 years of Catholic ministry at SIUC and the 40th anniversary of the dedication of the Newman Center.

A wine and cheese meeting started off the weekend, allowing old and new Newman Center members to share memories and future plans for the center.

A community barbeque at the Newman Center on Sunday brought in about 500 people from all over Illinois for the anniversary celebration.

SIU President James Walker and Carbondale Mayor Neil Dillard were invited to the event as well as former directors, former priests and staff of the center.

John Scarano, director of the Newman Center, said that they actually stumbled across the information about the anniversaries and decided it was an important event that needed some recognition.

“I think it is important to remember your beginnings,” Scarano said. “And we need to remember the shoulders we stood on to get here.”

Mary Mertzlufft, associate director at the Newman Center said she and the other associate director, Father Chris Piasta, had about two months to plan the event.


About 40 community members and students volunteered to help plan the celebration, from sending out invitations to helping cook the barbeque that was paid for by the Newman Center.

“It was hard to plan the event because a lot of us already put in 10 hours for our regular jobs,” Mertzlufft said. “But it was amazing to see all the people who wanted to be involved.”

The Newman Foundation was one of the first ministries at SIUC. The original plans laid out a complex structure that included a church that has still not been built.

The center currently has about 500 active members and serves about 4,000 SIUC students, staff, faculty and alumni. Seven staff members work full time at the center and several community members and SIUC students volunteer.

Tracey Meyer, a senior double majoring in cinema and photography and radio-television from Teutopolis, has been a member of the Newman Center for the past four years.

She was sent a letter before she came to SIUC about the center and was very comforted by how welcoming the people were.

“I left my family to come to school, but I got a new family here,” Meyer said. “It is such a supportive community.”

Meyer is a “gray house girl” which means she lives in a house owned by the Newman Center and is allowed cheaper rent in exchange for her time working at the center. She spends time answering the phone and helping with programming events for students.

She said she was touched by the turnout, but not surprised because of how much the center has done for people in the community.

“I think it’s beautiful and inspiring to see how many people have been touched in a positive way by this place,” Meyer said.

The burying of the time capsule was the end to the weekend-long celebration and about 20 people stood in the rain and cold Sunday to watch the capsule full of memories be buried.

“We hope to dig it up again at the 100th anniversary,” Mertzlufft said. “Some of us will be old or in wheel chairs but we will be here.”

Reporter Kristina Dailing can be reached at [email protected]