Who are "Roncalli" and "Newman"?
As you see in the pictures, Roncalli is the surname of the man who would be St John XXIII - Angelo Giuseppe Cardinal Roncalli. He was the pope from 1958 - 1963 and is known for having convened the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council (Vatican II) that forever changed the Catholic Church in the modern world. It was on the heels of his papacy, and near the end of the Council in 1964, that the Roncalli Newman Center was built. Plans for the new student chapel and fundraising for the building had begun nearly a decade earlier. The Good Pope John was canonized on April 27, 2014 by Popes Francis and Benedict XVI. His liturgical feast day is celebrate on October 11, the anniversary of his opening of the Second Vatican Council.
Nineteenth century Englishman Blessed John Henry Newman was a convert to Catholicism from the Church of England who distinguished himself as an avid writer and ardent advocate of Catholic education. His great gift to the Church was his willingness to discuss the interplay between academics and theology, between faith and reason. It is for him that the Catholic presence on state university campuses was named. When he was named a cardinal, he chose as his motto "Cor ad cor loquitur" (heart speaks to heart.) This motto would later be taken on by the Newman Club Federation. On September 19, 2010, Cardinal Newman was proclaimed "blessed" by Pope Benedict XVI. The Church celebrates his feast day on September 24.
Newman Clubs got their start at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1883 under the name of the Melvin Club, named for Mr. & Mrs. John Melvin who lived across the street from the university and made their home available for Catholic student meetings. In 1890, one of those students, Timothy Harrington, transferred to the University of Pennsylvania where he started a similar Catholic student group. Choosing the patronage of John Henry Cardinal Newman, this group became the first Newman Club in 1893.
Since then, Newman Clubs have been active Catholic student organizations on state campuses throughout the country. What is now Newman Catholic Students at the UW-L dates back to the 1913-14 academic year when a group of Catholic students at, what was then the La Crosse Normal School, formed the Gibbons Club, an all girls organization, to "provide for the social and religious welfare" of Catholic students. In 1924, they formally affiliated with the Newman Club Federation.
In the mid 1950's, then La Crosse Bishop John Tracey began a fund raising effort to build a Catholic student center dedicated as a place of outreach to students at UW-L. The Roncalli Newman Student Center and Chapel came to completion in the spring of 1964, with an inaugural Mass and open house on May 24, 1964. In 1976, the Newman Center was canonically establish as a parish of the Diocese of La Crosse. 2014 was a jubilee year for the Roncalli Newman Parish as we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Roncalli Newman Catholic Center.
With the following declaration in 1985, then Bishop John Paul established the Roncalli Newman Center as a parish: ". . . I, in accord with the norms of Canon Law, hereby establish the Parish of the Roncalli Newman Center in the City of La Crosse, as a personal parish for the pastoral care of the students at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse and the Western Wisconsin Technical Institute at La Crosse, retroactively effective February 15, 1976. Given at La Crosse on the first day of May, 1985, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph the Workman. Patron of the Diocese." (A word about the idea of a personal parish. At the time of this decree, dioceses were geographically divided into deaneries which were further divided into geographic parishes, much like counties and townships. Anyone living within the geographic boundaries of a parish had to be members of that parish church. The makeup of a university whose Catholic population comes from many dioceses and parishes makes this practice difficult. For this reason, a personal parish, like the Roncalli Newman Center, is established for a unique population and is exempt from those boundary regulations. Today, those boundary canons are no longer applicable.)
Now, 50+ years later, the Newman Center continues as a vibrant, Catholic parish on the UW-L campus with a membership of over 800 students and nearly 500 community families. It is La Crosse's Catholic parish with a very special mission... it's a home away from home for UW-L and WTC students.
The Roncalli Newman Catholic Center - this place is all about students.