THE CATHOLIC STUDENT COMMUNITY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND
The Catholic Student Center at the University of Maryland, College Park owes its origin to the zeal of members of the Newman Club at George Washington University (GWU). In early 1933, approximately 230 of the 1,800 students at the University of Maryland were Catholic. On April 9, 1933, some 60 of these students attended a tea at the Lord Calvert Inn (presently the location of Quality Inn, just a few blocks from the present site of the Catholic Student Center) to discuss the feasibility of establishing a Newman Club at Maryland. This meeting was initiated by Mary Kerwin, GWU student and Vice-Chair of the Mid-Atlantic Province of Newman clubs, with the cooperation of Alma Preinkert, Assistant Registrar and Adele Stamp, Dean of Women. At a second meeting on May 1, 1933,27 students elected officers for Maryland’s Newman Club, including Harold Naughton, the first President. Since the Archdiocese of Washington had not yet been established, Miss Kerwin contacted the Most Reverend Michael J. Curley, Archbishop of Baltimore, and obtained approval for establishing a Newman club at the University of Maryland.
In Fall 1933, Reverend Leo J. Fealy, Pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish in College Park, began to serve as Chaplain. During that academic year, the Club persuaded the University’s dining halls to make available meatless meals on Fridays. As his Holy Redeemer parish grew, Father Fealy found it difficult to continue as Chaplain, and Franciscan priests from Holy Name College in Washington assumed the chaplaincy at Maryland. The first Franciscan chaplain, Father Leonard Walsh, offered the first Mass on campus in Spring 1938. Mass on Sundays and holy days was offered in Building EE, located below the present South Campus Dining Hall, until the University Memorial Chapel was completed in 1952. Father Walsh served as Chaplain until 1941. He was succeeded by Fathers Terrance Kuehn (1941-45), Hugh Radigan (1945-47), Alban McGuire (1947-52), Claude Kean (1952-53), and Pacificus Kennedy (1953-55). These first 6 chaplains lived at Holy Name College and commuted to campus daily, initially on a part-time basis. As the University grew, their duties expanded to full-time. During these first 15 years, the Newman Club met twice monthly and conducted numerous events including guest lectures, debates and group discussions. Its social activities included movies and the Annual Snow Ball–which became a campus tradition between Christmas and the beginning of semester exams in January. The earliest record of a formally organized class appears during the 1946-47 year when Father Radigan taught a weekly course on Apologetics. In Spring 1941, the Newman Club was large enough and strong enough to sponsor the Middle Atlantic Province Convention, held in Washington, D. C. With the completion of the interdenominational Memorial Chapel in 1952, the University of Maryland was unique among state universities in providing a chapel for student worship. On September 16, 1952, Father Kean moved into Room 32 — the Catholic office in the Memorial Chapel. The last Mass in Building EE was offered on Sunday October 12, 1952– the same day that the Memorial Chapel was dedicated. The first Mass in the new Blessed Sacrament Chapel was offered on Sunday October 19. Daily Mass started the following morning. Mr. Thomas W. Pangborn had donated a complete set of vestments and had funded furnishings for the Blessed Sacrament.
After two decades of faithful ministry, the Franciscans relinquished the Maryland chaplaincy in September 1955. Archbishop Patrick A. O’Boyle appointed Father William C. Tepe as the first diocesan chaplain. Father Tepe resided at St. John Baptist de la Salle Parish in Chillum, MD during the next 9 years until the Catholic Student Center was constructed. After World War II, the University of Maryland experienced enormous and rapid growth. By 1955, its student body of some 10,000 included approximately 2,000 Catholics. Besides daily Mass, three Masses were offered each Sunday. During the 1950’s, activities ofthe Newman club increased significantly. Courses were offered in philosophy, church history, marriage, apologetics, dogmatic theology and scripture. The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine held courses to prepare catechism teachers. Pre-Cana conferences were held regularly on campus. A steady stream of guest speakers addressed students on a wide range of topics. In addition to Masses and the sacraments, the Newman program included Communion breakfasts, Lenten missions, days of recollection, spring retreats, daily rosary, Stations of the Cross and Masses in the Eastern Rites. Social activities continued unabated with the Snow Ball and St. Patrick’s Day dances as the highlights of their respective seasons. Maryland’s Newman club also participated in the activities of the Washington region, the Middle Atlantic province and the National Newman Federation. Maryland sponsored the Province conference in 1949, 1960 and 1965; the students continually represented their club at the national convention.
As early as 1958, Father Tepe, at the direction of Archbishop O’Boyle, began a search for property near the campus to construct a suitable facility. In 1960, a non-profit corporation, the Newman Foundation, was formed to locate and purchase a site. Its members were: Mr. E. J. Zalesak, Class of 1925, President, Dr. Charles D. Murphy, University facility; Dr. William J. Svirbely, University facility; Dr. William F. Tierney, University facility; Mr. Alfred Danegger, University staff; Mr. Caesar L. Aiello; Mr. Joseph F. Castiello; Mr. Robert J. McLeod; Mr. John M. Walton and Mr. Frederick X. Wilson. In October 1960, the Newman Foundation obtained an option on a lot near Knox Road. Smaller than desired, the lot was the only available land within easy walking distance of the campus. In September 1961, the Foundation began a fundraising campaign to purchase the property. Thomas A. Gibbons was engaged to conduct that campaign, which received the enthusiastic support of Catholic students and the essential cooperation of their parents and alumni. The property issue was suddenly and satisfactorily resolved when land owned by Walter Green Inc. became available. The University purchased halfthe tract, and the Newman Foundation purchased the remainder. Land acquisition was completed in January 1963, thanks to contributions of students, parents and alumni, plus another gift ($25,000) from Mr. Pangborn.
Fundraising for construction of the Center was multi-faceted and occurred rather swiftly. The John Carroll Society, with the involvement of Bishop Philip M. Hannan and prominent Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington, began raising the funds necessary to begin construction. The Knights of Columbus throughout the State of Maryland contributed their support. Cardinal Lawrence Shehan, recognizing that the facility would serve Catholic students from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, offered to participate in the building’S costs. Mr. Pangborn, with unflagging generosity, contributed an additional $50,000. John M. Walton’s architectural plans for the Center were enthusiastically approved by the Board of Trustees on July 8, 1963. In September 1963, some 200 students, faculty and members of the Board of Trustees stood in the rain for a ground-breaking ceremony. Morrison and Bready Inc. spent the next 12 months constructing the facility, which was ready for occupancy in September, 1964. The Catholic Student Center was dedicated on April 10, 1965– almost 32 years to the day, after the organizational meeting by Mary E. Kerwin and the GWU students. In an impressive and joyous ceremony, the University’s President, Wilson H. Elkins welcomed and congratulated the 300 attendees, while Archbishop O’Boyle and Cardinal Shehan hailed the continued, active presence of the Catholic Community on campus.
A second full-time chaplain, Father John B. McMahon, had been appointed to the Maryland campus in June, 1963. A year later, he was succeeded by Father William J, Kane, who was transferred from St. Bartholomew’s Parish in Bethesda. Thus, June 1964 marked the beginning of 22 years of Father Kane’s memorable service to the student community. The new Center provided Fathers Tepe and Kane with increased opportunities to inspire students in proclaiming the social justice theme of the Gospel and to establish organized programs transforming these ideals into actions. Whether teaching as volunteer tutors in public schools, reaching out to the elderly or raising funds annually for world hunger, students seized these opportunities to experience the satisfaction that accompanies living the Gospel message. Vatican II (1962-65) came to a close in the same year that the Center was dedicated. The profound impact on the Church of the constitutions, decrees and declarations issued by the Council broadly affected Catholic life and worship. At the Center, its impact was felt and quickly triggered responses. The first responses in 1966 included lectures on morality, authority and worship. In 1967, this was followed by courses, one entitled “the Sacraments in the Light of Vatican II”.
The year 1968 saw the transformation of the existing Newman Club. The student ministry was reorganized from a club concept with student officers and dues-paying members into a model more closely resembling a parish. A Parish Council was established with students occupying all leadership positions and having the responsibility to advise chaplains in guiding the community toward the explicit goal “to grow, to learn together, to deepen our self-awareness and to become more sensitive to the needs of others”. Liturgical innovations came as well and continued during the ensuing years. Folk Masses were introduced and students began serving as lectors. At Mass, the congregation was encouraged to participate in general intercessions. In June, 1967, Father Tepe was assigned as Administrator of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Washington, D.C. The following year, he was appointed Pastor ofSt. Francis de Sales Parish; later, he served as Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Forestville, MD, prior to his illness and death on March 1, 1981.
With Father Tepe’s reassignment in June, 1967, Father Kane was appointed Chaplain-Director, Father John S. Wintermeyer was appointed Associate Chaplain. Father Wintermeyer remained until June, 1968 when he was appointed Chaplain at George Washington University. He was succeeded in September, 1968 by Father L. James Downs, who had been serving St. Matthias Parish in Lanham, MD. Father Kane and his successive associates continued to develop and to refine new programs. Monthly bulletins, initiated in 1967, describe various courses of Christian study including personal and interpersonal awareness, the Church and life in the Church. These bulletins advertised the students’ numerous social activities and tracked the work of standing committees, notably those emphasizing social justice issues. In 1971, the Chaplains designed and implemented a retreat program staffed primarily by students. The Retreat Committee provided meaningful religious experiences for 100-150 students annually in retreats centered upon the theme of “Me, Jesus and Others” . Since 1971, retreats have continued uninterrupted and have played a significant role in building the “community of faith among students. Extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist were introduced at the Catholic Student Center in 1981. This development reflected the trend toward the increasing roles of laity as well as the increasing demands placed on the two chaplains. Also in 1981, the Center began distributing Holy Communion under the forms of both bread and wine. During the next six years, Eucharistic ministers included faculty members, graduate students and other adult members of the congregation. In 1987, the first undergraduates were added. During his 22 years at the Center, Father Kane reinforced his devotion to building the Christian community of faith by counseling individual students. Many who gained insight and strength from his empathy and wisdom have attested to his perceptive skills and understanding, independent of his manifest objectivity. It came as no surprise that his respect for learning and professionalism led him to pursue and earn his doctorate in counseling from Catholic University of America. In his ministry, Father Kane was aided, briefly but effectively in 1971, by Father Joseph Lydon, O.S.F.S. He was also aided, from 1969 to 1976, by Father L. James Downs who is remembered for his contribution to the vitality of Maryland’s student community.
On June 23, 1976, Father Robert F. Keffer was transferred from Sacred Heart Parish in Washington, D. C. and assigned as Associate Chaplain at the Center. In his period of priestly service. Father Keffer left his own distinctive mark upon the tradition of collaborative ministry and respect for the individual. He is particularly remembered for his contributions to the liturgical life of the Community. In June, 1983, Father Keffer was appointed Chaplain-Director at George Washington University. Three years later, he succeeded Father Kane as Director of Campus Ministry for the Archdiocese of Washington. In October, 1986, James Cardinal Hickey appointed Father Kane Director of Priest Personnel for the Archdiocese of Washington. Some 18 months later, Father Kane became Chancellor and Vicar General of the Archdiocese. The announcement of Father Kane’s reassignment was met with reactions of disbelief, along with expressions of earnest appreciation and congratulations. On October 19, 1986, Father Kane’s distinguished pastoral achievement and enduring spiritual influence were recognized and celebrated in a farewell ceremony studded with tributes from every facet of the University’s Catholic Community. In his last two years as chaplain, Father Kane was assisted by Sister Rita Ricker, R.J.M., who had previously been Vocation Director for the American Province of the Religious of Jesus and Mary. Since January, 1985, Sister Rita has contributed extensively to the planning of retreats and the conduct of social activities. Highlights of her service at the Center have been her participation in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), and her work with students ministering to the hungry and the homeless. Additionally, Sister Rita has also managed to advance her studies toward a Master of Theological Studies at the Washington Theological Union.
In July 1986, Father Thomas M. Kalita joined the Center as Associate Chaplain. Then a priest for 12 years, he had served at 4 parishes, most recently St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in Oxon Hill, MD. With a doctorate in Sacred Theology from Catholic University specializing in biblical interpretation, Father Kalita was ready for full involvement in the Center’s mission. Not three months later, he was assigned Chaplain-Director succeeding Father Kane. For many years, chaplains had offered programs for the instruction of new Catholics. Until 1986, the RCIA at Maryland had focused primarily upon completing the faith experience of Christians who had not received communion or had not been confirmed. In 1986, the RCIA was extended by including candidates not previously baptized and by formalizing a team approach to the process of formation. Sister Rita was named RCIA Coordinator. During fall 1986, the Center requested and received permission to reserve the Eucharist in the former vesting room adjoining the auditorium. This room was opened to private prayer and meditation on Christmas Eve, 1986. In May 1987, Father Kalita introduced a Baccalaureate Mass at the Center. This celebration gave parents and families the opportunity to worship in the setting that had been the focus of their graduating son’s or daughter’s religious experiences. In response to Cardinal Hickey’s suggestion, Sunday evening worship was initiated in January, 1988. Begun in the West Chapel of the University Memorial Chapel, the Sunday evening service soon strained the small chapel’s capacity (125 students). A year later, it was moved to the Center’s auditorium.
The “Catholic Student Community” symbolizes the faith-inspired, shared expression of Christian hope and concern that has marked the Center’s existence during the last 25 years. This expression has taken explicit religious forms such as worship services; it has taken social-action forms such as volunteer student services to the elderly, the hungry, the homeless and assistance at the Prince George’s County Pregnancy Aid Center in Greenbelt; it has taken various pragmatic forms of students addressing maintenance issues and cooking to support various social events. At 25 years of age, this Center remains the focal point of Catholic student activity at the University of Maryland. This facility has witnessed the growth, refinement and maturity of Catholic activities designed to enrich students and to serve the campus and the region. In June, 1994, Father Keffer succeeded Father Kalita as Chaplain at the Center.
The Rites of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the process of forming and welcoming new members into the Catholic Church. This contemporary adaptation of a model used during Christianity’s first few centuries was introduced into parishes in the mid-1970’s. Until 1987, the RCIA at Maryland focused primarily on completing the faith experience of those Christians who had not received Communion or had not been confirmed. This program was expanded during the 1986-87 year. The 20 participants that year included several not previously baptized. According to Sister Rita Ricker, working with these students whose unsolicited involvement in the program is driven by a realization that the Church answers a need in their life and experiencing their faith journeys is the Highlight of her campus chaplaincy. Eucharistic ministers also coordinated other activities. One special occasion was the celebration on Saturday, May 25, 1985 honoring Father William Kane on the 25th anniversary of his ordination (May 28, 1960). Some 300 friends and members of the Community attended a buffet dinner. Gifts and the dinner were funded entirely by the Community through contributions and bake sales.